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How to Keep Fuel in Your Tank to Perform At Your Best! How to Keep Fuel in Your Tank to Perform At Your Best!
Keeping Fuel in Your Tank. Learn how to fuel to perform at your best!  “Coach Sarah said that this was my year to be... How to Keep Fuel in Your Tank to Perform At Your Best!

Keeping Fuel in Your Tank. Learn how to fuel to perform at your best!

 “Coach Sarah said that this was my year to be the leader on the cross-country team!” Reese exclaims. “And if I just gave it my all, we’d be the first girls’ team at our high school to win the state championship. She would need to keep fuel in her tank.

But here I am in your office, my dietitian, hobbling in on my stress-fractured foot, wearing this stupid boot, when all I want is to be at state with my teammates, bringing home the win today.”

Tears stream down Reese’s face.

“I did just what Coach Sarah asked me to do—I ate perfectly; Never partied; I got to bed early every night; I trained harder than anyone on the team and I even did more than Coach asked.”


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Fuel Needs

Reese shared how, every morning, she would make her ritualistic smoothie of berries, flax seed, almond milk and oats. On Sundays, she would prep salads for the week—kale with at least five different vegetables and her homemade vinaigrette. Having heard that meat is bad for her, she’s been trying to get her proteins from vegetarian sources. Finding herself full from the prior meal, she would often skip snacks, figuring they weren’t necessary.

In addition to regular practices, about twice a week, Reese spends a certain amount of time running full out. After such a challenging training run, she does a still fairly challenging recovery run. “Push through it” has become her everyday mantra. She looked at it as a great opportunity for an additional hard workout, even though her teammates were taking time for recovery.

Disappointment is written all over Reese’s face. After Reese finished telling me how she felt, her mom glanced at me with a look of desperation. “Can you help us?” she asked.

Photo by Rajesh TP-Pexels

Photo by Rajesh TP-Pexels

This scenario is all too common—an athlete, injured and now unable to play his or her sport, parents lost and confused, and incorrect or misunderstood information on how to keep fuel in the tank for an athlete.  I’ve witnessed many heartbreaking instances of what’s known as “relative energy deficiency in sport” or “RED-S.” As a sports dietitian, I understand how symptoms of RED-S can appear. They’re subtle at first and can be missed by a parent such as: mood changes, disruption in digestion, low heart-rate, changes in menstrual cycle, low testosterone, or dismissal of injuries that one figures comes with the sport.

How to Keep Fuel in Your Tank? Energy Out. Energy In.

I’ve seen many cases similar to Reese’s. This energy deficiency is due to an imbalance between the fuel that’s available for use in the body (“energy out”) and the fuel that’s eaten (“energy in”). When the balance starts to teeter, the brain and the body try to accommodate to get the body into balance. However, there comes a point where that balance can no longer be maintained. I will be sharing my fueling advice in the pages of Youth Runner to help you find your “sweet spot”—the place that all young athletes must achieve to perform at their best, feel their strongest, and stay in their sport as long as they wish to with a healthy body.

Join me to learn how to fuel to perform at your best!

Rebecca McConville is a sports specialist and eating disorder dietician. She is the author of Finding Your Sweet Spot, which explains how to avoid Relative Energy Deficit in Sport. This is a must read for young female athletes.

Becca McConville, Sports Dietitian and author of Finding Your Sweet Spot: How to Avoid RED-S by Optimizing Your Energy Balance

Questions? Contact Becca:

Story by SportStars INSIDERs at Youth Runner Magazine. Follow YRM at

Youth Magazine Track and field magazine

Youth Runner

Youth Runner magazine celebrates young athletes who compete in cross country running, track and field and triathlons nationwide. Their California coverage appears special in SportStars.

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