Coyle offers a stark warning to young athletes who under-eat
Two-time Olympian Natalya Coyle has urged young Irish sportspeople to beware the dangers of under-eating in a bid to improve performance.
The modern pentathlete competed in the 2012 and 2016 Olympics but in 2013 she was unable to train for six months after suffering from relative energy deficiency in sport (RED-S), a condition that throws many careers off track.
Coyle developed long-term fatigue without consciously trying to lose weight but by accidentally under-fuelling.
"I was becoming very anaemic and getting injured and sick all the time, and it's not something you can rest for a week and then get better. Your whole system has to reset."
The 28-year-old now works closely with Sharon Madigan, a nutritionist at the Sport Ireland Institute, and her arduous training requires her to take in 4,000 calories a day - twice the average for a woman.
Coyle is keen for young talents to avoid putting their careers at risk by under-fuelling.
"There are so many talented young athletes who break records at 15 or 16 and you never see them at 18," she said. "But people often stand on the start line and look across and think, 'how can I be faster? Maybe I'll lose a couple of kilos.' But that's not how it works.
"I don't envy kids growing up with social media, wanting more followers and likes, but you've got to think about sport as a long-term route. It's supposed to go along with life - it's not supposed to be your life."