|dc.description.abstract||Background: Low Energy Availability (LEA) is the given term when an insufficient energy intake, often combined with excessive exercise, results in the bodies inability to perform normal physiological functions and a down regulation of some physiological processes as the body tries to conserve energy for life dependent processes. Which if left untreated can consequently impair health and athletic performance. Historically, the physiological impacts of LEA on reproductive hormones and bone health have been well investigated however; the associations with psychological aspects of ones mental and emotional state are becoming increasingly researched. Understanding the impact of LEA on important psychological aspects may not only benefit athletes’ performance but also their health.
Objective: This study aimed to describe the association between LEA, stress profiles and sleep patterns within the New Zealand Rugby sevens squad.
Design: For this cross-sectional observational study twenty-four contracted New Zealand women’s Rugby sevens players were recruited. Participants completed electronic estimated food diaries and comprehensive questionnaires containing the Low Energy Availability in Females Questionnaire (LEAF-Q), the Perceived Stress Score questionnaire (PSS-Q) as well as the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index Questionnaire (PSQI-Q).
Results: This study was comprised of two groups, those not at risk of developing LEA and those that were at risk of developing LEA. Half (50%) of the study population had a LEAF-Q score of ≥8, suggesting they were at risk of developing LEA. There is a pattern in responses whereby more athletes at risk of LEA report undesirable outcomes for six of the PSS-Q items. Subjective sleep quality global scores, as assessed by the PSQI-Q did not differ between the two groups. However, using a global PSQI-Q score of ≥5 relating to poor sleep quality, a total of fourteen participants were classified as “poor” sleepers. Indicating a significant difference (p <0.05) in the number of players at risk reporting a poor sleep quality compared to those not at risk. Two members (17%) of the group at risk of developing LEA reported sleep latency as >1 hour. When comparing sleep duration in hours using self reported sleep and wake times, the mean difference was 0.7 hours (95% CI: -0.1, 1.5), equivalent to 42 minutes more in those not at risk. Where those not at risk slept for 8.5 ± 1.0 hours and those at risk slept for 7.8 ± 0.8 hours. Additionally, from the estimated food diaries we found no differences in daily energy intake or carbohydrate intake between the two groups.
Conclusion: The current study provided valuable insight into the impact LEA may have on aspects of elite athletes psychological health. It suggests that being at risk of developing LEA may be associated with increased feelings of stress and have a negative impact on athletes sleeping patterns compared to those not at risk of developing LEA. However, the sample size is small and the area of LEA and psychological health requires a lot more investigation before conclusions can be drawn, as the association may be multidirectional. Future research will aid in the treatment and prevention of the negative physical and psychological consequences of LEA and in turn keep our athletes healthy.||