Screening for risk of low energy availability in athletic and recreationally active females in Ireland Academic Article uri icon


  • INTRODUCTION:Low energy availability (LEA) results in physiological adaptations, which can contribute to unfavourable health outcomes. Little information exists on risk of LEA in active individuals competing in different sports or levels of competition. The aims of this study were to (1) identify risk of LEA in females competing at different levels of competition and (2) investigate associations between risk of LEA, illness and dietary habits. METHODS:The validated questionnaire, 'Low Energy Availability in Females Questionnaire' was distributed online (November 2016-February 2017) to assess risk of LEA. Twenty-nine additional questions collected information on demographics, illness history and dietary habits. Participants were considered at risk of LEA if they attained a score of ≥ 8 and were grouped into: (i) international; (ii) provincial/inter-county; (iii) competitive; and (iv) recreationally active. Chi-square and logistic regression analyses were used to explore differences between those at risk or not at risk of LEA. RESULTS:Risk of LEA was identified in 40% (n = 331) of 833 participants and was 1.7 and 1.8 times more likely in international and provincial/inter-county athletes compared to those who were recreationally active (International: odds ratios (OR) 1.68, 95% confidence intervals (95%CI) 1.12-2.54; Provincial/inter-county: OR 1.83, 95%CI 1.20-2.77). In participants at risk of LEA, missing >22 days of training during the previous year due to illness occurred 3 times more frequently (OR 3.01, 95%CI 1.81-5.02). CONCLUSION:Risk of LEA was widespread in this heterogeneous sample. Awareness of LEA and the development of appropriate energy management strategies to ensure athlete health across levels of competition are required.


  • Logue, Danielle M
  • Madigan, Sharon M
  • Heinen, Mirjam
  • McDonnell, Sarah-Jane
  • Delahunt, Eamonn
  • Corish, Clare A

publication date

  • 2019