“I’d got self-destruction down to a fine art”: Exploring the lived experience of low energy availability in athletes and exercisers

Langbein, Rachel, Martin, Daniel, Allen-Collinson, Jacquelyn, Crust, Lee and Jackman, Patricia (2019) “I’d got self-destruction down to a fine art”: Exploring the lived experience of low energy availability in athletes and exercisers. In: British Psychological Society Division of Sport and Exercise Psychology, Monday 2nd- Tuesday 3rd December 2019, Voco St John's Hotel Solihull.

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“I’d got self-destruction down to a fine art”: Exploring the lived experience of low energy availability in athletes and exercisers “I’d got self-destruction down to a fine art”: Exploring the lived experience of low energy availability in athletes and ex
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Abstract

Objectives: Low energy availability (LEA) occurs when energy intake is insufficient to support optimal physiological functioning, once exercise activity has been accounted for. This research aimed to develop understanding of the lived experience of LEA by exploring factors influencing its onset, pertinent characteristics of the experience, and facilitators and barriers to overcoming LEA.
Design: A qualitative design consisting of in-depth, semi-structured interviews was employed to develop rich, detailed insights into the experience of LEA.
Methods: Using purposive sampling, 13 athletes (M age = 31.2, SD= 5.5 years; female n = 11, male n = 2) took part in semi-structured interviews, conducted face-to-face (n = 8) or via Skype (n = 5). All athletes were sub-elite (n = 11) or elite-level competitors (n = 2) in their primary sports (distance running; n= 11; rugby n = 1; and dance n = 1). Data were analysed inductively and thematically.
Results: Psychological stressors and societal/situational pressures were commonly reported antecedents of LEA. The lived experience was characterised by six themes: disordered eating/eating disorders; exercise behaviours; personality characteristics; psychological consequences; physiological impairments; and professional education/advice. Significant others appeared to facilitate recovery efforts, whilst cognitive dissonance was identified as a barrier to overcoming LEA.
Conclusions: These findings contribute to a growing body of literature concerning LEA in athletes and provide novel insights into psychological and physical experiences from the perspective of information-rich cases. The research provides avenues for future work and development of tailored educational interventions for prevention and treatment of LEA among sport participants.

Keywords:low energy availability, relative energy deficiency in sport, disordered eating, exercise dependence, female athlete triad
Subjects:C Biological Sciences > C600 Sports Science
B Subjects allied to Medicine > B120 Physiology
C Biological Sciences > C890 Psychology not elsewhere classified
Divisions:College of Social Science > School of Sport and Exercise Science
ID Code:39127
Deposited On:09 Dec 2019 09:30

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