Body composition, disordered eating and menstrual regularity in a group of South African endurance athletes

  • T Botha
  • HH Wright
  • J De Ridder
  • DDJ Malan
  • SM Ellis
Keywords: Female athlete triad, menstrual, disordered eating, body composition, BOD POD.


This study investigated menstrual regularity, disordered eating, body composition in a group of female athletes, a s well as the differenc e between body composition and disordered eating in irregular vs normal menstruating athletes. Participants were Caucasian female athletes (n=46), 14 – 25 years, 53.75 ± 8.55kg and 164.85 ± 7.93cm were recrui ted and subdivided into three groups based on level of performance (i .e. Beginners, Intermediate and Advanced). They completed  self-administered questionnaires on menstrual history, eating attitude (EAT-26) and disordered eating behaviour (EDI). Body composition was
measured by air displacement plethysmography. Results indicated that beginner athletes had a younger menarcheal age than both intermediate
(12.95 vs. 14.00 and 14.33 yr, d = 0.8, respectively) and advanced athlete s, and a higher body fat percentage than intermediate athletes (20.44 ± 4.18 vs. 16.29 ± 4.57%, d = 0.8, respectively). Of the total group 2.17% had primary amenorrhea, 21.74% secondary amenorrhoea and 8.70% oligomenorrhoea. Of all the athletes, 10.7% used oral contraceptives
to regulate their menstrual cycles. There was a low risk for disordered eating amongst all the athletes even though 28% reported a history of
eating binges, 9% reported to have vomited before to control weights, and 31% used diet pills and laxatives for weight control. No differences were found between body composition and disordered eating in irregular and normal menstruating athletes. It was concluded that menstrual irregularities are present in this group of athlete s and some
showed signs of extreme weight-control behaviour. This places them at a high risk of developing two components of the female athlete triad namely funct ional hypotha lamic amenorrhea and low energy-availability with or without an eating disorder.

Journal Identifiers

print ISSN: 2411-6939