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    Hormonal contraceptive use, menstrual cycle characteristics and training/nutrition related profiles of elite, sub-elite and amateur athletes and exercisers: one size is unlikely to fit all

    Langan-Evans, Carl, Hearris, Mark A, McQuilliam, Stephen, Burke, Louise M, Stellingwerff, Trent, Elliott-Sale, Kirsty J ORCID logoORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0003-1122-5099 and Morton, James P (2024) Hormonal contraceptive use, menstrual cycle characteristics and training/nutrition related profiles of elite, sub-elite and amateur athletes and exercisers: one size is unlikely to fit all. International Journal of Sports Science and Coaching, 19 (1). pp. 113-128. ISSN 1747-9541

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    Abstract

    The aim of the present study was to simultaneously audit hormonal contraceptive (HC) use, menstrual cycle characteristics and training/nutrition related profiles in pre-menopausal women from varying athletic and exercise backgrounds. Elite (n = 51), sub-elite (n = 118) and amateur (n = 392) female athletes and exercisers were examined via an anonymous quantitative/qualitative survey tool. All analyses for ratio data were conducted utilising one- and two-way ANOVA/ANCOVA and odds ratio models, with ordinal data analysed via Pearson's Chi-squared tests. HC use was similar across elite, sub-elite and amateurs (34–44%). Menstrual cycle length was not different (P = 0.08) between competitive levels (28 ± 13 days), but 66% of respondents reported cycle variability (10 ± 11 days). Training profiles were not different based on contraceptive status (P > 0.05) yet were across competitive groups (P < 0.05). Daily meal/snack intakes were not different between contraceptive status (P > 0.05), though elite and sub-elite groups reported a higher daily meal consumption compared to amateurs (P < 0.01). Forty percent of all respondents skipped meals, attributed to lack of time, schedule and alterations in appetite, with reported changes in taste preferences during pre-menses (14–35%) and menses (15–25%) towards sweet foods (60%), with cravings for chocolate and other confectionary (25%). Prevalence of dietary supplement use was not influenced by contraceptive status (P = 0.31), though elites (76%) reported higher use (P = 0.04) than amateurs (63%). Data demonstrates that in female athletes and exercisers, competitive level appears to affect simple markers of training and nutrition practice, yet contraceptive status does not.

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