Prevalence of low energy availability and associations with seasonal changes in salivary hormones and IgA in elite male Gaelic footballers

Amy McGuire, Giles Warrington, Lorna Doyle

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


PURPOSE: Evidence suggests low energy availability (LEA) is prevalent in elite male Gaelic football (GF) players. Previous research in male and female team sports found LEA may negatively impact endocrine function. The aim of this study was to examine the seasonal variations in energy availability (EA) and its associations with salivary measures in elite male GF players across the competitive season.

METHODS: Energy availability was assessed using field-based methods in conjunction with salivary testosterone (s-T), cortisol (s-C) and immunoglobin A (s-IgA) concentrations at pre-season (PRE), in-season (IN) and post-season (POST).

RESULTS: 38% reported LEA at PRE, 33% at IN, and 28.5% at POST. s-C, s-T and s-IgA levels were within normal ranges at PRE, IN and POST. Salivary cortisol declined significantly from PRE to IN, remaining reduced at POST. Salivary testosterone decreased significantly from PRE to IN but was significantly elevated at POST compared to IN. Salivary IgA was significantly greater at POST than IN. No significant associations were found between s-C or s-T and EA at any time point. Pre-season s-IgA exhibited a significant inverse association with PRE EA. Decreased s-IgA flow rate and s-IgA secretion rate were significantly associated with decreased EA at PRE. Reduced carbohydrate (CHO) intake was also associated with decreased s-IgA secretion rate at PRE.

CONCLUSION: This study suggests that LEA is prevalent in elite male GF players, but is not associated with s-C or s-T. However, EA is associated with s-IgA which may impact the immune system. Therefore, education and interventions surrounding the prevalence and associations of EA should be implemented in this population.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1809-1820
Number of pages12
JournalEuropean journal of nutrition
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2023


  • Male
  • Humans
  • Female
  • Seasons
  • Hydrocortisone
  • Prevalence
  • Testosterone
  • Immunoglobulin A


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