The aims of study were to examine the eating behaviors among 26 professional female tennis players and to assess the diurnal patterns of stress hormones through the measurement of awakening and diurnal profiles of salivary alpha-amylase (sAA) and cortisol concentrations.
Eating behaviors were assessed through three questionnaires (Eating Attitudes Test-26; Eating Disorders Inventory 2; and Body Shape Questionnaire), food intake by a 7-day diet record, and menstrual status by questionnaire. Perceived stress scale and anxiety state were also evaluated. Saliva samples were collected at awakening, 30 min, 60 min, and 12 hr post awakening after 6-days’ rest.
Forty-six percent of tennis players presented Disordered Eating attitudes (DE) (n = 12) with a lower body mass index, and higher state anxiety as compared with the group without DE. No differences in the Perceived Stress Scale scores were noted. Mean energy intake, protein and carbohydrates intakes were lower (p > .05) in the DE group as compared with the group without DE. Although in both groups, sAA concentrations presented a decrease in the first 30 min after awakening, and then progressively rose toward the afternoon, DE players exhibited reduced concentrations of the sAA with a decrease in its overall day secretion. Moreover, they showed a higher overall day secretion of salivary cortisol and a higher Cortisol Awakening Response.
These results suggest that the activity of the sympathetic nervous system is impaired whereas the cortisol awakening response is enhanced. The long-term consequences of these modifications on health remain to be elucidated.