We talk about symptoms that derived from the hormonal imbalance that can appear in athletes both amateur and professional and in people subjected to a high level of stress. The great majority of hormonal problems that we can find in athletes usually come as a result of overtraining, this process causes a decrease in sports performance due to having accumulated a high intensity of work in certain training or competition periods. There are several consequences in different physiological areas, whether they are imbalances in the nervous system or at a mechanical level (problems in the tendons, soft tissues, joints, etc.), intestinal pathologies or pancreatic level. But as I say, in today’s article I’m going to talk exclusively about hormonal effects.
When someone enters a phase of overtraining over a period of time,they may suffer problems that will obviously affect the athletic performance and condition a greater predisposition to injuries (tendons, muscle imbalances, etc.). These people also tend to develop metabolic problems, chronic fatigue or repetitive infections. For example, it is very common for athletes or cyclists to fall into states of allergic hypersensitivity, asthma, loss of bone mass, sexual dysfunction or altered emotional states. All this also affects your personal area because as we know, athletes are often subject to great stress because they are usually very self-demanding people.
HOW IS OVERTRAINING DEVELOP PATHOLOGICALLY?
We must bear in mind that the endocrine system plays a fundamental role when it comes to regulating the effort made by a person. When an athlete does an acute physical exercise, various energy adaptation systems are implicated, for example hormonal ones. Among them is the adaptation by catecholamines (adrenaline and noradrenaline), growth hormone, adrenocorticotropa (ACTH), cortisol or testosterone. These are the main hormones that enter the scene when a person must adapt to a demanding physical training, but we must know that when there is no necessary rest period in which the body can overcompensate and regenerate the damaged structures, the setbacks could come if the athlete returns to expose himself to an acute training in a short time.
– GENERAL REPERCUSSIONS
Alteration in catecholamine concentrations: there are two types of catecholamines, epinephrine and norepinephrine (also called adrenaline and noradrenaline). When a person is faced with stress or intensity training, in the short term there is an adaptation to the release of adrenaline and noradrenaline, so that we allow a better predisposition for the ability to increase the heart rate, that the heart contracts with greater efficiency, blood flow at the level of muscles, muscle power etc. But as overtraining appears, the body increasingly offers resistance to the effectiveness of catecholamines, even to produce a deficit in the release of adrenaline and noradrenaline that affects both muscle and nervous system.
Every time it costs more to raise pulsations or to achieve the muscular neurotransmission in the training, all this repeats in the force and the power with which the muscles act. Therefore, we are facing a first signal that we can observe at a hormonal level in people with overtraining. It is also possible that signs appear as a loss in the ability to concentrate or less skill in cognitive skills, which will affect the emotional status since the athlete will have less euphoria and mental predisposition to face the difficulties of training or pain than generates the exercise.
DYSFUNCTION OF SEXUAL HORMONES
-DEFICIENCY OF TESTOSTERONE IN MEN WHO OVERTRAIN
Any sports stimulus involving fibrillar tears, impulses at the level of the nervous system or power exercises, in the short term and with sufficient rest periods, will favor that the hormonal axis directed by the hypothalamus and the pituitary gland help the testicle to produce more testosterone. This fact has been proven in athletes of both aerobic and anaerobic range and of any age, since when the breaks are maintained and nutrition is controlled they tend to have an increase in the release of this hormone.
However, when a person enters a phase of overtraining, does not respect breaks or has very hard preparation sessions to which he can not adapt, testosterone drops appear due to imbalances in the hormonal axis. It has been observed that the GNRH (hormone released by the hypothalamus and that has an impact on the pituitary gland to stimulate it in the release of gonadotropins) can decrease, and therefore the gonadotropins (LH and FSH) tend to descend as well.
As a consequence, the testicle can begin to reduce the stimulation of the leydig cells (which has a direct implication in the release of testosterone) and also of the sertoli cells, which begin to inhibit the release of sperm and worsen the quality of them. This aspect affects the fertility of man when he is in a phase of overtraining. By lowering testosterone levels in plasma, the ability to cope with training is reduced, there is a break of lower quality and a decrease in the control of lactic acid. It also lowers the production of red blood cells by the bone marrow, so that at lower hematocrit the oxygen transport capacity at the muscular level will suffer a fall. Thus, in athletes who do high-distance running or in cyclists, it is very important to recognize when they are in overtraining so as not to suffer a drop in the hematocrit produced by the decrease in testosterone. It is important to note that low testosterone can also be produced because the body has two compensatory mechanisms when it is entering overtraining.
When overtraining occurs, the body is so exposed to constant inflammation throughout the day that it needs to release cortisol, the quintessential anti-inflammatory hormone that we have internally. One of the negative consequences that can have is the predisposition to favor that the organism produces an inhibition of testosterone. On the other hand, overtraining also leads to a depletion of dopamine levels, a neurotransmitter that directly influences the emphasis, enthusiasm, motivation to train, etc. Dopamine is the neurotransmitter linked to euphoria, when it does not rest properly, the dopamine drops, which has an impact on the increase in prolactin, which in the case of men produces decrease in GNRH, LH, the FSH,
We must know that overtraining can also produce incidences in the estrogen levels of the organism, this occurs when there is a high rate of cortisol and especially when the percentage of fat is not adequate, so that aromatization can occur (the process in the that testosterone is transformed into estrogen). If we add this in phases in which cortisol, prolactin and estrogen are high because the athlete is not controlling their loads of carbohydrates and how to improve insulin sensitivity, it can favor that the aromatase is more stimulated at the level of fat and increase the estradiol in blood (female hormone), which will prevent the proper functionality of testosterone.
This could be observed because SHBG (Sex Hormone Transforming Globulin) is going to be very high, which implies that although the levels of testosterone released by the testicle are correct, practically all of this testosterone will be fixed in the blood plasma to SHBG, with which there will be very little free fraction of testosterone that can finally perform its functions at the muscular level, the bone marrow, the hypothalamus, sexual receptors, etc. Therefore, in the overtraining phase it is very important to control the level of fat to avoid the possibility of aromatization.
-FEMALE SEX HORMONES AND OVERTRAINING
Lo primero que debemos aclarar es que así como las hormonas sexuales del hombre suelen mantenerse en niveles más estables, en las mujeres están sujetas a numerosas fluctuaciones en los estrógenos, la progesterona y la testosterona en función del ciclo hormonal. Existen momentos en los que la mujer se encuentra más proclive a realizar entrenamientos fuertes, descansar menos e incluso a llevar una dieta más severa en función de los niveles de las hormonas citadas. Es importante saber que en la fase folicular (que va desde el tercer o cuarto día del ciclo hasta la ovulación) suele haber un ascenso paulatino de estrógenos, lo que permite obtener mayor elasticidad en los tejidos y enfrentarse mejor a los entrenamientosThe first thing we must clarify is that just as men’s sex hormones tend to be maintained at more stable levels, in women they are subject to numerous fluctuations in estrogen, progesterone and testosterone depending on the hormonal cycle. There are times when the woman is more inclined to perform strong workouts, rest less and even to take a more severe diet depending on the levels of the hormones cited. It is important to know that in the follicular phase (which goes from the third or fourth day of the cycle to ovulation) there is usually a gradual rise in estrogen, which allows to obtain more elasticity in the tissues and to face better the training..The first thing we must clarify is that just as men’s sex hormones tend to be maintained at more stable levels, in women they are subject to numerous fluctuations in estrogen, progesterone and testosterone depending on the hormonal cycle. There are times when the woman is more inclined to perform strong workouts, rest less and even to take a more severe diet depending on the levels of the hormones cited. It is important to know that in the follicular phase (which goes from the third or fourth day of the cycle to ovulation) there is usually a gradual rise in estrogen, which allows to obtain more elasticity in the tissues and to face better the training.
When the woman ovulates (between day twelve and sixteen of the hormonal cycle) she reaches her highest peak in estrogen levels, but there is also a release of testosterone, which helps cope with higher power training, hypertrophy or muscle impact. It has been observed that at this time the woman has more endorphins and emotionally is more stable, also has greater ability to compensate for lactic acid in her body. Therefore, it should be known that in those fourteen first days of the cycle the woman is more prepared to perform hard workouts with greater muscular impact or to rest less.
From day sixteen of the cycle approximately, the woman loses estrogen in her body in a progressive way since she enters the luteal phase and it is the moment in which more care must be taken with overtraining. In fact, three or four days before the hormonal cycle goes down, many women tend to have decompensation due to lack of estrogen and emotional disaffection, which means that cortisol can increase in the premenstrual period. Arrived at the menstruation phase (in the first 3-4 days of the hormonal cycle) the bleeding appears and increases the risk of injury. It is very important that during these days the woman gets enough rest and does not fall into problems related to overtraining, since the loss of blood causes the plasma volume to decrease, which increases the heart rate in a compensatory way or adrenaline. As there is less blood plasma, there is less oxygenation capacity or transport of blood and nutrients to the muscles, therefore, there is a greater risk of injury or simply that the training does not allow to evolve in the expected way. For all that has been said, coherence is ideal when planning efforts.
WHAT CAN HAPPEN IF A WOMAN DOES NOT PLAN THE TRAINING BASED ON THE HORMONAL CYCLE?
We start from the basis that women have testosterone levels ten times lower than men, so that the ability to cope with fiber breaks is smaller, also their recovery times are slower. If the woman does not take good care of training, nutrition or rest times, cortisol can be increased, dopamine can be lowered and compensatory is likely to produce an elevation of prolactin. This elevation of prolactin is frequent in women athletes with low percentage of fat and is a compensation by the hypothalamic-pituitary axis to cut the menstrual period. When this increase in prolactin occurs, the ovary begins to function more slowly, so that the estrogen peaks are not powerful enough to produce adequate ovulations and the woman usually experiences amenorrhea (loss of period). For this reason some athletes get to be months and even years without the menstrual period.
This is a serious thing because it can lead to women suffering from fertility problems in the future. The fact of not menstruating could also cause the body does not have the ability to remove and drag the uterine growth monthly and end up having fibroids and as we say, contraindications to long-term fertility. If there is an amenorrhea very long in time and the woman suffers from a high lack of estrogen, we would begin to talk about very serious setbacks at the health level, for example:
- Bone density could go down a lot since the ability to mineralize depends on estrogen.
- The arteries can harden, increasing the risk of long-term cardiovascular disease.
- Predisposition to suffer many emotional modulations and instability.
- In the case of athletes, there is a risk of suffering from stress situations that tend to aggravate the problems even more and prevent the attainment of the objectives set.
CORTISOL AND OVERENSATION
It is released by the adrenal gland and is the most important anti-inflammatory hormone in the body. In the event of any muscle breakdown or breakdown, or in times of physical or emotional stress, the body releases cortisol to deflate all those affected tissues or structures. The body needs cortisol, because without it we could not face the next training, but an excess of efforts can produce an acute phase in which an excess of cortisol is released, which is neuglocogenic, which implies that in the face of energy demand has the athlete, the body will perform neuglocogénesis (which is new formation of glucose from fatty acids and muscle amino acids).
If the overtraining is extended we would enter a second phase, called adrenal fatigue. It is an exhaustion of the cortisol reserve by the adrenal gland, so that the organism would fall into an inability to face any type of training or process that involves inflammation. In athletes who have lost the ability to release cortisol, it is observed that from the first hour of the day they do not have the ability to raise blood glucose, they suffer from fatigue, myalgias and arthralgias (joint and muscle pain), emotional depression or immunological depression (which causes allergies or intestinal intolerances). These problems mean that in many cases they have to be given cortisol exogenously to replenish this deficiency.
SYNDROME OF INSULIN RESISTANCE CAUSED BY EXCESSIVE STRESS
It is known that cortisol, as a neuglocogenic hormone, can produce elevations of plasma glucose, which causes the pancreas to be releasing insulin constantly (even if a low-carbohydrate diet is followed) and that this causes resistance in peripheral blood receptors. muscle mass In people subjected to great physical or emotional stress, this excess cortisol can cause a peripheral insulin resistance, with the symptoms derived from this syndrome that we all know: hyperglycemia, imbalance of lipid profiles (triglycerides, cholesterol, HDL, LDL ), hypertension and blood hypercoagulability, polycystic ovarian syndrome in the case of women, accumulation of fat, predisposition to suffer tumors, etc.).
HYPOTHYROIDISM CAUSED BY OVERENSATION
As a result of excess cortisol, hyperprolactinemia and lowering of dopamine, the body may present a decrease in the axis of the thyroid in situations of overtraining. This stress could cause hypothyroidism and a slowing down of the metabolism, which causes fluid retention, weight gain, inability to release adrenaline and elevate the pulsations in workouts etc.
DECREASE OF GROWTH HORMONE
When a person is subjected to overtraining due to elevation of cortisol and prolactin, there may be an insufficiency in the ability to release growth hormone by the pituitary gland, something that is usually found especially in athletes over 35 years of age. 40 years and its consequences tend to be greater predisposition to injury, loss of collagen and even an acceleration of parameters associated with aging.
On many occasions the need to achieve objectives quickly or self-demand can cause athletes to fall into overtraining. As we have seen, far from helping, it can become a handicap with nefarious results. Knowing the reactions of the organism and planning the times in an appropriate way are fundamental tools when it comes to obtaining quality results and avoiding problems. Injuries, stress and stagnation in preparation are obviously conditioned by hormones. Today we have learned a little more about them and in future posts I will give you some keys and solutions so that you can counteract the consequences associated with overtraining.