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Hormones and female elite athletes Non-Functional Overreaching Syndrome "The female athlete tr

Much has been written about hormones and performance of male athletes. But in recent decades and with the ever more presence of elite performance female athletes, the study on how their hormones are affected by such exercise is becoming a focus for research. With the increase intensity of exercise, these athletes can develop what has become known as non-functional overreaching syndrome that if undiagnosed and untreated will turn into overtraining syndrome. It's important to identify and physiologically correct any athlete who's training and activity is leading to developing overreaching. As the word implies that you are at a point that your training intensity is overreaching your ability to recover. Although this non-functional overreaching has many causes, it is believe that fluctuating hormone levels and age related hormonal decline can accelerate the process.

Variations in the hormonal balance of females may influence the performance of such individuals. Keep in mind that females also produce and maintain physiological levels of testosterone. This hormone is of great importance in the development and maintenance of lean body muscle and bone integrity. When evaluating a female athlete one should keep in mind several factors: hormonal status, nutritional status, use of oral contraceptives, use of hormonal ergogenics among others. The most important androgen secreted is testosterone. The production of testosterone in females peaks prior to ovulation. It will be interesting to study if using a females menstrual cycle as a guide could provide her a better advantage while developing her exercise routine. On the other hand we know that exercise increases one's own production of androgens and that excessive production of such hormones could bring serious menstrual irregularities to our female athletes.

Such hormonal alterations and the combine use of oral contraceptives may cause our female athletes to have a delay in recovery after exercise and thus if not monitored may be closer to suffering from a non-functional overreaching syndrome thus decreasing their performance and endurance.

In summary, all female athletes should be evaluated and the use of physiological ergogenic aids should be monitored by a health care professional. Specially those athletes that partake in strenuous exercise and training need even closed medical evaluation in order to avoid the "female athlete triad" described by low energy availability, menstrual disturbance and low bone density.

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Wikström-Frisén, & Lisbeth. (2016). Training and hormones in physically active women : with and without oral contraceptive use. Umeå universitet, Idrottsmedicin.

Van Anders, S. M., & Watson, N. V. (2006). Menstrual cycle irregularities are associated with testosterone levels in healthy premenopausal women. American Journal of Human Biology, 18(6), 841-844. doi:10.1002/ajhb.20555

Rechichi, C., Dawson, B., & Goodman, C. (2009). Athletic Performance and the Oral Contraceptive. International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance, 4(2), 151-162. doi:10.1123/ijspp.4.2.151

Javed, A., Tebben, P. J., Fischer, P. R., & Lteif, A. N. (2013). Female Athlete Triad and Its Components: Toward Improved Screening and Management. Mayo Clinic Proceedings, 88(9), 996-1009. doi:10.1016/j.mayocp.2013.07.001

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