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This is the hormonal impact of a triathlon

The hormonal impact of a triathlon is less drastic than you might expect. If you rely on the concentration of hormones such as testosterone and cortisol in their urine, the recovery of triathletes is not fully completed after 24 hours, but has progressed considerably. Spanish sports scientists discovered this.

The researchers, affiliated with the University of Extremadura, analyzed the urine of 10 experienced triathletes. The samples were taken just before, just after, and 24 hours after an Iron Man triathlon.

A triathlon consists of 3.8 kilometers of swimming, 180 kilometers of cycling and 42 kilometers of running.

Right after the triathlon the concentration of DHEA in the body of the athletes was reduced; 24 hours later it was not yet back at the old level.

This is the hormonal impact of a triathlon

Right after the triathlon the testosterone level was lowered, but it recovered after 24 hours. That was remarkably fast, and the researchers did not expect that.

This is the hormonal impact of a triathlon

Right after the triathlon and a further 24 hours later the cortisol level was increased.

This is the hormonal impact of a triathlon

The ratio between cortisol and testosterone in the blood is the most important hormonal indicator of catabolism after physical exertion. Right after the triathlon, that ratio was significantly reduced. However, 24 hours later this was no longer the case.

This is the hormonal impact of a triathlon

"This research study had some limitations", the researchers acknowledge. "The small simple size of the study diminishes its power. Other biomarkers of muscle fatigue (such as creatine kinase [...] or total proteins) were not analysed, and could have supported the results."

"Moreover, the lack of plasma data makes it difficult to determine whether variations in urinary excretion of steroid hormones were the result of changes in the steroid synthesis or changes in the use of these steroids by muscles."

"Based on the reduction of urine androgen and increase of urine corticosteroid concentrations, it may be concluded that the participants were in a catabolic state after the Ironman triathlon", write the researchers. "More than 24 hours is needed to restore the steroid hormonal balance."

"These results should be taken into account when evaluating athletes recovery periods and establishing the time required before beginning intensive training sessions."

J Hum Kinet. 2018 Mar 23;61:109-17.

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