Training and hormones in physically active women, with and without oral contraceptive use
The number of women participating in sports has increased, though research in sports are often performed on men. Although exercise has beneficial health effects for women, it is known that strenuous exercise may also have negative health consequences. Common are menstrual dysfunctions and medical effects of a long-standing amenorrhea are serious. Strenuous exercise without adequate recovery may lead to overreaching/overtraining syndrome. An improved muscle strength are of great importance in many sports, hence an increased understanding on how to generate optimal strength training programs in women without negative side effects are essential.
The aims of this research were to investigate the effects on strength and power of high frequency periodised leg resistance training to evaluate a training regime and to investigate if the training was well accepted and without potential exercise-related negative consequences. Moreover, to provide normative data on oxytocin and cortisol to elucidate if these hormones could be one diagnostic marker in combination with others to monitor and diagnose female athletes that may be at risk to develop overreaching/overtraining syndrome.
The intervention study: 59 women participated in a 4 month intervention study. Two groups performed high frequency leg resistance training (5 times∙w-1) during two weeks of each cycle, and remaining part of the cycle once a week. A control group performed regular (3 times∙w-1) leg resistance training. The women who performed high frequency leg resistance training during the first two weeks of each cycle showed significant increase in jump height, peak torque values in hamstrings, increased lean body mass of the legs, and their experiences of their training were positive. These results were not found when the periodised training was performed during the last two weeks. In the control group an increase in jump height, and peak torque (left hamstring) was observed. There were no evident differences in the training effects between women with or without OC use. No exercise-related negative consequences were detected in any of the three groups
The observational study: 33 women participated in an observational study. The OC users and non-users, were followed over a 9-month period with monthly blood sampling of oxytocin and cortisol, and the Profile of Mood State (POMS) as a subjective measure of overreaching/overtraining syndrome. The women in the observational study showed seasonal variations in oxytocin and cortisol, with different pattern in OC users to non-users. No convincing relationship to POMS were found.
Conclusions: The high frequency periodised training during the first two weeks of the cycle is more beneficial to optimize the training effects, than performed the last two weeks, and not associated with exercise-related negative consequences and well accepted. Due to seasonality and impact of OC use, oxytocin and cortisol are not suggested to be optimal, diagnostic markers alone/in combination with others, to detect overreaching/overtraining syndrome in physically active women.