Many athletes underestimate the importance of hormones on their performance. Without balanced levels of essential hormones such as testosterone (for men), progesterone and estrogen (for women), growth hormone, DHEA and cortisol; it is nearly impossible for athletes to achieve their top performance. It is true regardless of their skill levels and age, professionals or weekend warriors. If our hormone levels are out of balance, we can forget about building muscle mass or losing weight. As an example, athletes should try to balance DHEA and cortisol in their body, which are produced by adrenal glands. These hormones won’t be optimally balanced if we suffer from adrenal burnout. Cortison has direct role in regulating our body’s responses to stress and it breaks down fuel to provide quick boost of energy. As an example, cortisol helps our body to break down protein stores in muscle to deliver amino acids to liver. It also directs the storage of fat and the burning of carbohydrates.
It means that cortisol is useful for dealing with short-term stresses like running a marathon or skiing all day. It should be noted that production of cortisol won’t let up, especially if we are under chronic stress. This causes our body in a state of perpetual crisis. For this reason, it is important for athletes to enter the state of mental relaxation and they need to be sure that they are no longer distressed, even if they lose the competition. Once cortisol level drops, our muscles will restock its protein level. Our immune system will be at its normal state to fight infections and small physical damages caused by intense physical activities are repaired. Unfortunately, it is difficult for some athletes to recover fully from stress, especially if they fail to reach their goals. Continuously distressed mind, poor immune function, impaired recovery and poor repair will eventually destroy our sports performance. This situation also causes our body to store more fat. Obviously, we can completely eliminate stress, but it is important to control our stress level.
Our stress hormones also control growth hormone directly; estrogen progesterone and testosterone. These hormones are also known as sex hormones, which are vital for our growth. If athletes are continuously distressed, their body will tend to produce stress hormones than these sex hormones. As a result, athletes will have excess body fat and trouble in gaining muscle mass. In some serious cases, some male athletes could also suffer from symptoms of sexual dysfunctions. In many cases, regulating stress can help us correct stress hormone levels to allow our body returns to a more normal state. Hormones influence how we feel and look. It should be noted that optimizing hormones is essentially a long-term project and it could be difficult to achieve if we don’t have changes in lifestyle and other types of improvements. Athletes should check the baseline DHEA and cortisol levels to know whether they are distressed or not. This could be performed through examinations on saliva samples.