If you partake in sports, either recreationally or competitively, you may have found yourself feeling more tired, unmotivated and even struggling to recover as quickly as you’re used to. This can be due to an in-balance of hormones, which if left alone, can result in further health issues in the future and affect your ability to put on muscle, reduce body fat or increase your fitness.
What are hormones?
Firstly, Hormones are molecules produced by the endocrine system that sends messages to various parts of the body, helping regulate your body’s processes through many different glands. These glands include:
- Adrenal Glands: produces stress hormones;
- Hypothalamus: regulates overall body temperature, mood, hunger, thirst, sleep and libido;
- Ovaries: produces sex hormones which is then used in the reproductive cycle;
- Parathyroid: regulates calcium throughout the body;
- Pancreas: produces insulin to help the body use food as energy;
- Pineal Gland: produces melatonin to regulate circadian rhythm (body clock);
- Pituitary: known as the “Master Gland”, it controls many other hormone glands;
- Testes: produces testosterone and sperm;
- Thyroid: regulates heartbeat and how calories are used.
What hormones are key for sports performance?
There are 5 key hormones that have an important role in sports performance and fitness. Testing or measuring these can give you valuable information and reasoning on why you might be underperforming or not delivering your best.
In children and adolescents, GH stimulates the bone and cartilage growth within the body. In people of all ages, GH boosts protein synthesis and increases fat breakdown to provide the energy necessary for tissue growth. Although growth hormone increases lean body mass, it does not enhance muscle strength, power, or aerobic exercise capacity, but improves anaerobic exercise capacity.
Your hormone may alter depending on your diet and lifestyle choices such as; too much sugar, high intensity exercise, sleep schedule, and many more.
Thyroxine is the main hormone secreted into the bloodstream by the thyroid gland. It plays a pivotal role in digestion, heart and muscle function, brain development and maintenance of bones. Having an underactive thyroid gland will cause the heart rate to slow, so strenuous exercise may negatively impact your health.
Testosterone is a sex hormone that plays important roles in the body. It's thought to regulate sex drive (libido), bone mass, fat distribution, muscle mass and strength, and the production of red blood cells and sperm in men. Testosterone increases the rates of muscle protein synthesis post-training, having low testosterone levels may slow this process and may also be an indicator of other health issues.
Oestrogen helps control the menstrual cycle and is important for childbearing. While also helping in keeping cholesterol in control and protecting bone health for both women and men. High Oestrogen levels can decrease stiffness in tendons and ligaments, which in turn will directly impact power and performance, which will result in being more prone for catastrophic ligament injuries.
Cortisol, the primary stress hormone. When released into the bloodstream, cortisol can increase the body’s metabolism of glucose, control blood pressure and even reduce inflammation. Cortisol is also needed for the fight or flight response, which is a healthy, natural response to perceived threats. The amount of cortisol produced is highly regulated by your body to ensure the balance is correct. Cortisol has a catabolic (muscle breakdown) effect on tissue and is associated with a decrease in anabolic (muscle growth) hormones such as GH. Thus reducing levels of cortisol is ideal for an athlete to achieve tissue growth and optimal performance.
How to test your hormone levels?
The hormones mentioned are actively present in your bloodstream due to the endocrine system, and therefore can be tested by a simple blood test. VisitHealth offers a range of blood tests that we carry out and provide the results directly to you. You can see the range of sports performance and fitness tests we offer here or get in touch with one of our team and they will be able to help you find the right test for you. By using VisitHealth you get the same quality of test result taken by a trained professional but with the convenience of being able to order your private test online and have it carried out at home.