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Steroid hormones' levels and Olympic weightlifting performance

Summary of an observational study looking at steroid hormones levels during competition in adolescent (girls and boys) Olympic weightlifters.

Who

52 adolescent Olympic weightlifters (26 females, 26 males) aged 16.5 (14.1 - 17.8) years (body weight ranging between 41 and 116 kg) competing at the national and international level (Poland). All females were menstruating and none of them reported using contraceptives.

Design

Athletes were monitored over 2 national competitions (2-3 days each).

Outcome measures/tests

  • blood levels pre- (just before the snatch warm-up) and post-competition (within 5 minutes after last clean & jerk attempt) of testosterone (T), cortisol (C), and dehydroepiandrosterone-sulfate (DHEA-s)
  • also, pre-competition levels of sex hormone binding globuline (SHBG), free testosterone (FT), free androgen index (FAI).
  • snatch, clean & jerk, and total performance scores [kg] normalised to the body weight

free androgen index (FAI)a ratio of testosterone and SHBG multiplied by 100.

free testosteronecombined testosterone and SHBG via FT = 24.00314 x T/Logl0(SHBG) -0.04599 x T².

Main results

Steroid hormone levels and Olympic weightlifting performance

  • boys were 19% heavier and 41% stronger than girls.
  • body mass in boys was strongly positively correlated with total performance (higher weight = higher total).
  • body mass in girls was moderately positively correlated with total performance.
  • for girls, pre-competition T and FT were positively correlated with body mass, and pre-competition T was negatively correlated with weightlifting performance after BM was controlled for.
  • Individual DHEA-s levels in boys and testosterone levels in girls correlated with weightlifting performance but also depended on body mass (promoting for boys, suppressing for girls).
  • boys have lifted 1.4kg in snatch and 1.7kg in clean & jerk per unit of body mass while girls were lifted 1.0 kg in snatch and 1.2kg in clean & jerk.
  • pre-competition
    • girls had higher SHBG levels (47.9±33.3 vs 26.0±13.7 nmol/L) than boys.
    • boys had higher FT (283±128 vs 27.5±12.7 pmol/L) and FAI (81.4±59.8 vs 5.50±5.11) than girls.
  • girls to boys’ hormone ratios were: 11-13% for T, 103-114% for C, 93-95% for DHEA-s, 184% for SHBG, 10% for FT, and 7% for FAI.
  • pre- to post-competition differences:
    • boys had 2.7 times heigher T levels than girls, but on average there were no differences throughout the competition.
    • Cortisol got elevated by 32% and DHEA-s by 8% throughout the competition.

Take home message

For a clinician & coach
Cortisol and DHEA-s levels increased (32% and 8%, respectively) during the competition, but testosterone did not. Individual DHEA-s levels in boys and testosterone levels in girls correlated with weightlifting performance but also depended on body mass. Girls to boys' hormone ratios were: 11-13% for T, 103-114% for C, 93-95% for DHEA-s, 184% for SHBG, 10% for FT, and 7% for FAI.
For a parent
Cortisol and DHEA-s levels increased (32% and 8%, respectively) during the competition, but testosterone did not. Individual DHEA-s levels in boys and testosterone levels in girls correlated with weightlifting performance but also depended on body mass. Boys were 19% heavier and 41% stronger than girls. Body mass was positively correlated with total performance.
For an athlete
Cortisol and DHEA-s levels increased (32% and 8%, respectively) during the competition, but testosterone did not. Individual DHEA-s levels in boys and testosterone levels in girls correlated with weightlifting performance but also depended on body mass. Body mass was positively correlated with total performance.

Original article

Crewther B, Obminski Z, Cook C. The effect of steroid hormones on the physical performance of boys and girls during an Olympic weightlifting competition. Pediatric exercise science. 2016 Nov 1;28(4):580-7.

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