Do Hormonal Changes Affect Running?

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Hormones are secreted by the endocrine system and have a variety of roles, from regulation of body temperature to growth and development. These biochemical changes can be subtle, but they can also be significant enough to affect your everyday functioning. This is most evident in the monthly hormonal fluctuations that accompany a woman's menstrual cycle. Men too, can be affected by hormonal changes that can lead to increases in libido and regulation of mood. Understanding the relative cyclical nature of hormones can help you also uncover their effects on your running.

Women

  • The most commonly experienced hormonal fluctuation for women is their monthly menstrual cycle, which occurs in three phases, each with unique hormone releases. In addition to hormones, triathlete and running coach Amanda McCracken explains in Running Times in their article "How Menstruation Affects Your Running," your body's use of other biochemicals such as glycogen changes in response to each phase of menstruation. This can lead to changes in appetite, blood glucose stability, energy levels and water retention. Additionally, a 2005 research study published in "Environmental, Exercise and Respiratory Physiology" found that the regulation of a woman's body temperature fluctuates in response to hormonal changes.

Men

  • Testosterone is the primary hormone found in males, although they also have estrogen in smaller amounts than women. Testosterone, explains the "Encyclopedia of Social Psychology," has a strong influence on physiology and facilitates chemical reactions and influences measures of aggression, power and social dominance. Testosterone levels, the encyclopedia continues, also fluctuate and can be influenced by the experience of competition. Factors such as temperature, seasonal changes and reproductive activity can affect testosterone levels in men.

Running and Hormones in Women

  • For women, monthly hormonal fluctuations, particularly higher levels of estrogen, can impair your athletic performance. Estrogen, explains tiathlete and running coach Amanda McCracken on the website Running Times, begins to increase around the 14th or 15th day of ovulation, approximately seven days after the end of menstrual bleeding. From there, estrogen continues until it reaches its peak at approximately the 28th day of ovulation. At this time, high levels of estrogen also facilitate the use of fat for fuel by a woman's body, increasing carbohydrate intake requirements. Without adequate carbohydrate consumption with high levels of estrogen, your running performance can deteriorate.

Running and Hormones in Men

  • Although men don't experience the monthly hormonal cycles that women do, hormonal changes can occur due to medical conditions and aging. Testosterone levels can decline with age and in the presence of high stress levels. As a result of low testosterone, explains the St. Louis Men's Clinic in their online publication "Low Testosterone Treatment," males may feel more fatigue, gain weight and lose muscle tone. All of these factors can affect a man's running performance.

Other Hormones

  • Your body has more hormones than estrogen and progesterone. In fact, most biochemical processes in your body are facilitated by hormones. Insulin, a hormone secreted by your pancreas, can have a significant effect on your running performance when it fluctuates. This hormone helps restore your blood glucose levels to normal in response to eating, which causes a production of sugar. Fluctuations in insulin can lead to decreased energy levels, which can impair your ability to run without fatigue. Hormones are generally self-regulating, however, consuming a healthy diet and adequate amounts of fluid can maximize their efficiency.

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