Exercise-Induced Salivary Hormone Responses to High-Intensity, Self-Paced Running

in International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance
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Purpose: Physical overexertion can lead to detrimental overreaching states without sufficient recovery, which may be identifiable by blunted exercise-induced cortisol and testosterone responses. A running test (RPETP) elicits reproducible plasma cortisol and testosterone elevations (in a healthy state) and may detect blunted hormonal responses in overreached athletes. This current study determined the salivary cortisol and testosterone responses reproducibility to the RPETP, to provide greater practical validity using saliva compared with the previously utilized blood sampling. Second, the relationship between the salivary and plasma responses was assessed. Methods: A total of 23 active, healthy males completed the RPETP on 3 occasions. Saliva (N = 23) and plasma (N = 13) were collected preexercise, postexercise, and 30 minutes postexercise. Results: Salivary cortisol did not elevate in any RPETP trial, and reduced concentrations occurred 30 minutes postexercise (P = .029, η2 = .287); trial differences were observed (P < .001, η2 = .463). The RPETP elevated (P < .001, η2 = .593) salivary testosterone with no effect of trial (P = .789, η2 = .022). Intraindividual variability was 25% in cortisol and 17% in testosterone. “Fair” intraclass coefficients of .46 (cortisol) and .40 (testosterone) were found. Salivary and plasma cortisol positively correlated (R = .581, P = .037) yet did not for testosterone (R = .345, P = .248). Conclusions: The reproducibility of salivary testosterone response to the RPETP is evident and supports its use as a potential tool, subject to further confirmatory work, to detect hormonal dysfunction during overreaching. Salivary cortisol responds inconsistently in a somewhat individualized manner to the RPETP.

Leal and Hough are with the Inst of Sport and Physical Activity Research, School of Sport and Physical Activity, University of Bedfordshire, Bedford, United Kingdom. Leal is also with the Research Center in Sports Sciences, Health Sciences and Human Development, University Inst of Maia, Maia, Portugal. Taylor is with the School of Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences, Loughborough University, Loughborough, United Kingdom; and the Human Performance Research Centre and the Sport & Exercise Discipline Group, Faculty of Health, University of Technology Sydney (UTS), Sydney, NSW, Australia. Hough is also with the School of Science and Technology, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, United Kingdom.

Leal (diogo.leal@ismai.pt) is corresponding author.
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