Background Androgens have anabolic effects that may contribute to enhanced physical performance and a decreased risk of injury in athletes. The role of endogenous androgens for athletic performance in female athletes is not yet fully elucidated.
Objective To examine the profile of serum androgens in relation to body composition and physical performance in female Olympic athletes and compared to sedentary controls.
Design Cross-sectional study, recruitment 2011–2015.
Setting The Women's Health Research Unit, Karolinska University Hospital.
Participants 106 female Swedish Olympic athletes (summer and winter sports) and 117 controls (maximum 2 hours training per week, no prior participation in elite-level sports).
Assessment Participants were examined at one occasion at rest and in a fasting state for blood sampling. Serum androgen levels were established by liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry. Body composition was evaluated by DXA. Physical performance tests (Squat jump (SJ), Counter Movement Jump (CMJ)) were made at the Sports Institute, Bosön, as part of the “Physical Profile” offered by the Swedish Olympic Committee.
Main Outcome Measurements The profile of serum androgens, body composition, physical performance.
Results Female Olympic athletes demonstrated significantly higher androgen levels of dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) and androstandiol (5-ADIOL), lower levels of estrone, and a more anabolic body composition compared to controls. Athletes in power sports had significantly higher bone mineral density compared to endurance and technical athletes, whereas endurance athletes had the highest values of lean mass. Serum levels of DHEA and 5-ADIOL correlated positively to lean mass in female athletes (R=0.25–0.33). Furthermore, DHEA, 5-ADIOL and dihydrotestosterone correlated positively to CMJ and SJ in the athletes (R=0.27–0.39).
Conclusions We suggest that endogenous androgens contribute to a more anabolic body composition and increased physical performance in female athletes. Furthermore, the anabolic effect on body composition could play a role for the risk of injury.
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