Watch Out for These Hormone Risks

9th January 2020
Exercise can provoke hormonal changes. Sometimes, these changes can lead to hormonal risks that can effect your health. These risks are especially linked to doping.

Exercising is great for health. It doesn’t only make you look better but also leads to all kinds of internal changes in your body. But does that include hormone risks?

The endocrine system regulates hormone secretion throughout the body. But, sometimes the hormonal alterations can create health risks for regular exercisers. Let’s look closer at these risks in our post today.

Hormonal risks are situations that can potentially affect physical activity. Just as we’ve explained in previous posts, exercise provokes all kinds of hormonal changes– all for the better.

But the real risk lies in abusing artificial hormones to perform better physically. We’re seeing these substances with more regularity in certain sports such as bodybuilding and cycling.

Natural hormone risks

As we mentioned above, if you don’t use foreign substances, the natural hormonal changes that result from exercise rarely has negative consequences. Physical activity helps regulate hormone axes such as the insulin-glucagon axes and sex hormones or cortisol axes.

hormonal risks axes

However, consistently undertaking an intense workout can increase testosterone and growth hormone secretion. In turn, the hormones can accelerate the process of alopecia in people with a genetic predisposition. In the case of women, higher levels of these hormones can cause changes in their menstrual cycles or even amenorrhoea– or a missed period.

Artificial hormones and their risks: doping substances

Any substance that’s taken as a means to improve physical performance is doping. The majority of doping substances can affect the body in a harmful way. Some of these substances can alter hormone axes as well; for example, anabolic steroids.

Anabolic steroids

Testosterone derivatives are among the most-used forms of anabolic steroids. While they’re especially popular in sports such as bodybuilding, they also make their way into contact sports such as mixed martial arts.

These testosterone-derived compounds emulate the action of testosterone on the body’s cells. But hormonal axes have a special characteristic: they regulate themselves; in other words, a rise in testosterone leads to a reduction in its synthesis.

In males, testosterone is synthesized in the testicles and the adrenal medulla while in women, testosterone is synthesized solely in the latter. Consequently, anabolic steroids can lead to testicular insufficiency, sterility, feminine changes, and other negative side effects.

They can also cause adrenal insufficiency. However, adrenal insufficiency is an unlikely side effect for short-term users. But regardless of the amount of time and use, they alter adrenal function as well as cortisol, catecholamine, and aldosterone regulation. All of these disruptions can lead to renal, hepatic and cardiac problems.

Insulin and the growth hormone

Recently, bodybuilders and other athletes that participate in similar heavy disciplines have been turning to a dangerous practice: insulin and the growth hormone. This combination yields incredible results for gaining clean muscle mass.

hormonal risks insulin

However, the combination can also be catastrophic for cardiovascular health. Insulin injections can lead to type II diabetes in both healthy people or those with a predisposition. In addition to the negative effect it has on cholesterol levels, the practice also raises the risk of suffering from coronary diseases.

Beta-adrenergic agonists

Beta-adrenergic agonists are drugs that commonly treat respiratory diseases such as bronchial asthma. The drugs activate bronchial receptors, which in turn dilates airways. Salbutamol, also known as Ventolin, is an example of these drugs.

Another well-known drug that many cyclists use is clenbuterol. In addition to improving respiratory capacity, the drug also stimulates fat burn.

When people use these substances in high doses–usually for doping– it can have negative consequences such as pounding heart rate, nervousness, and tachycardia.

Lastly, they can also desensitize receptors. Desensitized receptors fail to respond to substances, which could have fatal consequences for people who suffer from asthma or heart problems.

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  • Schaive, C., & Kohler, T. S. (2016). An inside perspective on anabolic steroid abuse. Translational Andrology and Urology, 5(2), 220–224. https://doi.org/10.21037/tau.2016.03.08
  • Alshammari, S. A., AlShowair, M. A., & AlRuhaim, A. (2017). Use of hormones and nutritional supplements among gyms’ attendees in Riyadh. Journal of Family & Community Medicine, 24(1), 6–12. https://doi.org/10.4103/2230-8229.197175