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Corticosteroid Administration and Exercise Performance

Kuipers, Harm MD, PhD1; Pluim, Babette MD, PhD2

Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise: April 2008 - Volume 40 - Issue 4 - p 773
doi: 10.1249/MSS.0b013e3181649e3c
SPECIAL COMMUNICATIONS: Letters to the Editor-in-Chief

1University Maastricht, Faculty of Health, Medicine and Life Sciences, Maastricht, The Netherlands

2KNLTB (Royal Dutch Lawn Tennis Federation), Amersfoort, The Netherlands

Dear Editor-in-Chief:

Arlettaz et al. (2) have demonstrated that administration of therapeutic dosage of a glucocorticosteroid enhances endurance time at 70-75% of V˙O2max. It should be emphasized, however, that these results are probably only valid with low exercise intensity and do not hold for high-intensity exercise. With high-intensity exercise, other investigators failed to find a performance enhancement of corticosteroid administration (3-5). These results are in line with a recent, yet unpublished study in well-trained athletes who daily inhaled a glucocorticosteroid or placebo. So, the effect of corticosteroids on endurance performance is probably only true for relatively low-intensity exercise, and this also explains why Arlettaz et al. (1) in an earlier study failed to find an effect of glucocorticoid administration on endurance time. In their previous study, the exercise intensity was not 70-75% of V˙O2max, as used in the present study, but 80-85% of V˙O2max.

So, it appears not to be allowed to generalize the results of the latest study of Arlettaz et al. (2) to competitive sport where high-intensity exercise is required, because what counts for athletic performances is the highest possible intensity that results in the shortest time possible to cover a certain distance.

To the conclusion that this study is the first that showed an ergogenic effect of corticosteroid administration, one should add that this is only true for endurance time at an exercise intensity ≤ 75% of V˙O2max. With higher exercise intensities, no ergogenic effect of corticosteroids has been found so far (2-5).

Harm Kuipers, MD, PhD

University Maastricht

Faculty of Health, Medicine and Life Sciences

Maastricht, The Netherlands

Babette Pluim, MD, PhD

KNLTB (Royal Dutch Lawn Tennis Federation)

Amersfoort, The Netherlands

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1. Arlettaz A, Collomp K, Portier H, Lecoq AM, Pelle A, De Ceaurriz J. Effects of acute prednisolone intake during intense submaximal exercise. Int J Sports Med. 2006;27:673-9.
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5. Soetens E, DeMeirleir K, Hueting J. No influence of ACTH on maximal performance. Psychopharmacology. 1995;118:260-6.
©2008The American College of Sports Medicine