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Serum Sex Hormone–Binding Globulin and Cortisol Concentrations are Associated With Overreaching During Strenuous Military Training

Tanskanen, Minna M1; Kyröläinen, Heikki1; Uusitalo, Arja L2; Huovinen, Jukka1; Nissilä, Juuso3; Kinnunen, Hannu3; Atalay, Mustafa4; Häkkinen, Keijo1

The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research: March 2011 - Volume 25 - Issue 3 - p 787-797
doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e3181c1fa5d
Original Research

Tanskanen, MM, Kyröläinen, H, Uusitalo, AL, Huovinen, J, Nissilä, J, Kinnunen, H, Atalay, M, and Häkkinen, K. Serum sex hormone-binding globulin and cortisol concentrations are associated with overreaching during strenuous military training. J Strength Cond Res 25(3): 787-797, 2011-The purpose was (a) to study the effect of an 8-week Finnish military basic training period (BT) on physical fitness, body composition, mood state, and serum biochemical parameters among new conscripts; (b) to determine the incidence of overreaching (OR); and (c) to evaluate whether initial levels or training responses differ between OR and noOR subjects. Fifty-seven males (19.7 ± 0.3 years) were evaluated before and during BT. Overreaching subjects had to fulfill 3 of 5 criteria: decreased aerobic physical fitness (O2max), increased rating of perceived exertion (RPE) in 45-minute submaximal test at 70% of O2max or sick absence from these tests, increased somatic or emotional symptoms of OR, and high incidence of sick absence from daily service. O2max improved during the first 4 weeks of BT. During the second half of BT, a stagnation of increase in O2max was observed, basal serum sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG) increased, and insulin-like growth factor-1 and cortisol decreased. Furthermore, submaximal exercise-induced increases in cortisol, maximum heart rate, and postexercise increase in blood lactate were blunted. Of 57 subjects, 33% were classified as OR. They had higher basal SHBG before and after 4 and 7 weeks of training and higher basal serum cortisol at the end of BT than noOR subjects. In addition, in contrast to noOR, OR subjects exhibited no increase in basal testosterone/cortisol ratio but a decrease in maximal La/RPE ratio during BT. As one-third of the conscripts were overreached, training after BT should involve recovery training to prevent overtraining syndrome from developing. The results confirm that serum SHBG, cortisol, and testosterone/cortisol and maximal La/RPE ratios could be useful tools to indicate whether training is too strenuous.

1Department of Biology of Physical Activity, University of Jyväskylä, Jyväskylä, Finland; 2Department of Clinical Physiology and Nuclear Medicine, Helsinki University Hospital, Helsinki, Finland; 3Department of Research and Development, Polar Electro Oy, Kempele, Finland; and 4Institute of Biomedicine, University of Eastern Finland, Kuopio, Finland

Address correspondence to Minna Tanskanen,

© 2011 National Strength and Conditioning Association