Capturing effort and recovery: reactive and recuperative cortisol responses to competition in well-trained rowers
Background/aimIt is well known that physical strain is associated with increased cortisol production. And although mental stress elevates cortisol concentrations as well, little is known of the independent and/or combined effects of both on the secretion of cortisol. Aim of the study was to investigate the day-to-day cortisol dynamics associated with training, performance and recuperation and the immediate responses to mental stress and physical endurance under competitive conditions.MethodsSixteen freshmen competitive male rowers were prospectively followed from Thursday to Tuesday with an intermediate competition on Saturday and Sunday. On all days, three saliva samples were collected within 30 min after awakening to assess the cortisol awakening rise (CAR). Additionally, five saliva samples were collected previously to and immediately after all races during the regatta weekend.ResultsCAR values peaked during competition days and recovered during the 2 days after. Cortisol concentrations significantly increased during and after all races. Furthermore, although response patterns did not differ, the morning races showed significantly higher cortisol levels compared with the levels measured during the afternoon races. This likely reflects the normal diurnal rhythm of corticosteroids.ConclusionsThese results indicate that cortisol levels of athletes might be sensitive for both immediate responses to competition and, in case of CAR, (midterm) recovery phasing. Consequently, monitoring cortisol responses during training and competition may provide valuable information regarding how athletes cope with competition-induced stress and their recovery status during the days following. This insight might help to plan future training loads and recovery.
Assessing physiological demands of physical activity
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MSB - Microbiology and Systems Biology
ELSS - Earth, Life and Social Sciences
BMJ Open Sport & Exercise Medicine, 3 (3)