The Effects of Testosterone, SHBG, DHEA, Estradiol, TSH, Cortisol, and Progesterone on Female Athletes: A Comprehensive Review

Journal of Sports Endocrinology and Medicine


The complex interplay between hormones and athletic performance in females remains an area of active research and intrigue. This review aims to elucidate the roles and potential effects of several key hormones—Testosterone, SHBG, DHEA, Estradiol, TSH, Cortisol, and Progesterone—on female athletes.


Female athletes undergo unique hormonal fluctuations that can potentially influence performance, recovery, and overall health. Understanding these hormones and their interrelationships can aid in optimizing training, competition, and recovery.


Role: Primarily known as the male sex hormone, females also produce testosterone but at lower levels. It plays a role in muscle mass, bone density, and mood.

Effects on Athletes: Enhanced muscle strength, increased red blood cell production, and improved recovery. However, excessively high levels might be indicative of conditions like polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) or potential doping.


Role: Key hormone in the menstrual cycle and pregnancy, influencing body temperature and mood.

Effects on Athletes: Peaks in the luteal phase of the menstrual cycle, potentially causing elevated body temperature and perceived exertion during exercise. Some athletes might experience reduced performance or altered recovery during this phase.


Role: The primary female sex hormone, crucial for reproductive health and bone density.

Effects on Athletes: Adequate levels support bone health and reduce injury risk. Excessive or deficient levels might affect menstrual cycles, potentially leading to amenorrhea and bone density issues.

Sex Hormone Binding Globulin (SHBG)

Role: SHBG binds to testosterone and estradiol, regulating their activity in the body.

Effects on Athletes: High SHBG can lead to reduced bioavailable testosterone, potentially impacting muscle strength and recovery.

Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA)

Role: A precursor hormone that can convert into testosterone or estradiol.

Effects on Athletes: May enhance athletic performance by increasing levels of testosterone or estradiol. Supplementation remains controversial, and its long-term effects are unclear

Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH)

Role: Regulates the thyroid gland's production of thyroid hormones, which influence metabolism.

Effects on Athletes: Abnormal levels can affect energy metabolism, body temperature, and overall performance. Both hyperthyroidism (low TSH) and hypothyroidism (high TSH) have implications for athletic performance.


Role: Often termed the "stress hormone," cortisol is released in response to physical and psychological stress.

Effects on Athletes: Acute increases can enhance performance by mobilizing energy stores. However, chronic elevated levels, often due to overtraining, can impede recovery, reduce immune function, and lead to muscle breakdown.


The hormonal profile of female athletes can influence performance, recovery, and overall health in multifaceted ways. Recognizing these hormones' roles and effects offers a foundation for personalized training and recovery strategies. Future research should focus on individual variations and external factors, such as nutrition and training load, to offer a holistic understanding of female athlete endocrinology.

Disclaimer: This article is a generalized review. Specific hormone levels and their effects can vary among individuals. Always consult with healthcare professionals regarding individual conditions and treatment options.

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