Athletes' testosterone surges not tied to winning, study finds

November 25, 2014
Science Daily/Emory Health Sciences
A higher surge of testosterone in competition, the so-called 'winner effect,' is not actually related to winning, suggests a new study of intercollegiate cross country runners.

"Many people in the scientific literature and in popular culture link testosterone increases to winning," Casto says. "In this study, however, we found an increase in testosterone during a race regardless of the athletes' finish time. In fact, one of the runners with the highest increases in testosterone finished with one of the slowest times."

The study, which analyzed saliva samples of participants, also showed that testosterone levels rise in athletes during the warm-up period. "It's surprising that not only does competition itself, irrespective of outcome, substantially increase testosterone, but also that testosterone begins to increase before the competition even begins, long before status of winner or loser are determined," Casto says.

This research follows on the heels of a 2013 study of women athletes in a variety of sports by Edwards and Casto, published in Hormones and Behavior. They found that, provided levels of the stress hormone cortisol were low, the higher a woman's testosterone, the higher her status with teammates.

The body uses cortisol for vital functions like metabolizing glucose. "Over short periods, an increase in cortisol can be a good thing, but over long periods of chronic stress, it is maladaptive," Casto says. "Among groups of women athletes, achieving status may require a delicate balance between stress and the actions or behaviors carried out as a team leader." Higher baseline levels of testosterone have been linked to long-term strength and power, such as higher status positions in companies.

"Although short-term surges of testosterone in competition have been associated with winning, they may instead be indicators of a psychological strength for competition, the drive to win," Casto says.
Science Daily/SOURCE :http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/11/141125111849.htm

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