Cortisol and GH: odd and controversial ideas

  • Duclos M
  • Guinot M
  • Le Bouc Y
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Activation of the hypothalamo-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis and of the growth hormone/insulin-like growth factor-1 (GH/IGF-1) axis represents a physiological response to the energetic, metabolic, vascular, and sometimes neurophysiologic or psychological needs of exercise. Long-lasting increased and (or) decreased secretion of cortisol (the end-product of the HPA axis) or of GH is detrimental to health. This suggests that the activity of these hormonal axes is finely tuned toward homeostasia, tolerating limited prolonged homeostatic disruption. However, the relationships between exercise training and cortisol and GH secretion are full of odd and controversial ideas. In this review, the relationships between HPA axis adaptation to exercise training or disadaptation with overtraining will be discussed, with an emphasis on the limitation on the current measures used to profile hormonal activity. Knowledge of these relationships between cortisol and GH responses to exercise is an important tool to fight against doping with glucocorticoids and GH, and their health-damaging consequences.

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  • Martine Duclos

  • Michel Guinot

  • Yves Le Bouc

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