Female athletes making use of oral contraception may pay a big price in the form of lowered strength gains from resistance exercise, according to a recent study.
Birth control pills were identified as a major suspect behind some women not able to garner the same benefits as others from exercises like working against tension bands or lifting weights, as per exercise physiologist Chang Woock Lee and his colleagues at Texas A&M University at the Experimental Biology meeting in New Orleans.
In an earlier study, Lee’s group noted that many young female athletes reported using oral contraception. These pills have been specifically formulated to alter a woman’s steroid-hormone levels. Since certain steroids can affect how efficiently the body bulks up and gains muscle, Lee wondered whether these pills might also limit strength gains.So, three times a week for 10 weeks, the researchers had 73 young women (18 to 34 years old) complete 13 different exercises. The regimen was intense, working muscles throughout the body. None of the recruits had been regularly working out beforehand. But they sure were now. Each had to complete her resistance training against weights that were individually tailored to work her muscles at 75 percent of their maximum strength.
Women administered with oral contraceptives including medium- or highly androgenic progestins were able to attain less than a 0.5 percent muscle mass gains over as period of ten weeks.