Scand J Med Sci Sports. 2018;28:1345–1353. wileyonlinelibrary.com/journal/sms
© 2017 John Wiley & Sons A/S.
Published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd
Accepted: 14 December 2017
Basal and stress- induced salivary testosterone variation across
the menstrual cycle and linkage to motivation and muscle power
C. J. Cook
L. P. Kilduff
B. T. Crewther
Research Institute for Sport and
Exercise, University of Canberra, Canberra,
School of Sport, Health and Exercise
Sciences, Bangor University, Bangor, UK
Hamlyn Centre, Imperial College, London,
A-STEM, School of Engineering, Swansea
University, Swansea, UK
Welsh Institute of Performance Science
(WIPS), Swansea University, Swansea, UK
Institute of Sport - National Research
Institute, Warsaw, Poland
Blair Crewther, Department of
Endocrinology, Institute of Sport - National
Research Institute, Warsaw, Poland.
This study investigated salivary testosterone (sal- T) variation across the menstrual
cycle in female athletes, at different competitive levels, and its association with mo-
tivation and neuromuscular power. Six elite and 16 non- elite female athletes were
monitored on days 7 (D7), 14 (D14), and 21 (D21) across 3 menstrual cycles for
basal sal- T concentrations and self- appraised motivation to train and compete. Two
further measures were taken on D7, D14, and D21 across 2 menstrual cycles: (1) the
sal- T response (delta change) to a physical stress test and (2) peak power (PP) re-
sponse to a 6- second cycle sprint following a post- activation potentiation (PAP)
stimulus. Basal sal- T concentrations increased by 17 ± 27% from D7 to D14 before
decreasing by −25 ± 43% on D21 (P < .05), but this result was biased by elite fe-
males with higher sal- T (>102%) who showed larger menstrual changes. Motivation,
sal- T reactivity to stress, and the PP responses to a PAP stimulus also varied by test-
ing day (P < .05), in parallel with basal sal- T and in favor of the elite group.
Furthermore, stronger within- subject relationships (P < .001) between basal sal- T
and motivation emerged in the elites (r = .70- .75) vs the non- elite group (r = .41-
.50). In conclusion, menstrual cycle changes in sal- T were more obvious in high-
performing female athletes with higher sal- T concentrations. This was accompanied
by greater training motivation, a more pronounced sal- T response to a physical
stressor and greater neuromuscular power in the elite group. These results support
observations that female athletes with higher T are more represented at elite levels of
adaptation, anabolic, androgens, recovery, trainability
There are reports of elite female athletes, particularly those
involved in power- speed sports, demonstrating elevated free
testosterone (T) levels compared to non- elite women.
was first noted across a mixed- athlete cohort when the pooled
salivary T (sal- T) profiles of elite (87 pg/mL) and non- elite
(41 pg/mL) groups were evaluated.
Likewise, females par-
ticipating in speed- based sports (eg, sprinting) have presented
much higher blood T concentrations than individuals from
other (eg, volleyball) sporting disciplines.
underlying this T variance and its influence on performance
are not entirely clear; however, some have hypothesized that
T supports motivated behaviors, such as aggressiveness, risk
taking, and self- efficacy.
Others have linked higher sal- T to
increased voluntary training-load choice among female ath-
as a proxy for motivational drive.
The past decade has seen considerable interest in how
T changes across female athletic competition, often with a
focus on theoretical models of gaining and maintaining social