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Young Women and Effects of Oral Contraceptives

Study examines effects on body composition and exercise performance.

Woman lifting kettlebell to show impact of oral contraceptives

As noted in other studies, young women are often not advised regarding the impact of oral contraceptives (“OC”) use on exercise performance—a growing area of research. Researchers from Texas A&M University and University of Houston-Victoria studied the effects of OCs on young healthy women ages 18–29 during a 10-week whole-body resistance training program.

Women who did not take OCs gained significantly more lean body mass. Researchers concluded that use of oral contraceptives impairs lean mass gains and is linked with lower DHEA levels and higher cortisol levels. More research is recommended to identify mechanisms for why lean mass gain is inhibited. Study authors think it may be related to OCs effect on anabolic and catabolic hormone levels or inhibition of the function of progestin.

Study findings are published in The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research (2022; 36 [11], 3074–80).

See also: Impact of Oral Contraceptives on Resistance Training

Shirley Eichenberger-Archer, JD, MA

Shirley Archer, JD, MA, is an internationally acknowledged integrative health and mindfulness specialist, best-selling author of 16 fitness and wellness books translated into multiple languages and sold worldwide, award-winning health journalist, contributing editor to Fitness Journal, media spokesperson, and IDEA's 2008 Fitness Instructor of the Year. She's a 25-year industry veteran and former health and fitness educator at the Stanford Prevention Research Center, who has served on multiple industry committees and co-authored trade books and manuals for ACE, ACSM and YMCA of the USA. She has appeared on TV worldwide and was a featured trainer on America's Next Top Model.

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