Endurance training is associated with physiological changes in elite athletes, but little is known about female-specific effects of endurance training. Despite the significant rise in female sports participation, findings from studies performed on male athletes are largely extrapolated to females without taking into consideration sex-specific differences in metabolism. Subsequently, this study aimed to investigate the steroid hormone profiles of elite female endurance athletes in comparison with their non-athletic counterparts. Untargeted metabolomics-based mass spectroscopy combined with ultra-high-performance liquid chromatography was performed on serum samples from 51 elite female endurance athletes and 197 non-athletic females. The results showed that, compared to non-athletic females, certain androgenic, pregnenolone, and progestin steroids were reduced in elite female endurance athletes, while corticosteroids were elevated. The most significantly altered steroid hormones were 5alpha-androstan-3alpha,17alpha-diol monosulfate (FDR = 1.90 × 10), androstenediol (3alpha, 17alpha) monosulfate (FDR = 2.93 × 10), and cortisol (FDR = 2.93 × 10). Conclusively, the present study suggests that elite female endurance athletes have a unique steroid hormone profile with implications on their general health and performance.
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