Did you know that until the 1980s there were no studies for fitness done on women? Finally, science is catching up with more studies on exercise being conducted on women. Alethea shares her knowledge and passion about women and fitness.
So up until the 1970s there were no studies done on women and up until 1991 I believe it was women actually did not need to be included in studies. But I think is was around 2013 they were up to 38/39 percent of studies included women. So we’re heading in the right direction not quite there, but getting there.
Can you explain why women should try and differently to men?
So women as we know have a menstrual cycle so our hormones do fluctuate from where we have high oestrogen to lower oestrogen and high progesterone whereas when we look at men their hormones essentially are quite static. They are testosterone. Day in day out so men can train very much the same. They can do the same effort from one weight to the next and or feel very similar. But for women it’s a world of difference. We can do something one week and it feels amazing and then the next week that same workout can feel terrible. And we can overthink it and we think we’ve gone backwards we think we’ve lost our fitness and it’s all to do with our hormones and regulation.
So what hormones change throughout the month. Can you talk us through just the hormonal changes?
So what we have essentially in the first stage of the menstrual cycle is what’s known as the follicular phase which is higher in oestrogen and then we have ovulation where that peaks and then we come in to the lateral phase in more so that weeks 3 and 4 leading up to menstruation and that’s ideally where we should have higher progesterone. And so we’re able to do different training depending on what hormones are predominant at the time.
Week 1 – Day 1 of your menstrual cycle is the first day of your bleed. So essentially in the time of the menstrual bleed it is best to have a day or two where we’re relaxing. It’s easy. So yoga is ideal for those days. We do need to rest hard being in the society that we live in but ideally, we should be resting for a couple of days
Week 2 – follicular phase oestrogen starts to increase. This period is where we can do lots of high intensity training. Lifting weights, were quite powerful in that time. Our recovery is also better in this period as well. So we feel we can actually do more than we can. In the weeks closer to the menstrual blade we’re also in this period. If we look at nutrition we’re also what’s known more is insulin sensitive at this time so we really need carbohydrates in this period when we’re training and ideally before those training sessions. It’s a good idea to have some carbohydrates even half a banana.
Week 3 – So we ovulate after the follicular phase and ovulation is really when we are superwoman. So a lot of the time that’s when we can be hitting paydays mean we can be lifting heavier weights than we do the whole month than we think. Where did that come from we try and do it the next week. It’s not.
Week 4 – And then we go into the luteal phase where oestrogen does start to drop and progesterone rises. So in this period we start to get more of an increased appetite. We our cravings can increase also that stress response can increase as well. So what’s more now when is the PMS symptoms that we’re familiar with and this sort of training that’s best in this period is the longer slower cardio sessions. So if people are training for events those long slow runs a really great in this time so sprinting not ideal lifting and going for those being PB’s in this period isn’t the best either. So inflammation can be higher in this phase as well. So that’s where that recovery can feel a bit harder.
I would say over the last few years even five years it’s become a real interest and I think trainers now are finding they have to be across it because they are. It started out with a lot of women and female trainers that were finding any interest in it but a lot of male trainers now are getting on board as well and having an understanding of the menstrual cycle which is amazing.
People who’ve had a hysterectomy or maybe women who are going through menopause is the way that they can track their cycle as such and make the most out of their training?
So as women we are cyclical beings and we have been for most of our lives. So when you get to that state of menopause is there a away. There’s no scientific evidence behind it and that it’s based on the moon cycles. So you can look as the new moon is being day one so relative to the first day of the bleed. And the full moon being ovulation night so you can work it in that cycle. And really interesting to track. I’ve had a couple of people that have tracked it and found it really interesting and they’ve worked their training in line with it as well. so give that a go.
Do you have any recommendations for Helping women with nutrition to get them through that monthly cycle and help with the training?
Yeah sure. So I guess overall for hormonal health we need to be having oestrogen metabolism and the hormonal cycle needs to be functioning optimally. So following mean it you can technically look at it as an anti-inflammatory diet. I often look at it as just the way generally that we should be eating and making sure that the liver functions as well as it can. So things like having Christophuris vegetables in there which are like your broccoli, cabbages, kale, spinach a lot of the greens that are in there and also maintaining enough protein which a lot of the time women that I’ve seen in clinic aren’t eating enough protein to support training and also the liver requires quality protein and enough protein to function and metabolize hormones. So that’s really essential as well. And then you look at something like the anti-inflammatory diet which essentially at the end of the day is avoiding processed foods including things like vegetable oils, textured soy proteins which it’s a lot of the time I find people trying to follow a vegetarian or a vegan diet and heading down the textured soy protein. She’s quite processed and keeping fruit and vegetables fresh instead of having juices. Keeping hydrated avoiding alcohol and then if you’re looking at anti-inflammatory foods as such things like oily fish. So Salmon, tuna, sardines, nuts and seeds are really beneficial having quality proteins in there so free-range eggs, quinoa and buckwheat and whole grains as well but lots of fruit and veg fresh fruit and vegetables. They’re the best superfood out there.
You can make an appointment to see her or if you are listening from far away you can visit Alethea’s website to read her blogs at www.aletheanutrition.net.au.