Using Your Female Hormones to Your Metabolic Advantage
There is an underlying negative connotation associated with periods. From the time we are young women, it is ingrained in us that periods get in the way. We are taught that our female physiology works against us and that we need to work twice as hard as men to achieve the same fitness levels and health goals. But this couldn’t be farther from the truth!
Our female hormones are SUCH a blessing in disguise. Once we understand how to work WITH them, instead of against them, they become our best friends and can actually help us reach our fitness and health goals with a lot less pain and effort. Girl power is real!!
Popular diets and exercise programs are centered around the idea that we need to eat less and exercise more. This concept is based on male physiology. When this doesn’t work, we eat even less and exercise even more. We ignore our bodies and push through. Thanks to our amazing female hormones, we don’t actually need to suffer this much to attain our goals.
So how does this all work?
Estrogen is your “building up hormone”. It is highest during your follicular and ovulatory phase (days 6-18ish). When estrogen is present, energy is high and our bodies can handle more stress. This means we can exercise more intensely and recover well. Estrogen suppresses our appetites, making it easier to stay on track with our nutrition. Estrogen also shifts calories towards muscle building and away from fat storage, allowing you to eat more and exercise more if you want to put on some muscle, speed up your metabolism and/or promote body recomposition. This is the time to use intense exercise to burn calories, load up on endorphins and hit those PR’s!
Exercise strategy: HIIT, Spinning, Heavy Strength Training, Running, Sprinting, Power Yoga
Nutrition Strategy: Eat more to support muscle building and fitness goals, or experiment with eating lower carb and intermittent fasting to balance lower exercise intensity/frequency.
Don’t: Eat less and exercise more.
After ovulation, estrogen drops and progesterone is dominant (day 19-28ish). This phase is called your luteal phase. Fun fact: your metabolism naturally increases during this phase. How. Awesome. Is. That!? During this phase, women’s bodies do not respond well to very low carb diets. It’s very important to make sure you’re getting a moderate, steady supply of complex carbs to keep your blood sugar stable and to support energy levels, mood and sleep.
Our bodies are more stress-sensitive during this phase, making intense exercise counterproductive. Too much exercise and not enough carbs during this phase overwhelms the adrenals, promotes muscle wasting and fat storage – effectively slowing down your metabolism, and can lead to thyroid issues and hormone imbalances. Your luteal phase is not an excuse to stop moving and to fuel with pizza and twinkies for 2 weeks, but we really don’t need to excessively restrict calories and exercise intensely here. Our bodies do a lot of the heavy lifting for us. Adding more to the energy bank (complex carbs) and removing less from the energy bank (less intense exercise) leaves our brain and body with more energy reserves, promoting better mood and productivity. Say goodbye to the pre-period lows! Thank you hormones!!
If you’re experiencing menstrual dysfunction, or haven’t seen your period in a while, you can consider yourself as being in an extended luteal phase. Often reducing intense exercise, and increasing calorie and carbohydrate intake will correct hormone levels within a few months and help to fire the metabolism back up once your body feels it’s safe to do so.
Exercise Strategy: Try Pilates, Walking, Yoga, Barre, Slow strength training, Biking, Hikes. My favourite 2 week program to follow during my luteal phase.
Nutrition strategy: Small meals every 2-3 hrs. Choose sweet potatoes, squash, chickpeas, oatmeal, apples & pears to provide nutritious carbohydrates.
Don’t: Very low carb diets, keto, intermittent fasting, HIIT, long runs, spinning.
Nutrition and exercise form the foundation of health. For strategic, personalized nutrition coaching that optimizes your health and metabolism, book an appointment with Victoria.
Victoria has been a fitness and nutrition coach for almost 10 years. She specializes in women’s metabolic health and body recomposition.
Victoria teaches women how to achieve their health goals without sacrificing their sanity. She believes that learning to work with your body is both an art and a science that can be mastered when given the correct tools. Her mission is to empower all women to feel in control of their health.
The choices you make around what you eat are more impactful on your health than you probably realize. Whether you’re trying to lose weight, boost energy, improve mental performance or alleviate chronic disease symptoms, food is your absolute best tool.
But with so much circulating information, busy work schedules, family and social commitments and expectations, maintaining a healthy diet to reach your goals can feel overwhelming, unattainable and often low on the priority list. However, it is during this reality of time shortage and stress overload that we need sound nutrition the most.
I believe eating healthy shouldn’t be complicated or stress inducing.
I don’t believe in eating less and exercising more. I won’t gauge the healthiness of your diet by how many trendy superfoods you eat. I won’t expect you to count your calories or to spend your weeknights cooking extravagant meals with endless ingredients.
As your nutrition coach, my mission is to empower you, to improve your connection with food and to help you establish healthy behaviors that really last. Using simple, realistic strategies I will help you overcome the every day barriers that keep you from losing the weight, attacking your day and feeling your healthiest. I am a problem solver at heart and believe that every person can feel in control of their health.
Victoria’s passion for nutrition began at a young age. Being raised by a single mother who is also a nutritionist, Victoria learned that it is possible (and important) to prioritize healthy eating even when life gets really crazy. Seeing this first hand is what drew her to pursue a career in nutrition. Victoria completed her Bachelor of Science in Nutrition with a minor in Physical Activity Assessment and Promotion at Ryerson University. She is a certified personal trainer, nutritionist and holistic lifestyle coach. She has special interest in metabolism, functional medicine and behavior change psychology.
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