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Hormones and Nutrition; how do they influence one another?

This ones for the girls! The further I get into my professional career, the more questions I encounter by women of all ages, inquiring about how their body is influenced by nutrition... and it's typically influenced by the lack of understanding about how our hormones change as we age. So, we're going to focus on Estrogen and Progesterone and our cycles for this blog! A totally taboo topic that we need to be talking about.

First, lets understand the basics of what both estrogen and progesterone may do for us. Heres a brief summary:

  • May decrease motivation
  • Decreases appeteite
  • Increases strength and power
  • Improves recovery
  • Incredible for setting PRs

  • Increases core body temperature
  • Slows digestion
  • Causing gas, bloating, fluid retention, constipation
  • Catabolic: meaning, it may cause muscle breakdown

Phase 1: Menstruation through ovulation: DAY 1-14
During the first day of our periods through ovulation, our female hormones; estrogen and progesterone are at their lowest. Physiologically, this promotes our body to relax, decreases inflammation, improves our recovery, increases our VO2max AND our endorphins; meaning, we have an improved pain tolerance and we often feel happier! Contrary to popular belief, this is actually the BEST time to go to the gym because you should be at your absolute strongest & most powerful. You're more likely to PR while menstruating. In one study, it was found that women were making greater strength gains and producing more force when they strength trained, while they were mentstruating due to their hormones being at their lowest.

Phase 1: Focus Foods:
If you're feeling SORE: focus on Omega-3's, Leucine (BCAA's) and tart cherry juice. All of these work together in the body to decrease inflammation, improve recovery time, and minimize muscle soreness.
If you're feeling FATIGUED: focus on protein rich foods & iron. Remember, when you're menstruating, your body will get rid of iron through menstrual blood. This means you can hit a homer with red meats.
If you're feeling GI DISTRESS: focus on Omega-3's, magnesium, maintain optimal hydration and actually SALT. GI distress can be triggered by electrolyte deficiencies. Lots of these things help with... CRAMPS!
My go to for muscle cramps: a topical magnesium lotion. A magnesium balm post-workout can minimize muscle soreness, too!
Phase 2: Post-ovulation through cycle end: Day 15-30ish
Beginning about day 15 of the menstrual cycle, estrogen and progesterone are climbing higher and higher until they reach their peak highness. When this happens, you will feel symptoms such as fatigue, a decrease in strength, poor thermoregulation... meaning, you may sweat more than normal or run warmer than usual. And lastly, you may feel bloated, however, this is likely just related to fluid retention. All of this happens because progesterone elevates your body temperature and makes it harder for you to sweat and cool yourself.

Phase 2: Focus Foods:
If you're feeling HOTTER than normal: make sure you're optimally hydrated BEFORE you get your period. Planning ahead 5-7 days to make sure you're optimally hydrated will play a MAJOR role in preventing PMS, high heat perception, and cramping.
Nitric Oxide rich foods: beats, tart cherries, pomegranate, watermelon, spinach, etc. This is going to minimize cramping, decrease inflammation, and promote dilation of our blood vessels which will benefit anyone who suffers from menstrual headaches/migraines.
If you're noticing mood swings, fatigue, gas, diarrhea, constipation, etc.: this is because estrogen and progesterone effect your hypothalamus which effects your mood, heart rate, breathing, digestion and much more) focus on leucine (BCAAs). Leucine will actually work to mitigate some of these responses on high hormone days. Leucine can cross the blood brain barrier and actually prevent some of these negative side effects from happening, especially fatigue.

I feel as if all of our lives, as women, we've been made to feel like our cycle is something to be dissatisfied with or ashamed of. But, now, I hope this blog gives you a little more reason to celebrate being a female (As I write this on international women's day), the courage to test your limits and your strength, and break new personal records here at FItEvo. My biggest tip to you is this: keep a journal of how you're feeling, even monthly, and penciling in which of the above strategies you're taking during these specific weeks of your cycle and see how your performance in the gym improves. Scientifically, you should see some incredible improvements!

As always, if you've got any questions, please feel free to stop me in the gym or email me: