Hormones play a role in determining body composition and this process is very different for females than males. Females experience more fluctuation in their hormones than males and are more affected by these changes.
Women have a vastly different physiology and hormonal profile to men, which affects their responses to training, fat loss and nutrient requirements.
ESTROGEN is the primary female reproductive hormone, secreted in the adrenal glands, liver and fat cells. It also helps to regulate healthy bone maintenance and cholesterol regulation.
There are 3 different types of Estrogens: Oestrone, Oestradiol and oestriol
ESTRADIOL: Most prominent form during reproductive age
OESTRONE: Produced during pregnancy
OESTRIOL: Most prominent post-menopause
High levels of estrogen can impair collagen syntheses and increases weight gain.
Enhances the effect of serotonin in the brain
Acts as an anti-inflammatory agent
Regulates the immune system and strengthens bones
It is the ‘protector’ hormone – it instils worry, anxiety, heightened sense of awareness and attention to detail
A dominant hormone affects each phase of a woman’s cycle and functions in the body. This needs to be taken into consideration when programming training and nutrition for fat loss.
At the beginning of a woman’s cycle, there are increases in energy production, mood and intramuscular function. This period is optimal for phases of increasing load, periods of intensification and improving relative strength and power in motor patterns.
There is a slight increase in metabolic rate, and insulin sensitivity meaning that this is the time in her cycle when a female is most tolerant of carbohydrates, as the body is more primed for glycolysis, or the burning or glucose to produce energy. Ironically, it is also a period of suppressed appetite, due to estrogen influence on leptin signalling in the brain.
To support her hormonal health, during this phase a female should limit sodium intake, increase consumption of iron, B6 and B12 rich foods such as seafood, red meat, pork, chicken, eggs, broccoli and dark leafy greens such as spinach. It is also a good idea to supplement with a high quality pharmaceutical grade fish oil.
Some women experience pre-PMS symptoms such as irritability, tiredness, forgetfulness, depression, being tongue-tied, brain fog. Estrogen dropping depletes serotonin and other happy neurochemicals in the brain leading to fatigue, insomnia and muscle aches.
A reduction in calorie and a shift in macros to a lower carbohydrate model can help to support the body’s fat loss mechanisms during this phase.
Foods that should be limited include egg yolks, dairy, red meat, saturated fat, starch, sugar, sodium and alcohol.
Women should also increase their intake of fibre to reduce bloating. Some beneficial supplements during this phase include fish oil, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, folate, B6 and B12 along with calcium, vitamin D, magnesium, and zinc. When it comes to training during this phase, every female is different and every month can be too!