Have you ever wondered why some days its just EXTRA hard to get to the gym, or through your workout? When I began researching hormone health in relation to fitness, everything made SO much more sense.
When I got married, I decided to get off birth control, since I had been on it for over 10 years. We are not trying to get pregnant, and I am taking other natural precautions, but I really wanted to know how my body is “supposed” to feel without pumping synthetic hormones into my body on a daily basis. I have been doing as much as I can in the last year to rid my body of any toxins and this unnatural pill was the last to go!
In doing this, I wanted to be very prepared about what to expect. I had done a little research, talked to some friends who had gotten off, and scheduled a visit with a gyno via Kaiser. I wanted to prepare to the best of my abilities, whether that was adding a supplement to my diet or eating certain foods. I thought the doctor would help with that, ease my mind a little, well sure was I WRONG! My experience was an absolute nightmare! She pretty much told me I was CRAZY for going off of it if I didn’t want to get pregnant right away, and that birth control was one of the best inventions in modern medicine. She tried to scare me into all these HORRIBLE side affects I would have and point blank said “detoxing” my body was just a bullshit myth and if I wanted to break out, gain weight and have horrible PMS then “Go ahead, do what you want”. I walked out of that office pissed off and with more questions than answers. I knew I had to do this my own way, take matters into my own hands and I never took a pill again.
I bought books, read studies, listened to informative podcasts and experimented with my own ways of going “all natural”. I never thought I would feel such a difference. I was on the pill for over 10 years, and man if I only knew what I was missing! In the first few months, I was a little tired, had a few mood swings here and there, but for the most part, had no intense symptoms. After about 3 months, my body began to get into its natural rhythm and I have never felt better. I have more energy, sleep better, my mind is in less of a fog, my metabolism has regulated and I feel more like myself since I can remember.
During this process, my research turned up some really interesting topics about hormones in relation to fitness. I had never really even thought about how much hormones come into play with literally how you feel EVERY single day, and how your body responds to different programs and diets.
Side Note: I was also introduced to the reality that most studies on diet and exercise have been very male focused. Of course everyones body responds differently to programs or food, but this was eye opening. Think about it, men do not have such a drastic shift in their hormones on a weekly basis, so its much easier to do a study to prove something works or didn’t work on the male population since there are not other variables to consider that could skew the data. So the success of things like the “keto” diet are only based of the men population, what does it do to women bodies?? We have NO idea! What a scary thought!?
The most relatable information I received in this journey was the notion that we women should be catering our lifestyle around our cycle. In every phase of a women’s cycle, fitness and food should be adjusted to further nurture the body. We feel a certain way for a SCIENTIFIC reason, and can use our amazing bodily functions to our advantage, for quicker, more satisfying results. There are clear reasons why sometimes its just THAT much harder to get through a workout, or that its not just in my head when I get a burst of energy and feel motivated to run that extra mile.
In one of my biggest resources, the author detailed each phase of a woman’s cycle, what occurs in the body, what type of exercise should be taking place and what foods compliment the body at these times! If you want to read more, I highly suggest purchasing the book
“Woman Code” by Alisa Vitti, HHC. I also recommend starting with listening to one my favorite podcasts (Almost 30 Episode 100) where Vitti details the science behind fitness and hormones. Below is a summary of what I learned that could really aid in your fitness and/or health journey!
Follicular Phase (7-10 days) Sex drive at its lowest. Levels of Estrogen, Testosterone and Progesterone are at lowest point in cycle. Physical energy increases and you may feel restless.
- Food focus- fresh, light vibrant foods help make you feel more energized while hormones are at your lowest- think pressed salads, veggies, lean proteins, beans, seeds and energy sustaining grains
- Exercise – more energized to try a new workout, do a high intensity or challenging strength workout
Ovulatory phase (2-4 days) You are most fertile, lubricated, wanting sex, have see a peak in hormones. Your communication skills are heightened and you tend to be most confident during this time.
- Food Focus- have plenty of natural energy mood is stable so lighter grains, no heavy carbs, fill up on fruits and veggies
- Exercise – energy level at your max, high impact workouts, running, plyometrics, circuit training, spinning, ect.
Luteal phase (10-14 days) Your physical energy starts to decline, PMS symptoms develop towards the end of the phase before bleeding. You can feel bloating, mood swings, cravings cramps, ect. You have a desire to nest, take care of chores, and should slow down on social engagements in order to not feel exhausted.
- Food Focus- foods rich in B vitamins, calcium, magnesium and fiber for hormone balance.
- Exercise- First few days you will still have energy so continue on your training, but then scale back in intensity. Stick to walking, pilates, yoga. . You become sluggish so try low resistance workouts or body weight exercise. Anything that wont be too hard on muscles while you’re retaining water.
Menstrual phase (3-7 days) Your emotional, but your women intuition is most powerful during this phase.
- Food Focus- tons of water rich fruits and veggies, need to stay hydrated, seafood to help with iron and zinc.
- Exercise- rest and recover are important for this phase for repair, just like for any program. Rest, yoga, walks, stretching, LISTEN TO YOUR BODY. Your activity will pick up towards the end.
As I became more aware on what my body was going through, I started structuring my own program around my cycle and even started shifting some of my clients programs when they hit a certain phase, in order to push them to hit a goal or get through an intense HIIT day.
I also started taking some supplements that aid in hormone regulation, so my body can get the natural help it needs, my favorite being Chaste Tree Extract. Chaste tree extract is a hidden gem and helps stimulate progesterone naturally, can aid in PMS symptoms, regulates hormones, and can help memory and brain function. For a more detailed article on Chaste Tree I recommend reading “Vitex (Chasteberry) Herb Benefits & Uses for Women” by Katie Wells (https://wellnessmama.com/8314/vitex-chasteberry/ ).
I’m still in the discovering phase in my journey but feel inspired to share with others what has worked for me. Hope this information was helpful. Use these awesome resources and feel free to reach out for any other advice or experiences!
Vitti, A. (2014). Woman code: Perfect your cycle, amplify your fertility, supercharge your sex drive, and become a power source. New York, NY: HarperOne, an imprint of HarperCollins.
Wells, K., & Wells, K. W. (n.d.). Vitex or Chaste Tree Benefits for Female Health | Wellness Mama. Retrieved from https://wellnessmama.com/8314/vitex-chasteberry/