You are not a small man, you are a woman. So eat, exercise, and live like the strong woman that you are.
Oftentimes, the training and diet resources are written with men in mind. It has always been them who frequent the gyms to grow, tone, and flex their muscles. Because of a lack of resources, women always find it difficult to reach their goals. What they do is “shrink and pink” these suggested workouts and nutrition plans for men. Since they are perceived to be smaller and less stronger, why not reduce the number of reps in an exercise and eat smaller servings of the diet plan they read online. What women fail to consider, however, is that they have unique physiology requiring unique wellness solutions - independent from what men follow. In this article, the focus will be on exercise and diet tips specifically designed for women and their unique physiology.
What is Physiology?
Physiology is defined as the study of organisms, their functions, and their parts. An example of physiology is the study of the human body. Here, the discussion will be centered on the physiology of women. Dr. Stacy Sims, exercise physiologist, nutrition scientist, and once an athlete herself, wrote the book ROAR: How to Match Your Food and Fitness to Your Unique Female Physiology for Optimum Performance, Great Health, and a Strong, Lean Body for Life. This book has become something of a training bible to female athletes. Sims extensively discusses in the book that training methodologies need to change where women are concerned. Let us discuss the concepts one-by-one.
Understand How Your Body Works
To reach her desired goal, a woman must work with her physiology, not against it. Women tend to think that they are too weak, too gullible, or not disciplined enough to finish the exercise plan they set for themselves. According to Sims, that is not the case. It is not only about their strength or motivation - it is the fact that a woman’s physiology changes because of changes in her hormones. Unfortunately, the norm is to ignore that and continue to exercise like how men do. Hormones have a remarkable impact on how the body feels and functions - from metabolism, reaction time, sleep, cognition, immunity, and recovery. Women need to embrace this fact and work with it to maximize their full potential.
Track Your Menstrual Cycle
The three weeks on, one week off training model would not work on women the same way it does with men. This was designed only with men in mind and does not consider that even a woman’s heart rate, adaptation, and nutrient timing vary in each menstrual phase. Women should know that there are just certain days during the menstrual cycle that lets them feel tired and lazy because their physiology is wired that way. If they have a fitness coach, it is important for women to have this conversation with them. It might be uncomfortable, but it is necessary. The result is a workout plan tailored fit to a woman’s physiology, making it more relevant and highly likely to deliver expected results.
Build Your Defenses
According to Dr. Sims, having an action plan for your period is important. She recommends taking 250 milligrams of magnesium, 45mg of zinc, and 80mg of aspirin plus 1 gram of omega-3 fatty acids each night for seven days before the period starts. Sims explained that the actual bleeding is caused by an inflammatory response. Reducing this inflammation will reduce a woman’s PMS which, in turn, will decrease moodiness and fatigue. It is important to note, however, that it will take about three cycles for things to settle and the effects to stabilize.
Eat More Carbs
Interestingly, Dr. Sims recommends boosting carb intake during the premenstrual part of the cycle. Let us have a little bit of science discussion to understand why. When estrogen rises, it reduces the body’s ability to access glycogen - this is where your energy is stored. With less accessible energy, intensity during exercise is hampered, which in turn, results in a greater amount of cortisol being released into the body. Cortisol is a steroid hormone, and having elevated amounts will impede a person’s recovery. To improve performance, taking on more carbohydrates during the premenstrual phase will allow a woman to achieve the intensities she’s looking to hit, reduce cortisol production, and keep the immune system from becoming depressed.
Track Your Results
There are now a lot of apps available to track menstruation. Keeping a detailed journal will allow women to eventually detect a pattern. It will help to indicate overall mood, feelings, energy level, etcetera. After three full cycles, patterns of responses against certain stages in the cycle will start to emerge. This is where you can start to strategize. Some women feel stronger and more motivated during the ovulation phase, while others feel down and tired. If you identify days where you feel most energized, do your hard and intense workouts on these days. Remember that it is the training stress and subsequent adaptations that will take you to your goals. If you choose to work with your physiology instead of against it, you will most likely see even more performance potential and exceed expectations.
Best Diet Plans for Women
Now that we are done with the exercise part, let us take a look at some diet recipes for women. Below is a guide put together for women who want to achieve a balanced diet for good health.
Whatever you do, don’t skip breakfast. It kick-starts your metabolism and if you miss it, your blood sugar will go on a roller coaster making your body choose the wrong food the entire day. It is the most important meal because it contributes to what your daily intake will be and also plays a key role in helping you maintain your weight. Start your day by including protein at breakfast. Choose from eggs, lean ham, salmon, or dairy. Your body burns more calories digesting protein rather than carbs. By having a protein meal for breakfast, you will be revving up your metabolism. Protein also keeps you fuller for longer, this will make your body want to eat fewer calories the rest of the day.
Have lean protein and starchy carbs for lunch. Food rich in carbohydrates will give you energy, and without them, you are more likely to suffer from that classic mid-afternoon slump. The key is to choose carbs that produce a steady rise in blood sugar, which means not choosing sugary 'white' foods but instead going for high-fiber whole grains that will help you manage those afternoon munchies. Go for an open rye-bread sandwich topped with salmon or chicken or choose wholegrain toast topped with baked beans.
Give in to that sweet craving you have and need for energy by eating fruits. Have a handful of dried fruit with unsalted nuts or seeds to provide you protein and healthy fats. It will also keep you full till supper. Try some dried apple rings with walnuts or almonds. Dried fruits are four times as sweet as fresh fruits - this would be a great snack if you have got a workout session or exercise class planned for the afternoon. The combination of dried fruit and nuts will also help stabilize the release of their sugars that will keep you energized for longer. You may also stock your fridge with plenty of low-calorie nibbles like apples, cherry tomatoes, and vegetable crudités. Having these readily available will help stop you from reaching for the biscuit tin when you start to crave for something sweet or crunchy.
Do not put a curfew on carbs. They are low in fat and rich in fiber, which will help you relax in the evening. Have some healthy essential fats in your meal - the ones you find in oily fish like sardines, salmon, and mackerel, as well as seeds, nuts, and their oils. Your body will find these healthy fats useful along with protein overnight for regeneration and repair, important for maintaining healthy hair and skin.