Women are the biggest consumers of health-industry products and protocols—and we’re especially susceptible this time of year, when New Year’s fitness routines promise to burn off pounds and build lean muscle in no time.
But here’s the dirty secret that no one is talking about this time of year (or ANY time of year): most of the research on optimal health and wellness is done on men, and because women’s bodies work differently—and because these differences are something most experts in the health space rarely talk about (I’m here to change that!)—we are left to try everything, be disappointed, and then try some more. It’s a cycle that costs us stress, energy, money, heartache, and sanity.
If you’re tried any of these fitness routines, you already know on some level that they don’t work. Maybe you made progress for a while, but then it stalled. Maybe you never made progress or, worse, your symptoms got more severe when you started a new health and fitness routine. This phenomenon is all too common. I’ve worked with so many women who started a new health protocol—like eating Paleo and doing short, intense workouts—and seen their symptoms get worse.
The thing to remember is that women are biochemically different than men and we need to adopt health-promoting strategies that work for our unique female biochemistry.
In other words, we need to biohack like a girl.
So what does that look like? The first step is to understand your 28-day cycle and then match your food and exercise to your natural hormonal shifts during those 28 days. When you sync your cycle to your food and movement routines, you’ll experience easier periods, less PMS, reduced bloating, clearer skin, and improvements in weight and body composition. By acknowledging your hormonal reality, you’ll finally be able to look and feel your best.
Your Exercise Needs Change With Your Cycle
Here’s an interesting catch-22: historically women have been excluded from nutrition and exercise research because of how our 28-day menstrual cycle affects our metabolism. (Researchers assume it will mess up the data and so instead of designing tests for us, they just leave us out.) But it is precisely because of those hormone changes that we need research into how we should eat and move.
So the research on menstruation and exercise is limited, but not completely non-existent. We know a few things! First, research suggests that women in the luteal phase (the second half of the 28-day cycle) fatigue faster during workouts and need more time to recover. This is one reason to do higher intensity workouts during your follicular phase (the first half of your cycle) and save gentler movement practices, like yoga, for the luteal phase.
We know from another study that a woman’s resting metabolic rate (also known as our basal metabolic rate) decreases during the follicular phase, hitting its lowest point one week before ovulation. So doing high intensity workouts during this phase serves as a counterbalance to a slower metabolism.
… which brings us to a key biohacking takeaway for women: since your metabolism is naturally slower during the first half of your cycle, you have the power to speed it up — and lose weight and gain muscle! — by doing high intensity exercise during this time.
Other research has found that insulin sensitivity is higher during the follicular phase and lower during the luteal phase. A separate study found that the body uses carbohydrates more efficiently during the follicular phase. What does this mean when it comes to exercise? It means that during the first half of your cycle you need less insulin to keep blood sugar stable and keep your body supplied with energy… and that makes it the ideal time to high intensity workouts like strength training and HIIT workouts.
As estrogen and testosterone drop during the luteal phase, your energy for doing high intensity workouts will wane, too. And while a woman’s calorie needs go up during the luteal phase, her resting metabolic rate also rises. In other words, you will eat more in the last half of your cycle, but you will burn more, too.
As your energy slows in the luteal phase, allow your workouts to slow down, too. Shift from high intensity bouts of exercise to activities like yoga, walking, and easy bike rides. Not only will these types of movements match your energy level (and you won’t be fighting your natural hormonal rhythms, which is counterproductive and unhealthy) but you will get better results, too. If you experience estrogen dominance (and almost every woman with period problems does), exercising hard all the time can backfire (I wrote more about why that happens here).
In the end, the biggest takeaway is that a woman can’t exercise the same way every day and expect to see results. When you align your exercise with your menstrual cycle, you can finally look and feel your best.
What You’ll Get When You Start Exercising With Your Cycle
You can expect to lose weight and gain muscle more easily and sustainably, as well as prevent injury by varying your movement consistently. When you sync your exercise with your cycle, you’ll experience remarkable results. You’ll will also deepen your intuitive sense of what type of movement your body wants and needs every day—and at every phase of your cycle.
Always remember, that once you have the right information about how your body really works, you can start making health choices that finally start to work for you! You can do this – the science of your body is on your side!
Secrets of Cycle Syncing™
Did you know that you have optimal times each month for exercise, going on a date, asking for a raise, starting a creative project, and for tapping into your intuition? The secret is coded in your monthly cycle! Let me show you how to leverage your cycle to optimize your energy, productivity and happiness! In this masterclass you’ll discover:
- How your hormones shift and their effects on your mood, energy, and cravings
- Using your cycle to optimize your energy for your work and social schedule
- And how to cycle sync™ for better relationships and more love