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  • Writer's pictureMichelle Farnill

Women - lets talk about how carbohydrates are your friend

You train, you get sore muscles, your tired and keep getting these little niggling injuries or inflammation that won’t go away. Yep been there done that for a LOOOOOOONG time. Let’s all together say enough is enough and learn some facts SPECIFIC TO WOMEN to stop this process (whoop)!

I have been reading this incredible book by Dr Stacy Sims who is an Exercise physiologist and nutrition scientist. Her motto is “women are not small men”, meaning we have different physiology (the processes happening within our bodies) and need to be thinking differently about how the male and female bodies respond to life and exercise. Also you may or may not know this but most sport, exercise or nutrition information that comes from science is based on men, again in particular uni students who themselves are studying health/exercise. Women are harder to account for in science because we have a menstrual cycle which changes how our bodies react at different stages through the month. And for years this meant that studies would simply remove the data from females as they couldn’t account for the discrepancies that was found at different times of the month. Until Dr Sims came along and focused her science on the female body.

I want to give you some facts about your menstrual cycle and how by working with your cycle we can benefit from training and then some basic things you can do to help fuel your body the right way (regardless of training).

FACTS about your menstrual cycle:

· Day 1 of your period is day 1 of your cycle (keep track by noting it in your diary or use an app such as Clue or Flo)

· This is then classified as the low hormone stage (or follicular stage) and it is time to lift heavier and push harder with your endurance as you have more testosterone to oestrogen and progesterone in this time

· You progress toward ovulation when oestrogen and progesterone start increasing to make a little home in your womb for a potential baby

· This high hormone phase (days 15-28 or the luteal phase) lasts until you get your next period and during this high hormone phase you will find it a little harder to push out as much strength and recovery is hampered meaning you might lack a little energy so if you are training go for focusing on technique or skills during this time

Here are four simple things you can do to fuel your female body:

1. Carbohydrates are friends to fuel the female body – I don’t know about you, but I love this one! According to the research, women burn more carbs for energy rather than fat (men burn more fat). And this means we need carbs to help us train and perform everyday activities, so our brain and body has enough energy. Dr Sims recommends carb loading through the first half of the day when we are less carb sensitive and then we can use the energy from the carbs through the day to function. This doesn’t just affect training, but affects every female so stop going for the low carb diets as they are only adding more stress on your physiology.

2. If you train as soon as you wake up, eat before training – even if it’s simply a piece of bread/toast with peanut butter this will give you some carbs and a tiny bit of fat to burn during exercise. If you exercise straight after waking and don’t eat, then you are adding more cortisol to your system and will be more inflamed afterwards. This can lead to more muscle breakdown and possible injury.

3. Protein after training stops muscle breakdown – it’s really important that within 30 minutes of exercising you get 20-25 grams of protein. This means you will build muscle rather than break our muscle down after the session. If you want to recover well, perform again the next day and stop muscle damage then get that protein in. She also then recommends within 2 hours of training to get some carbs in. This again helps with recovery and restocks the systems with our desired energy source.

4. Drink enough water – this may seem weird when we are talking about fuelling your body, but hydration is a big player in how our body functions and dehydration will knock you for six well before lack of energy from food comes into performance. Another interesting part of the female body is you will be more dehydrated and yet have less thirst when you are in the luteal (high hormone phase). This is because your body uses that water in the uterus and the blood that forms the lining. This drops your body’s innate response to the level of blood volume by up to 8%, meaning you have less water for your blood and are less reactive to having less blood (mind blown). The general rule of thumb is drink to thirst but if you are in hot weather or doing an intense workout consider first drinking water before taking part in this activity and take small sips to prevent dehydration.

I hope this quick summary of the female body and how you can fuel yourself for optimal functioning is helpful. I know for myself this has been a massive game changer in how I work with my body through its cycle rather than trying to push through at times when I really need to rest while at other times I go full pelt at everything (training, work, sport, life).

If you have any questions about this, please contact me on 0401 638 067.

Or if you want to book in to find out more about your body and how you can reach optimal levels of functioning, please select a Kinesiology appointment by clicking here

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