The Female Cycle: Diet and Training Tips to Help Your Life


We’re doing it; we’re talking about PMS. Men, feel free to sit this one out! We don’t like the term PMS, though, and we know many other woman who concur. From all the other options—on my period, menstruating, the tomato truck is in town, I’m having my moon time or shark week, we’re liking Shark Week best. Seems the least disturbing of the terms, and it makes women sound fierce!

Yep, today we’re going deep into shark week, and the female cycle in general, in relation to diet and training. Why? Because when we ask female clients about their emotional experiences, as well as their food cravings and energy levels at various times of their cycle, they often stare at me blankly and admit they don’t think about it much. During their actual shark week, they might pick up on things going on in their body, as there’s a physical symptom that’s hard to ignore, but during the rest of their cycle, usually because there’s no visible signs as to what’s going on inside them, they’re oblivious. Whether you’re currently in tune with your body or not, your cycle drastically affects your hormone levels, which influences you physically and emotionally more than you may have realized. Some small diet and exercise changes during these specific different times of the month can go a long way in helping you feel, sleep and perform better.

Let’s take a look:


 

Shark Week: (Day 1 to Day 5, 6 or 7, depending on the woman)

During this time, your hormones progesterone and estrogen are at their lowest. Because of this, you often feel zapped of energy, or just a little sluggish for a few days. Diet Tip – increase Iron and Vitamin B12. Losing blood meanings losing iron (low iron = fatigue), so it’s best to up your iron intake during this time. You might want to up your intake a couple days before your shark week, even, to prepare for the upcoming blood loss. This can mean eating more red meat and dark leafy greens, or getting on top of that iron supplement. Combining iron-riches foods with Vitamin C is also helpful as it helps your body absorb iron more effectively. Vitamin B12 also affects our energy, as it, too, plays a role in producing red blood cells. Foods high in Vitamin B12 are animal products, like eggs, milk, cheese, fish and chicken. So if there’s a time to eat cheese, it might be during this week! Shark Week Workout Tip – keep moving! Though it can be temping on those heavy cramping days, usually Day 1 and Day 2, to stay at home curled up in a ball pumping Advil and Aleve, it’s actually better to do something active, even if it just means going for a walk. Some research, like this study (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25243766), even suggests a link between exercise and reducing cramps, but it seems to vary from woman to woman. If nothing else, the endorphin rush from a low-intensity workout should help with energy levels in those first couple, heavy flow days.

 

 

Once the Cramps are Gone, Push Hard!

The follicular phase of your cycle in general, meaning from the start of shark week until the end of ovulation, is when you’re pain tolerance and your insulin sensitivity is the highest, meaning your body will be prone to using carbs as fuel for muscle gains. Thus, you can make big gains in the gym during shark week and beyond (until the end of the ovulation phase) even if you don’t feel at your best for the first day or two of shark week. In general, think about the first 14 to 15 days of your cycle, the follicular phase and the ovulation phase, as being a time when you can push it harder at the gym and make valuable gains.

 

 

 

Ovulation (Day 11 to 14 ish, although, again, this depends on each women)

This is, of course, the time of the month where the new, mature egg gets released (aka your most fertile time of the month), and where estrogen and testosterone levels are high, and our energy levels, too. Ovulation phase diet tip  – during this stage of the cycle, your metabolism starts ramping up, so you might feel a bit more hungry than normal. This doesn’t necessarily mean you need to be eating a ton more, though. In fact, your metabolism won’t be at its highest until the luteal phase. So it’s best to stick to eating whole, unprocessed foods and appropriate portions sizes. Also, take advantage of your abundance of energy to get creative and get food prepping to prepare some extra meals for the luteal phase, when your energy drops and you start having cravings for high-sugar foods. Another ovulation phase workout tip – from a hormonal standpoint, this is the time to go for a PR! Your body is at its physical peak for the cycle. In other words, a great ego-boosting time 🙂

However, some science (https://www.jstage.jst.go.jp/article/tjem/240/4/240_287/_html) also shows the ovulation phase may be a time you’re ironically also at higher risk of injury, because as your estrogen peaks, this can impact collagen metabolism, as well as your neuromuscular control. Because of this, joints are less stable and injuries can ensue if you’re not on top of warming up and prepping your body properly.

 

 

 

Day approximately 25-28 (End of Luteal phase)

This is when the egg gets released, and your hormone levels decline again. Some women experience premenstrual cramping, headaches and bloating during this time, as well as mood swings and fatigue, especially in the last couple days of the luteal phase leading into shark week. Even though you don’t feel great on day 27 and 28, metabolically your body is actually peaking. One study published in the Journal of Clinical Nutrition discovered your metabolism is about 7.7 percent higher during the luteal phase. Along with this metabolic peak, however, comes food cravings, especially cravings for sweet carbohydrates and fatty foods. These cravings aren’t just in your head. A 2016 study (https://ucdavis.pure.elsevier.com/en/publications/estradiol-shbg-and-leptin-interplay-with-food-craving-and-intake-) showed a relationship between leptin and estrogen levels with food cravings. Diet Tip – get to know YOUR body and pound the protein! To help offset the decrease in serotonin and stop those carb cravings, you can try supplementing with tryptophan, as well as increase your protein intake, as they both can help promote an increase in serotonin production. Seratonin helps regulate mood, appetite and digestion, sleep, memory, and sexual desire and function, so basically if your serotonin is too low, it could be contributing to making you moodier or more anxious than normal. If you’re unaware of your mood during this time, start writing down what you’re thinking and feeling for a couple months or so, as well as how you’re sleeping in the three days before shark week. When you become more aware of your mood, cravings, sleep, as well as any other physiological changes in your body, you’ll become better at dealing with them in the future.

 For example, if you feel bloated the day before shark weeks starts for three months in a row, it might be worth considering limiting salty foods the last two days of the luteal phase, as salty foods make us thirsty, so we drink more and end up feeling even more bloated. Or maybe you notice you have trouble sleeping for a few days during this time. Sometimes limiting your caffeine during those days, or eliminating your afternoon coffee, can help you sleep at night. Or maybe these are the three nights a month you take melatonin before bed. Maybe you realize you always get into a stupid argument with your spouse in the three days before shark week. Becoming aware of this might help you avoid bringing up any “big subjects” during this time. The take home message – take the time to get to know your body and mind during this time, and adjust accordingly. Exercise Tip – stick to your routine, but back off intensity. During this time, your body temperature is often higher than normal, so you’ll often feel more tired during conditioning workouts. This doesn’t mean you can’t workout; it just means you may want to reconsider how intensely you’re pushing yourself. Though it’s tempting to fall off the horse if you’re feeling crampy and bloated for three days, this is probably the most important time to stick to your workout routine, even if you’re not able to put forth the same amount of intensity or effort. Be gentle on yourself as you prepare for the next cycle to begin with a shark-like bang!

 

Is the Ketogenic Diet Here to Stay or Just Another Unhealthy Fad of the Past?


 

If you’re confused about the ketogenic diet and whether or not it’s a good option for you, I don’t blame you. You have likely heard it’s the best way to help you lose fat, lean up, decrease your appetite, combat diabetes and inflammation, and maybe even enhance your athletic performance. And you have probably also heard it’s not a sustainable way to eat, that your body needs carbs, that it causes cancer, and that that much fat is bad for your long-term health. Which one is it then? I’m not here to preach the ketogenic diet one way or another, but I’m here to give you a closer look at to what the yes side and the no side is saying.

 

 

What is the ketogenic diet:

Simply put, eating a ketogenic diet means you’re eating close to 75% fat, 20% protein and just 5% carbs. A true ketogenic diet would mean eating just 10 to 15 grams of carbs per day, which is equivalent to just one apple a day. Basically this means no sugar, no processed foods, little to no fruit, and just whole lot of healthy fats, animal products and some vegetables. Read more about exactly what you can and can’t eat on a ketogenic diet here: (https://www.perfectketo.com/full-ketogenic-diet-food-list/)

 

What are ketones and what is ketosis?

Ketones are a group of organic compounds, two of which can be used as energy sources in our bodies: acetoacetate and D-β-hydroxybutyrate. Our body can also make its own ketones under certain circumstances: when we’re fasting, during starvation, or when carbohydrates aren’t present (if carb levels are super low). These ketones are then released by the liver into the blood to then be used as energy by our body. More specifically, ketosis occurs when ketones in your blood are higher than normal (and blood glucose is very low). How fast you go into ketosis varies a lot by age. Interestingly, human beings go into ketosis a lot faster than other mammals—as we know, bears can hibernate for an entire winter without hitting ketosis. Meanwhile, young human babies will go into ketosis in just a few hours. Experts believe this has to do with how developed the human brain is; ketosis happens in humans to give our brains energy during times of starvation or fasting. So basically, the ketosis diet then cuts off our body’s glucose supply, forcing our bodies to use fat as energy, as opposed to glucose.

 

 

What the YES TEAM says:

  • Helps Metabolic Diseases

There’s certainly some evidence that fasting is a short-term treatment for some metabolic diseases, such as Type 2 diabetes or chronic inflammation, and that ketosis can even help the body return to a normal, well-regulated state. Makes a ton of sense for the diabetes argument: Less sugar is sure to increase insulin deficiencies. Check out this study published in the Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism: (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1325029/) for more on the topic.

  • Helps Brain Injuries and Degenerative Brain Diseases

Some research suggests that brain diseases, such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, as well as brain injuries, seem to be helped by the presence of ketones, but it’s important to note most of the research in this area hasn’t been done on humans.

  • Best Way to Lose Fat

No doubt about it, people report they lean up when they’re following a ketogenic diet. However, this could be due to eating whole foods and avoiding processed foods as much as it is about eating all the fat and none of the carbs. Check out this study for more: (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27385608).

 

 

 

What the NO TEAM says

  • Not a Sustainable Fat Loss Strategy

Contrary to many success stories, there’s a school of thought that doesn’t think such a high-fat diet is helpful for long-term weight loss. The reputable Precision Nutrition, for example, says this: “For women in particular, lowering carbohydrate intake seems to have negative effects. …Women’s bodies go on high alert faster when they sense less energy and fewer nutrients coming in. Many women have found that the low-carb diet that worked great for their husband not only didn’t work for them, but it knocked out their menstrual cycle on the way out the door.” As a result, “We don’t recommend the ketogenic diet for sustainable fat loss,” reported Krista Scott-Dixon, Ph.D. and Helen Kollias, Ph.Din their article, “The Ketogenic Diet:
Does it live up to the hype?” (https://www.precisionnutrition.com/ketogenic-diet)

  • Unhealthy in the Long Term

Critics often argue it’s not healthy for long periods of time because it causes you to lose muscle and eventually become chronically fatigued, and can even do long term damage to the heart. However, this study that looked at obese patients who switched to the ketogenic diet suggests its perfectly healthy in the long term: (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2716748/) Then again, this study suggests the maximum time you should stay on a ketogenic diet is 6 to 12 months: (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3945587/)

  • Cancer

Critics argue that the ketogenic diet doesn’t include enough plant-base foods, and that consuming too many animal products leads to various health problems down the road—all sorts of chronic diseases, cancer and ultimately premature death. Read more here: (https://www.mdanderson.org/publications/cancerwise/2018/04/the-keto-diet-and-cancer–what-patients-should-know.html).

 

We aren’t here to make a choice for you in one way or another. However, more often than not, what appears to be too good to be true, generally is. Extremes are exactly that, extremes! As a general rule, being physically active and eating a well balanced diet should be enough to support you in a healthy lifestyle.

 

 

What You Need to Know About Calories and Metabolism


Losing weight is complicated….And unfair. 

 

It sounds like common sense: Reduce your calories and lose weight, increase your calories and gain weight. The concept sounds so foolproof that it led to the commonly-held conclusion we have believed for decades: “Eat less, move more,” and you will shed pounds. But this advice is flawed. It’s not that simple. Anyone who has found himself/herself trying to lose weight but failing to do so—by restricting calories and moving more—can attest to this. Why? Well to start, the calories in, calories out theory doesn’t tell us anything about your age, gender, body composition or hormone levels, nor does it tell us about your macronutrient intake, your training style, your genetic makeup, or whether you’re taking any medications etc. It also doesn’t tell us about your metabolism –  the process your body goes through to convert what you eat and drink into energy.

 

Metabolism aside for a moment, there are a couple of warnings to note about calories. The first is to be aware of labels! Check out this Precision Nutrition article that explains that food labels can be off by as much as 20 to 25 percent!(https://www.precisionnutrition.com/food-labels) The second is that consuming calories isn’t the same as absorbing them. The amount of energy we eat in the form of calories isn’t always equal to the amount of energy we absorb, store or use. This comes down to our metabolism, as well as the type of calories we’re eating, hence the idea that “calories aren’t created equal.”  In short, we absorb less energy from carbohydrates and fats that are minimally process and more energy from highly-processed carbohydrates because they’re easy to digest. Further, whether a food is cooked or raw also makes a difference in what we absorb from it. We absorb food differently depending on the types of bacteria we have in our gut, hence the whole probiotic craze we have been inundated with in recent years (probiotics are known to help increase the good bacteria in your gut, which helps you absorb nutrients more effectively). Back to the unfair truth about metabolism – when it comes to metabolism, we aren’t created equal. Here’s a look at how we are all different when we break down our metabolism into four categories:

 

 

  1. Resting Metabolic Rate, or RMR

We all differ in terms of the number of calories we burn when we’re simply just resting (breathing, thinking, sleeping etc…). Things that affect your RMP either positively or negatively include your genetic makeup, your body composition, your age etc, your fitness level, and so on.

 

2. Fitness and Metabolism

Again, we all burn calories differently when we workout (kind of why you can’t trust what the rowing machine or bike is telling you about how many calories you just burned). This changes depending on how much exercise you do. In other words, more consistent fitness can help your metabolism speed up.

 

  1. Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis

We talked about resting metabolism and working out metabolism. Non-exercise activity thermogenesis, on the other hand, is basically everything in between. It’s the energy you burn when you’re going about your daily life, sitting down, standing up, fidgeting, doing dishes, talking, laughing etc. Once again, this also varies from person-to-person.

 

  1. Thermic Effect of Eating

This is basically how many calories you burn just by eating (and digesting and processing your food). Once again, this varies considerably from person to person.

 

 

 

 

Below are 5 Simple Ways to Amp up Your Metabolism

1.Eat Protein – Protein helps improve your thermic effect of food, meaning you’ll burn more calories while you’re eating and digesting. Read more here (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4258944/)

2. Drink more water – Some research shows drinking more water can help speed up your resting metabolism. Read more here (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19661958).

3. Workout More – Exercise, especially lifting weights and high-intensity work, goes a long way in speeding up your metabolism—not just the calories you burn when you workout, but also your resting metabolism and your non-exercise activity thermogenesis. This study explains that high-intensity training can help your metabolism speed up for up to 14 hours after a workout: (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21311363).

4. Sleep – Sleep and sleep disorders, such as sleep apnea, have a huge impact on metabolism. Check out this for more (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2929498/) . And even if you don’t have sleep apnea, not getting enough sleep can alter glucose metabolism, as well as hormones involved in regulating metabolism, like leptin and ghrelin. There’s a reason they call it beauty sleep.

5. Omega 3’s – There’s some evidence that taking a fish oil supplement rich in Omega-3 fatty acids can help speed your metabolism, largely because it is believed it helps decrease the chances of leptin resistance, which is linked to how your body burns fat. More research needs to be done here, but even if fish oil doesn’t help your amp up your metabolism, there are many other well-known health benefits that come from taking Omega-3 fatty acids.

Give it a try for 30 days: Increase protein intake (and decrease carb intake), more water, consistent working out, go to bed earlier, and fish oil it up on a daily basis. Then report back.

 

Your Fish Oil Guide to Better Heart and Brain Health


Omega-3 Fish oil: You have probably heard that you should be taking it to improve your recovery, to decrease inflammation, to improve brain function, and even to prevent and manage heart disease and blood pressure. Many of you might already be taking some brand of Omega-3 fish oil. According to the National Centre for Complementary and Integrative Health, more than 18 million people in the United States spent more than $1.3 billion on fish oil in 2012 alone, so the word is obviously getting through to people about its positive health benefits. But all this time, there’s a good chance you have been taking it wrong…Mic drop! What I mean is the type and dosage of fish oil matters, and varies from person to person depending on a few factors. Before we go into that, though, let’s talk a bit about what fish oil is and how you can get it into your system.

 

 

DHA versus EPA: Omega-3 fish oil contains both DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) fatty acids that your body wants and needs. Specifically, DHA is known for boosting brain function, while EPA contains more of the anti-inflammatory effects.

 

Foods with DHA and EPA: Great food sources that also contain these two fatty acids can be found in salmon, sardines, herring, mackerel, tuna, trout, swordfish, and cod, among other fish. On average, one 100-gram serving of most fish contains around 1 gram of Omega-3 fatty acids. Atlantic salmon and mackerel are a bit higher: They’re closer to 2 grams of both EPA and DHA per 100 gram serving of salmon. Here’s a snapshot of various fish and the exact amount of both EPA and DHA they have. All this is to say, if you eat a lot of fish (more than 3 or 4 days a week), you might be getting enough fish oil from your diet. But if you don’t eat fish and have other needs, there’s a good chance you’ll benefit from a fish oil supplement on top of what you’re already getting from your food.

 

 

 

Traditional Fish Oil Dosage Suggestions

There are various reasons to take fish oil. Some take it to improve their cardiovascular health, others to improve their joint health, and others still to improve their attention and concentration. According to various clinical studies, here are the amounts of fish oil you should consider taking depending on your needs:

Heart Health:600 – 4,000 mg (0.6 g to 4 grams) of combined EPA and DHA.

To Improve Mood:At least 1 gram of EPA per day. The oil you choose should be higher in EPA than DHA.

To Improve Concentration and Focus:500-1,000 mg (0.5 to 1 g) of EPA per day. This is also useful for children over the age of 5. Again, the oil you choose should be higher in EPA than DHA.

Pregnant and Breastfeeding Women:At least 300mg (0.3 g). Generally, the oil you choose should be higher in DHA than EPA.

Bowel Health: 2,000-4,000 mg (2-4 g) of combined EPA and DHA each day.

Respiratory Health:2,000-4,000 mg (2-4 g) of combined EPA and DHA each day.

The above dosages are pretty standard and accepted; however, there are many other (perhaps more progressive and aggressive) nutrition gurus out there who recommend taking much larger doses. Robb Wolf—the author to the Paleo Solution (https://robbwolf.com/)—recommends taking 0.5 grams of EPA and DHA PER 10 POUNDS OF BODYWEIGHT. And if you’re recovering from an injury, are overweight, stressed out, not sleeping well or have a poor diet, he even says this can be upped to 0.75 to 1 grams per 10 lb. of bodyweight! This means if you weigh 150 lb., then:

  1. Divide 150 by 10 = 15
  2. 5 g (of fish oil) and multiply that by 15
  3. 5 x 15 = 7.5 g

Thus, for maintenance, he suggests you take 7.5 g of fish oil each day. Considerably more than the old-school requirements, but might be worth doing and seeing how you feel.

 

 

 

What About Brands?

One thing to consider is where is the fish from your oil is coming from (i.e. environmental contaminants). The same way you don’t want to consume fish caught in ocean areas that are contaminated, you don’t want your oil to come from there either. Also, some fish, especially the longer-living species—usually the predators that eat other fish—accumulate contaminants in their bodies‚ things like heavy metals, such as mercury, arsenic, cadmium and lead. It goes to say that these contaminants can end up in fish oil, which will do more damage than good if you consume them. What all this means for us is that when looking for a fish oil supplement, it’s best to look for one that has been highly purified. Two other things to consider are freshness and form.

Freshness: If you’re buying fish oil in oil form, as opposed to capsules, freshness can be determined by how translucent the oil is. It should be quite translucent and free from cloudiness or “floaters.” Second, the taste: The fresher it is the least fishy it should taste.

Form:Omega-3s are naturally found in the triglyceride form, but often times cheap fish oils are sold in an ethyl ester (EE) form, a semi-synthetic form that are harder for your cells to absorb. Thus, you want to strive for the triglyceride form. Good brands usually list this somewhere on their bottle. If you want to get really nerdy and dig more into this, check out this research that compares the two forms: (http://www.promedics.ca/site/downloads/Triglycerides%20vs%20Ethyl%20Esters.pdf)

 

With all that being said, one really good brand that is sourced from short-lived species—anchovies, sardines and mackerel—which don’t feed on the bottom so they pick up less contaminants, is BrainMD’s Omega-3 Power. (https://www.brainmdhealth.com/omega-3-power). Another great option is SFH which is something we sell. It has a great taste and no fishy burps! Also, for your convenience we have pumps available to it’s super easy to

 

There are many other good brands out there. What’s most important is to do some research into the product and beware of EPA to DHA ratios, freshness, triglyceride form, and, of course, figure out the right dosage for your needs.