Ladies, we have made some amazing strides in a short amount of time. We’ve moved from pink weights to swinging kettlebells almost as heavy or heavier than we are. Women of all types and ages have taken the leap from weak to strong. Congratulations ladies, we did it! We are still doing it!
More women are embracing strength as a necessary part of their training. We are clearly not afraid to be strong. The movement of females lifting heavier, while still keeping their feminity, realizing they can feel better without looking like Arnold Schwarzenegger is spreading like wildfire. It was uncommon years ago to see females, much less new moms, swinging around heavy weights or doing pull-ups while smiling at their new baby. It has been an honor to be an integral part of the female movement towards kettlebells, which opened the flood gates to strength and the mastering of pull-ups, dead lifts, and so much more. But have we taken it too far? We train like men and pound for pound some of us are even stronger than men. The question is: are we supposed to eat like men too?
Ladies, ladies, ladies, we are very special creatures. We have unique nutritional requirements that keep us running efficiently. After the age of thirty it becomes imperative to feed those special needs. Otherwise, as the years go by, you may be setting yourself up for major hormonal imbalances, deficiencies, and adrenal fatigue. After all, we look different than men, we have menstrual cycles, we can reproduce, and we are beautiful. Let’s focus on what a woman needs to eat and not just on what all people should eat.
Let’s dissect this a little bit further. Men and women are flocking to the IF (intermittent fasting) rage as well as various low carb and high protein diets. If you are not familiar with IF, it’s a period of time when you don’t consume any food followed by a window of food consumption. It can be done several ways. To learn more about it, Mark’s Daily Apple breaks it down well.
I am neither a scientist nor a doctor, but I absorb information and approach eating with lots of thought. Including my years in college, I have been studying kinesiology and nutrition for a total of fifteen years, which compels me to thoroughly analyze every approach. Jumping on a bandwagon is not something I do easily. So let’s take a look at IF with an analytical eye.
Before I go any further, let’s get straight down to reproductive health. It’s no secret that females of all ages who train very hard and restrict their calories can stop menstruating. Females who suffer from eating disorders such as bulimia and anorexia also tend to stop having periods. Mental stress can stop a female from menstruating due to the stress put on the hypothalamus, the area of your brain that controls hormones and regulates periods. The end result is often infertility and brittle, weak bones. Ladies, if you are experiencing any of these symptoms, I suggest that you take a long, hard look at your current eating habits and prioritize.
A study found by Stefani Ruper, who wrote an incredible review on her blog about fasting for women, showed that there are significant physiological changes for females that take place with calorie restriction and fasting. Some of what has been documented is the masculinization of female rats. They become more energetic and mentally focused, which is one of the main perks of this popular way of eating. When push comes to shove, however, this benefit is actually a stress effect on the body that causes it to become more “manly” and thus want to find food. On the other hand, the male rats showed they didn’t have a brain chemistry change like the females. This explains why some women are raving about their strength training while practicing IF, but the long term effects are yet unknown. I’ll be the first to admit that some IF can give you an increased sense of energy and strength. Eating raw vegan did that in the beginning for me, as well. In the end, however, it comes down to hormonal health and that’s where women could end up paying a big price.