As an athlete, I believed that I should have be able to kill it every week of the month. I was frustrated when I couldn’t run as fast or lift as heavy as I’d the week prior. I was more frustrated by the loss of muscle gains and how long it would take me to recover. Now, I have more muscle definition, a higher metabolism and more energy by applying some simple – female focused – training changes. I learned about the power within my female cycle.
I’ve linked my favorite products through this blog for easy options to help you get started.
1 – Pre-workout Fueling
I’ve worked out fasted for years and years. I always wondered, however, why I’d work so hard yet see so few results. I knew fitness, I knew food – but needed it redefined. So, I hired a nutrition coach. She told me that fasted workouts were hurting not only my muscular gains but also my hormones.
As I played around with pre-workout options I tried quite a few differen things. Some made me feel heavy legged, some didn’t last the length of my workout and some fit perfect! I started with toast and jelly. Tried a banana with peanut butter. Went for some greek yogurt once (not a fan). Personally, I love some organic dates with peanut butter. It is light and energizing. Officially, it is my favorite go-to for pre-workout for workouts lasting 30-45 min. On workouts lasting longer than 45 minutes – Peanut butter, jelly and toast is great.
The goal for pre-workout fuel is to get this in about 30 minutes prior to a workout.
My pre-workout fuel changes based on the time of my cycle I’m in. The week of my period (phase 1) and the week after (phase 2), I have 3-4 dates with peanut butter. During phases 3 and 4 I have one or two.
During phases 1 and 2, we should get about 30-60g of carbohydrates pre-workout. Post-workout we should aim for 40-80g of Carbs plus 20g of protein post-workout. It’s during these two weeks we can have the most powerful workouts – High intensity, heavy weights, and quickness.
During Phases 3 and 4, our workouts should transition away from high intensity/high resistance into more endurance. Things like cardio, low weights/high reps. Our pre-workout fuel should also shift to more protein. Our change in hormones at this time slows down our bodies ability to utilize carbs for energy. This does not mean to stop eating carbs, we should aim for more complex carbs.
I would even suggest a de-load week for phase 4 (PMS week). This de-load week idea is still hard for me. I do, however, see better workouts once my period comes if I give my body time to rest. So, instead of running and lifting, I try to focus on stretching and foam rolling. I like to be active and move so this keeps me intentional to work on all areas of my health.
If you are an athlete that competes during the week before your period you should increase your hydration and electrolytes (LMNT), and bump up your carbohydrates pre, post, and your during workout.
2 – Prioritize Protein & Fiber
I’m sure you’ve heard this from many social media influencers – they’re right, especially for females looking to keep muscle mass. Our bodies literally break it down every month for fuel.
We’ve been created so amazingly, the things our bodies know to do just in case we are pregnant. Knowing that a baby’s developing body needs all the quick-acting fuel it can get. Our bodies store up glucose reserves for fetus development which means muscle and fat become the energy source for us. That is also why we are so powerful when we get our period – all those stores are now available for us to use and our bodies utilize carbohydrates very well during those phases and we kill it. 💪
Now, before you go crazy on protein bars and protein powders, real food protein is the best route to overall health. My go-tos are – chicken, beef, greek yogurt, cottage cheese, 2% Fairlife milk (your milk of choice as long as it’s balanced with carbs, fats and protein). I do still use some protein power I use 1/4 of a scoop with Fairlife milk in my coffee and one of my favorite desserts is a mug cake the asks for a few tbsp of protein powder. Otherwise, I hit my protein goals with real food.
Fiber rich carbohydrates are the energy source of our bodies and they are needed for normal functions of our mind, body, and hormones. Keep Brown rice, quinoa, vegetables, sweet potatoes (not the french fry kind), whole grain pasta, beans, and chickpea pasta, in your diet even during phase 3 and 4 so that your body can actively process the increased protein (let’s avoid constipation, right?)
Don’t forget healthy fats too – but we’ll save that for another time.
How much protein do you need? You’ll want to get ~ 0.8-1.0g per body weight. I average between 124-135g/day. It depends on what my workout was that day. On lifting days and later phases of my cycle, I aim for the higher end.
3 – Food Scale
I have tracked my food for years and never understood why my carbs, protein, and fats appeared to be where they ‘should’ be but I was feeling bloated and not seeing the results I expected.
Now, if you’re like me, you trust that food labels are what they say they are. You probably also think that your eye-measurement guess is pretty close and that’s good enough – right? Wrong!
I was shocked to find out that I was ALWAYS over in my measuring and that food labels were very rarely the right gram/serving as they said. I make homemade sourdough bread and I would say I had 1 medium slice – but based on the grams it was a large slice or at times 3 slices.
So, I’ve been weighing what I eat when I have time and when I think about it. Bottom line – a food scale has helped me improve my eye-measuring skills so that I can eventually move away from using the scale at all and have a better grasp of what is what. (this is also my plan for tracking food – I’d like to move away completely. one little side note on this – don’t track calories – it will kill your fitness goals)
One more quick tip – an oz of cooked meat weighs less than raw and if you track your food – it’s always measured in raw. So take cooked in oz. / .75 and you’ll get the raw oz and be able to accurately track.
4 – FitrWoman App
This is the newest addition to my female fitness plan. Within the fitr app you receive nutrition, fitness, and overall wellness tips for your personal cycle.
These are some things that have worked for me. I’ve made adjustments to accommodate my body, how I feel, and what works best for me.
Undoing fitness programming and aligning with you – that might take time. I am happy to help – just reach out.
Take these tips as a source to consider, but don’t make them your rules. Food should be enjoyed! I will continue to share recipes of balanced meals – filled with color – that are so delicious.
Food is fun – and that truth has been the biggest change in my fitness life.