This one’s for women who are active in the gym, armed force members, or enjoy working out in general on a consistent basis.
There are some things you’ll want to add to your workout nutrition and overall nutrient profile to make sure you stay healthy and ready for anything.
Let’s get started.
There are loads of articles out there on workout nutrition. They’ve all been guilty of one or two things – sometimes, articles can look like they’re only tailored for men, or they focus purely on the women out there who want to get “skinny,” and lose weight.
But what about the women who go hard at the gym?
Or the ones that workout and are active service members?
There are nuances – like women who’ve already started their “journey” and need things to get a little more in-depth and sophisticated.
There’s also something that I’ve noticed over the years – when it comes to the fitness and sports world, very few articles seem to discuss exercise and a woman’s – and I’m gonna just go ahead and say it shamelessly – well, a woman’s period…aka menstrual cycle. This post will also be discussing the affects of that in relation to exercise.
If you’re a woman and lifting something much, much heavier than those pink neoprene dumbbells that are smaller than that breath mint you pop before a date, your workout nutrition has to get a little more specific than “drink 5 buckets of water, blend your kale smoothie, and when you start feeling faint, stay cool and just eat a cocktail party sized cube of cheese – because nothing taste as good as skinny feels” caloric deficit advice that’s been going around.
For the women who’ve bought my books, they’ll know that I’m not guilty of advocating this extreme, unhealthy caloric deficit bullshit, as I mention plenty about nutrition for both sexes, including some very important points in chapters on protein and nutrition. I also stress the importance of healthy fat loss and strength building – not weight loss.
For the women out there that already train heavy, you know damn well by now that lifting a dumbbell does not mean that this will happen instantly:
What can and does happen with both women and men is something called oxidative stress – in short, a good thing, which can make the body more resilient, allowing it to adapt and boost its own antioxidant levels naturally.
If you’re unsure what oxidative stress means, here’s a simple definition (Legge, 2013; Fisher-Wellman & Bloomer, 2009):
During normal metabolism, your body produces unstable molecules, free radicals being the most common. These molecules can damage your cells and create more free radicals, causing more damage.
Your body uses different antioxidants to control free radical (oxidative) damage. The two main kinds of antioxidants are endogenous (produced inside your body) and exogenous (consumed from diet and other sources).
When free radicals overwhelm your antioxidant defenses, your cells are damaged. This damage is called oxidative stress.
So if you’ve been working out for a while, you know that proper exercise in general can make your immune system and body overall more resilient to sickness and ill-health – but you also know that shortly after any workout, your immune system is temporarily weaker, then rebuilds itself, becoming stronger.
This is a tremendous oversimplification of the process, and if you’ve read the chapters in SUPP UP. On The Go or SUPP UP. At Home nutrition books you’ll know that free radicals and antioxidants have a necessary push-pull dynamic…but I’m not looking to write an entire research paper today.
With that push-pull dynamic, it’d be smart for women to add some things to their arsenal, which I’ll get to in a minute.
In regards to resistance training and muscle, while most theories out there take this same concept stating that muscles break down to rebuild, the more accurate process is set in Energetic Theory, something you’re free to research further into yourself – see ISSA (2017) in “References” at the end of this post.
While I may not agree with the body’s protein handling capacity bit at the end of the article by ISSA (2017) (I elaborate on this myth in “Chapter 2: Protein, Reloaded” SUPP UP. No Bull, Whole Food Military Nutrition At Home), the rest is on point.
The supplement industry is alive, kicking, and bigger than it ever has been before. But as you know with SUPP UP. it’s all about cutting through all the haze and getting to what really works.
So back to oxidative stress and antioxidants.
If you noticed from the excerpt earlier in this post, there are two main kinds of antioxidants – endogenous (produced inside your body) and exogenous (consumed from the food you eat and other sources).
Although some research does argue that women are less susceptible to oxidative stress (Kander et al, 2017), the research methodology in any type of qualitative research must be questioned, as there are always several factors that aren’t taken into consideration (one significant one being the side effects birth control pills have on a woman’s system as a whole – but that’s an entirely different animal I choose not to tackle today) when conducting research studies, due to the limitless combinations that can be created through the process of sampling.
Let’s focus on other factors and entertain some theories for a minute here.
So, you’re a woman who works out…and if you’ve been working out consistently, you’ve been building up your body’s level of resilience as it’s been learning to adapt, and strengthening itself for your next workout, or any other type of oxidative stress it might encounter from free radicals.
But that’s only 50% of the equation. While your body will take care of the endogenous (internal) side of antioxidant building, it’s up to YOU to take care of the exogenous (external) side.
You know (I hope) that avoiding smoking, drinking, and all that other jazz is the smart thing to do…and yeah, you’ve been eating your veggies, fruits, proper carbs and proteins. Good job.
Now here come the nuances….if you read either SUPP UP. nutrition book you’ve learnt the different reasons why the food you eat today isn’t the same it was a few decades ago, and now you’re trying to figure out how to compensate for what’s lacking in the foods you do eat.
You’ve also learnt why consuming a standard multi-vitamin isn’t really helping you, and how there’s a better way to fulfill your nutrient profile.
But something’s still missing.
You’re no pessimist, but you understand that getting your nutrients in today’s ever-growing world of processed foods, genetically modified vegetables, and companies spinning the word “organic (i.e. organic vs. grass fed beef – there is a difference)” to their benefit, can make things a little trickier.
Now you could pack it in, move to the country, and become a farmer, growing all your own fresh fruit and veg and tending to some cows and other farm animals, but I’m pretty sure you’ve already got an established life.
So if you’re going hard at the gym, and your body is taking care of the internal side of things to protect you, what do you do?
You add a few key supplements (which I mentioned in the book), to your nutrient profile.
NOTE: While these supplements are good for both men and women, there are some very specific benefits that the following supplements can have for women…
This does NOT mean that they affect men negatively – on the contrary, as I said before they’re beneficial for both sexes; but the same way both men and women have testosterone, while women have less, a little can go a long way – so there are some things women need to know about that can help them specifically.
For those who’ve bought either SUPP UP. No Bull, Whole Food Military Nutrition On The Go, or SUPP UP. No Bull, Whole Food Military Nutrition At Home, you’ll know why these supplements are so effective, as in both books I’ve listed the natural role they play in our bodies, their benefits, and why (not to mention how) they work together so well.
These supplements can also help ease pain in women who have incredibly miserable, painful menstrual cycles.
So what are they?
- Vitamin D
I realise this is a taboo subject to talk about in sports and the gym, but let’s be honest – while both men and women are athletes, women do have something they have to deal with every month which involves bleeding for 3-7 days straight and not being expected to complain about it…and I’m sorry bro but – goddamn dude, you’ve just gotta respect that level of resilience in itself.
At the end of the day – maybe because I’ve always been interested in science and biology – but at the end of the day I think we’ve gotta humanise women a little more than we do already as a society, and talking about this does just that.
What’s interesting about female athletes is, just before a woman’s cycle, and during some stages of pregnancy, they’re actually at their strongest – but research shows that things can still be pretty damn painful with side effects like nausea, feeling drained, and light-headedness.
While these supplements have obvious benefits for both sexes in regards to workout supplementation, they have additional benefits for women with periods as they help control/regulate possible irregularities women face during their cycles.
Everyone’s different, so I’ve recommended just starting with the recommended doses listed on the packaging this stuff comes in, with a maximum amount cap. Take note: you can take these anytime of the day, not just before/during/after workouts.
Let’s go over some of the benefits.
NAC. If you bought either of the SUPP UP. nutrition books, you’ll remember which chapters I mentioned this in. It’s a powerful antioxidant which helps control bleeding during menstruation, as it inhibits MMP’s (Matrix metalloproteinases – essentially enzymes that break down protein). MMPs aid in breaking down endometrial tissues at the end of a woman’s cycle, but when overactive or high in levels can cause excessive bleeding in the uterus and inflammation.
So NAC is highly beneficial in helping prevent this – not to mention boosting one of your body’s most powerful naturally occurring antioxidants, which you already learnt about in the book.
Recommended Levels: Minimum stated on supplement directions, maximum 2000 mg per day.
Taurine. Again, another great antioxidant. Women who have fibromyoma (aka fibroids), dysfunctional uterine bleeding, cystic endometrial hyperplasia, and endometrial cancer have been found to have low levels of Taurine.
I mentioned this one in an earlier post on how to increase punching power, serving as a necessary antagonist to Beta-Alanine, and vice versa. In saying that, ladies if you’re taking Taurine, well you’ll need to supplement with Beta-Alanine to keep things balanced.
Recommended Levels: Minimum stated on supplement directions, maximum 2000 mg per day.
Vitamin D. There’s a reason why so many songs have been written about sunshine and blue skies – with women, this is even more important. If you’ve read either SUPP UP. nutrition books, you’ll remember this MVP is critical for normal functioning of every single cell in your body…but for females, this helps with prevention of early commencement of their periods.
Yes indeed, hormone-filled food isn’t the only thing that can cause your daughter’s cycle to start early, but lack of good ‘ol sunshine is the culprit, too.
These days, either people in sunny areas spend a lot of time indoors in the nice cool air conditioning, or people in high cloud cover areas seem to never get enough sun in general.
Lack of vitamin D also reduces the benefits of progesterone – a female hormone important for the regulation of ovulation and menstruation.
Man or woman, vitamin D3 seems to absorb in the body better than D2.
Recommended Levels: Minimum per day can be 5000 iu’s, though later research is now saying 10,000 iu per day. Capsule form, not tablet, is best.
Bioflavonoids. Pretty straight-forward this one. When a woman bleeds during her cycle, her capillaries get weakened, especially during heavy flow and/or continual bleeding or spotting. Citrus derived Bioflavonoids can strengthen said capillaries. As a supplement in general, for both men and women this can dramatically improve skin health.
Recommended Levels: 1000 mg per day. Ladies, you can usually find the single tablet form of this strength from Solgar.
That’s pretty much all there is to it for now – at least for what I can reasonably fit into a single blog post.
Though working out is talked about a lot and going hard at the gym, I thought I’d take the time out to write this article to stress that while both men and women have the ability to develop themselves to an impressive level physiologically, women do have a big factor they can’t really stop at will which they have to contend with on a month to month basis – something men have the luxury of not having to consider when thinking about their workout regimes.
So again, like anything in the health and fitness world, ladies, just remember to keep things balanced, and you’ll do just fine.
Ladies, what did you think of this post?
If you liked it, let me know by sharing it.
If you really liked this post, but don’t have the SUPP UP. books yet, buy either SUPP UP. On The Go or SUPP UP. At Home E-BOOKS now, and discover what other supplements are the best to use for pre-, intra-, and post-workout nutrition under the “Supplements – Avoid Off the Shelf Pre-Mixes” chapter (preview of chapters available in shop).
These work very well in conjunction with my workout guide, SUPP UP. No Bull, Gym In A Bag Workout Guide, which provides guidance on the best portable workout equipment to own, a breakdown of how muscles are and can be effectively worked, and customizable workout plans. If you haven’t already check it out now, either in paperback or as an e-book.
Drop by next week for yet another great post to add to your workout and nutrition arsenal.
Stop doing guesswork, start making the necessities of your life easier.
SUPP UP. – Get your copies now.
If You Know How To Fuel and Train Your Body, Where You Are Matters Less.™
– SUPP UP.
Fisher-Wellman, K & Bloomer, R.J. 2009. Acute exercise and oxidative stress: a 30 year history. Dynamic Medicine. [Online]. 8(1). Available from: http://doi.org/10.1186/1476-5918-8-1
ISSA. 2017. What Makes Muscles Grow?. [Online]. Available from: https://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/issa7.htm
Kander, M.C, Cui, Y & Zhenguo, L. 2017. Gender difference in oxidative stress: a new look at the mechanisms for cardiovascular diseases. Journal of Cellular and Molecular Medicine. [Online]. 21(5), 1024-1032. Available from: http://doi.org/10.1111/jcmm.13038
Legge, A. 2013. The Truth about Extreme Exercise, Oxidative Stress, and Your Health | Complete Human Performance. [Online]. Available from: https://completehumanperformance.com/2013/01/16/exercise-oxidative-stress/
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