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Is There a Link Between Exercise, Nutrition, and Your Menstrual Cycle?

Updated: Apr 21, 2023

Disclaimer: Please note that I am not a medical doctor and the information provided in this blog post is for educational purposes only. It is always recommended to consult with a healthcare professional before making any changes to your diet or exercise routine.


Ladies, have you ever noticed that your menstrual cycle seems to disappear when you're hitting the gym harder than usual?


As a competitive bodybuilder, I've seen this happen to so many women and I was determined to figure out why. So, I put on my [pretend] lab coat and conducted a self-experiment to test my theory that, assuming body fat levels were in healthy ranges, delaying post-workout meals might be causing some menstrual woes. And guess what? I think I actually might be onto something.


Now, let's talk about the importance of post-workout (PWO) nutrition for women and their menstrual health. If you know me or have ever worked with me, you've heard about the importance of post-workout nutrition. I factor them into all of my clients' plans.


But, are PWO meals really that necessary? Well, the short answer is yes. And I believe that they're especially important for us! Particularly when we're training harder than usual or are reducing calories for fat loss.


So, what exactly is PWO nutrition?


It's the act of eating nutrients after exercising to help your body recover and repair. When we exercise, our muscles undergo stress and damage, so eating the right nutrients after a workout can help repair this damage and get us back to our strong, powerful selves.


When it comes to the right nutrients, we need carbohydrates, protein, and fat. And research shows that consuming the right nutrients post-workout can have a positive effect on menstrual health. In fact, a study in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics found that female athletes who consumed more carbohydrates and protein had a lower risk of menstrual disturbances. So, don't skip those PWO meals, ladies!


Protein is also crucial for muscle protein synthesis, which is the process by which your body repairs and builds new muscle tissue. This is especially important for women who are looking to increase muscle mass, as muscle protein synthesis can be impaired during menstruation due to hormonal changes.


Now, you might be wondering how long the PWO nutrition window is. Traditionally, we've been told that there's a 30-minute "anabolic window" after exercise where consuming nutrients is essential for optimal recovery. But, recent research suggests that this window may be longer than we thought. A study in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition found that the post-workout anabolic window may last up to 48 hours, especially for muscle protein synthesis. So, you don't have to rush to eat immediately after your workout, but it's still important to consume the right nutrients within a reasonable amount of time to ensure optimal recovery.


So, what are some good post-workout meals or snacks? Try a protein shake with a banana, a turkey and avocado wrap, a quinoa salad with chicken, or even a protein bar that has a good balance of macronutrients. The possibilities are endless, just make sure you're getting those crucial carbohydrates, protein, and fat.


In conclusion, PWO nutrition is crucial for our menstrual health. It can help regulate post-workout hormone fluctuations, improve muscle protein synthesis, and aid in recovery and repair. So, make sure you're fueling your body with the right nutrients after your workouts, and don't forget to enjoy some tasty PWO meals or snacks too!

 

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