Are you depleting your hormones by exercising wrong? If you are stressing out your body with intense exercise at the wrong times you could be. But wait… what do exercise, hormones and stress have to do with each other? What depletes women’s hormones? Stress! When people think of stress, they often think of emotional stress but there are 3 different types of stress. Toxins, traumas and thoughts are different types of stress. Exercise can be a physical stress to the body. Instead of being a good thing for your body, exercise can be a stress that leads you to be sick. Is your exercise routine depleting your hormones?
Now, when done correctly exercise can be very good for your hormones. Exercise can help with circulation, reduce stress and overall help with the balancing of hormones. In my clinical experience I have worked with thousands of women who have harmed the balance of their hormones with over-exercising.
Is Your Exercise Routine Depleting Your Hormones?
How do you know if your hormones are out of whack? Your cycle should be between 26-32 days and the average is 28 days. If your cycle is too long or too short, it’s a sign of hormone problems. If your menstruation is less than 5 days that is a sign that you have a hormone problem. Some women work out so much they even cease to have a period. Which might seem like a good thing, but it is a bad sign for your body.
Other symptoms of hormonal imbalance include:
- Unexplained weight gain or loss
- Chronic fatigue and/or difficulties falling and staying asleep
- Headaches and migraines
- Changes in appetite
- Changes in libido
- Bloating and/or stomach pains
- Changes in heart rate
- Changes in blood pressure
- Sensitive skin
- Excessive sweating
There is a big difference in female hormones of a cyclic woman compared to a man’s hormones. A woman’s hormones dramatically change through the month. If your hormones change, your emotions change, the body changes, and your workouts should change. I’m not saying be sedentary! I’m saying be aware of your hormones and how your exercise impacts them.
Before we go further let’s break down the 3 types of exercise. Just so we are all on the same page. If you’re not exercising at all you aren’t doing your hormones any favors either.
Understanding Three Types of Exercise:
Aerobic exercise – exercise that changes your heart rate and gets blood flow and oxygen to the system. This is so important for the health of your organs and tissues.
Anaerobic exercise – more intense exercise that helps build muscle. This is exercise like weightlifting or HIIT.
Flexibility exercise – stretching that increases blood flow but doesn’t increase your heart rate. This is a very important type of exercise that should be done daily and supports your neurological system as well.
You should be doing some sort of exercise regularly, but not always the same type. I know we can be creatures of habit, but your body needs you to switch it up. There are times of the month the female body can handle more stress and other times of the month that it can’t. During certain times of the month exercise can be inflammatory which can drain progesterone and other hormones that make up healthy hormonal balance.
Exercising Through the Month for Healthy Hormones
The days are approximate and should be based on your cycle.
Exercising for Healthy Hormones During Follicular Phase
Days 1-7– First part of follicular phase- This is the 5-7 days of menstruation During this time you want to take it easy with exercise but make sure you’re keeping moving for circulation. Your uterus needs oxygen and time to contract to release the endometrial lining. It can cause hormonal depletions if you are doing intense workout during this phase of your cycle. You still want to keep moving to bring oxygen to the smooth muscle and circulate blood flow.
The vibe plate is an amazing thing for circulation in the body as it gets blood flow to all organs in body including brain. Pilates, yoga and other adaptive exercises help get blood flow throughout the body. This is also a great time for the infrared sauna, which gets circulation up and is relaxing. This is not a good time for intense work out. If your endometrial lining isn’t fully released, you can end up with endometriosis or PCOS. You might feel good when you exercise hard because of endorphin release but it’s not great for your body.
Days 7- 14 -Second part of follicular phase – This is the time for more intense work out schedules. Not only do your hormones start to go up so does your sensitivity to insulin and you can handle sugar better. Cortisol can bring sugar into the system and your body can use it better. Your body can also handle more stress during this time and a more intense workout.
Take advantage of this time when your hormonal system and insulin system are ready for the stress. Go ahead lift heavy weights because this is when you will be rewarded for your hard work and you will have more capacity for that hard work. This is where you get bigger weight loss results and build muscle.
Exercising for Healthy Hormones During Luteal Phase
Days 14- 21 – First part of luteal phase – During this time your progesterone goes up and this is when you can cause most damage if exercising too much. If you are always working out intensely so you can have a six-pack abs that will deplete your hormones. Women aren’t supposed to have six-pack abs but should have a layer of fat. So, don’t feel like you have to have your work out in overdrive all the time.
Just do flexibility exercises, yoga, vibe plates and light walking. We don’t want your heart rate to go up. This is where most women make themselves sick. Tanking your hormones during this time can lead to long term effects like PMS, cancer and other hormone problems. Stay away from stressors like inflammatory foods, emotional stress and high intensity work outs. Take time to find ways to reduce your stress.
Days 21-28 – Second part of luteal phase. This is when your hormones start to go down. This is a great time for intense workout like sprints, CrossFit, HIIT and other high intensity workouts. By working hard your hormones will go down and we want them to at this time of the month. This will help your hormonal health and induce the process if it is a little behind. There is an exception to this. If your luteal phase is too short, then you want to continue to rest during this time until your hormones are back in balance.
Understanding How Exercise Can Help or Deplete Your Hormones
Understanding how your exercise routine affects your hormones is important to help maintain healthy hormones. Many of us exercise to look better but it should be to feel better. The amazing thing about exercising for health though is that when you start to feel better you often start to look better too. So, take care of your hormones by understanding the important part exercise plays in your hormonal health.
Written by Dr. Patrick Flynn