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Female Athletes  

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Our commitment to support female athletes 

While it is a great notion to apply and adapt the same training regimes for males and females, physiologically females have a significantly different hormonal environment. Female sex hormones play a major role in training periodization, training load, adaptation, recovery or heat acclimatization. Therefore, it is crucial to recognise those hormones, how they fluctuate across a normal cycle versus hormonal contraception to create a tailored training program and optimize performance.  The crucial part here is to start tracking the menstrual cycle. 

 

 

Strength training 

Menstrual cycle training plan

Peri-menopause & menopause

Nutrition & supplementation

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Body 
composition analysis

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Book any of our services today and let us take it from there 

 

Importance of strength training

 

Benefits of strength training in females are multiple:

a. It decreases the risk of developing osteoporosis (brittle bones) and risk of falling later in life.

b. It promotes joint stability and balance, as a result lowers the risk of injury, muscular atrophy, muscular disproportion and general muscle tightness.

c. Through cardiovascular system it promotes a vascular compliance which results in a more desirable blood pressure reading and healthier heart.

d. Resistance training helps with neuromuscular adaptation by enhancing speed and strength of muscle contraction. e. It increases muscle mass and reduces visceral/overall fat percentage and also allows body to burn more calories at rest. f. It allows you to feel strong and confident. 

Low energy availability (LEA) and relative energy deficiency in sport (RED-S)

 

 

They are common not only within athletic population, but also within general population. LEA is more common in females however males can also be affected by it, therefore it is vital to regularly screen both groups. If not addressed in the early stages in females it very often leads to RED-S, previously known as female athlete triad (lack of period, osteoporosis and eating disorders).

 

LEA happens when an athlete doesn't get enough calories in, this is when an individual starts getting a clinical aspect of reduced hormone functions. Thyroid function would be affected, resting metabolic rate goes down and perturbation in menstrual cycle are evident. IVF1 hormone starts to be suppressed and impacts bone formation, as a result an athlete feels fatigued and it's a consequence of being in a low energy state for too long. Luckily, there are nutritional strategies and specific training regime that could be introduced at this stage to reverse the negative impact on health.

Training according to menstrual cycle

An average cycle is 28 days long, yet very rarely athletes will have a 28 days long menstrual cycle, it will more likely range between 21 to 40 days. It is super crucial for sportswomen to start tracking the cycle (via app or pen and paper), in order to track recovery, appetite swings and general aches. Day 1 (first day of bleeding) through day 14 are called a follicular phase, days 15 through 28 (last day before period) are referred to as a luteal phase. Ovulation happens right in the middle of a cycle. 

For performance, it means the most preferable time for intense training and increased volume is during period, as the hormones are most favourable. Naturally, female competitors worry about having their period during a big event, yet physiologically it is the most optimal time for physical activity. The best remedy to navigate cramping as well as aches and pains is movement after all.      

 

Once the body knows pregnancy is not an option, it can naturally relax and re-focus energy systems on locomotion and exertion. Similarly, the homeostasis continues through the follicular phase right until ovulation, just before luteal phase kicks in. In terms of strength training, researchers found that women could make greater strength gains and exert higher rate of force development when strength training in follicular phase versus luteal phase. Additionally, in the first part of menstrual cycle neuromuscular adaptation, recovery, pain perception and thermoregulation are at its finest. 

The event calendar cannot be moved around to suit physiology. What if athletes must race during high hormone phase? It has been reported VO2max and lactate threshold, remain relatively constant throughout cycle, indicating endurance athletes to be able to score a personal best even during PMS. Per contra, athletes in team sports or stick-and-ball sports, may notice a drop in performance when in high hormone phase. Luckily, there are nutritional interventions that could be implemented for athletes having to compete with PMS. The main intervention would be to bring the systemic inflammation down via specific foods, supplements and cryotherapy but most of all an increased protein and complex carbohydrates intake.

Body composition

 

Most individuals are focused on counting calories which very often leads to a complicated relationship with food. In some way, a shift towards body composition could improve the relationship with food by focusing on improving muscle mass and taking the pressure of constant monitoring of calorific intake. The ideal body composition depends on one's specific goals and would be different for each individual also based on age, height, weight and ethnicity. 

 The body fat for optimal health ranges between genders and specific fitness goals. For females, it varies between 14 to 30 percent of body fat and for males from 6 to 25 percent. Women in general need more essential fat due to their hormonal make up and potential pregnancy which is about 12-14% whereas males can go down as low as 4-5% without a cascade of hormonal disruptions. If a female individual is on a lower end of the body-fat spectrum, no further performance gain would come from a fat loss. Instead, it could lead to very serious health problems, that is why it’s paramount to test body composition on a regular basis. 

 

At Light Blue Clinic we offer a whole body composition analysis  which includes the following measurements:

 

  1. Muscle mass

  2. Lean mass

  3. Fat percentage

  4. Hydration levels

  5. Bone mass density 

  6. Visceral fat rating 

  7. Basic metabolic rating

 

 

 Peri-menopause and menopause 

Menopause is a specific day in the calendar when a female's body stops to produce oestrogen and progesterone. In the lead up to menopause oestrogen starts to decline for about 5 years prior to menopause and the decline of oestrogen is called peri-menopause. Menopause marks the end of a women's menstrual cycle and reproductive life it also leads to physiological and psychological changes. This is where strength training and nutritional advice can help with enhancing muscle protein synthesis, body composition and overall health. 

    Post-menopause one of the biggest shifts regarding nutrition is a diminished ability to digest simple sugars especially fructose (fruit sugar). Several studies have confirmed postmenopausal women's inability to store an excess energy from fructose as subcutaneous fat stores. As a result, more fatty acids were circulating in their bloodstream, causing metabolic havoc, including high triglyceride levels and insulin resistance.

During menopause body composition naturally shifts in favour of fat. Estrogen levels fluctuate and eventually declines at menopause. The hormone is responsible for regulating reproductive functions it also plays a pivotal role in regulating metabolism, in relation to how women store fat, respond and recover from exercise. Therefore, the body composition changes in response to lower levels of estrogen.

Menopause doesn't have to be all about slowing down or accepting the body's changes with no control over it. Simple adjustments like an amended amount of protein in the diet or a personalised training program can allow for a healthier, stronger and  more aware of your needs individual.

 

We are here to help,

 

Light Blue Clinic Team

    

    

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