17 Jan Use your hormones to speed up exercise results
- Research shows that planning your exercise routine around your menstrual cycle boosts its benefits.
- Women who do anaerobic (strength-training) workouts during the first half of their cycle create more muscle.
- Women who do aerobic (cardio) workouts during the second half of their cycle burn up to 30% more fat.
If you’re a woman who exercises or plans to, there’s something important you should know: The hormones in your menstrual cycle can speed up your exercise results!
That’s not all: This hormonal benefit applies to both anaerobic (strength-training) and aerobic (cardio) exercise.
And, get this—you don’t even have to work out harder or longer to reap the workout-boosting benefits! You simply have to time your workouts around your menstrual cycle. Yup, that’s it!
Keep reading because I’m going to show you how easy it is sync your exercise regimen with your cycle to boost your results….
Focus on muscle in the first half of your cycle
Want to build muscle in your legs, arms, buttocks or other body areas more quickly?
During the first half of your menstrual cycle (from the first day of your period through ovulation), focus more on anaerobic exercises, which are the kind that build muscle. These can include using weights, stretching resistance bands, doing isometric exercise and climbing stairs.
Research shows that you build more muscle and build it faster on these days in your cycle thanks to rising estrogen.(1,2) As this hormone steadily climbs between the first day of your period and ovulation, it speeds and enhances muscle repair.
Focus on cardio in the second half of your cycle
Looking to torch fat fast?
During most of the second half of your cycle (from the day after ovulation through a few days before your next period), focus more on aerobic exercises, which is the kind that speeds up your heart rate and makes you breathe a little heavier. These can include speed walking, running, jumping rope, biking, swimming and even dancing.
Research shows that you burn up to 30% more fat during aerobic exercise on these cycle days thanks to a combination of estrogen and progesterone.(2,3) These hormones work together to help the body use fat as fuel when you’re active.
More good news? Aerobic exercise feels easier to do on these days in your cycle because this hormone combination reduces the production of fatiguing lactic acid that builds up in muscles as you exercise.
Keep your workout varied
While it’s helpful to know which half of your cycle produces quicker muscle-building results when doing strength-training and which half produces greater fat-burning results for cardio, it’s smart to incorporate this information in a healthy way.
This means not pushing yourself further than your body wants to (or should) go so you can avoid injury and pain.
It also means mixing up your workout routine so that you’re continuing to do both strength-boosting and cardio all cycle long. That’s because both types of workouts have proven benefits for overall health.
Bonus slimming tips
Research reveals more easy tips that will speed weight loss:
Drink coffee before your workout: Not only does caffeine in coffee give you an extra energy push that makes aerobic exercise easier, ingesting caffeine before your workout helps you burn more calories as you exercise and for three hours following it.(4,5) What’s its secret? Caffeine helps the body metabolize fat more quickly and use it ahead of carbohydrates for fuel.
How much caffeine is enough to enhance calorie burn? Researchers reporting in the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism found that 4.5 mg. of caffeine per kilogram of weight spurred a 15% increase in calories burned during and after workouts. This would equal 285 mg. of caffeine for a 140-pound (63.5 kg.) woman, which is the amount found in a 16-ounce cup of coffee (though keep in mind that caffeine doses vary).(6)
Exercise before breakfast: Do your cardio on an empty stomach and you’ll burn up to 20% more fat, say researchers in the British Journal of Nutrition. Your body favors fat as a sources of fuel over carbohydrates when your stomach is empty.(7)
Bonus muscle-building tips
Now that you’re syncing your strength-training around your monthly cycle, do you want more help building muscle faster? Research reveals simple ways you can spur greater muscle tissue growth:
Load up on protein: Whether you’re a carnivore or herbivore, simply eating more protein throughout your day (up to 30% of total daily calories) in conjunction with regular anaerobic workouts improves muscle growth and strength, according to a 2017 study in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.(8) Regardless of whether the protein you consume comes from animals (such as meat, poultry, fish or eggs) or plants (such as beans, peas and tofu), it delivers amino acids and other nutrients that are essential for muscle growth and repair.
Lighten up on power: Tend to put off strength-building workouts because you think pushing yourself painfully to the max is required for building muscle? Good news: According to a 2016 study in the Journal of Applied Physiology, doing more reps with lighter weights, resistance bands and other anaerobic tools can give you the same muscle gains as doing fewer reps with more exertion.(9)
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(1) “Effects of follicular versus luteal phase-based strength training in young women,” Springerplus, November 11, 2014, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25485203
(3) “A weight-loss program adapted to the menstrual cycle increases weight loss in healthy, overweight, premenopausal women: a 6-mo randomized controlled trial,” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, July 2016, link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs00421-003-0889-0
(4) “Ingestion of a moderately high caffeine dose before exercise increases post-exercise energy expenditure,” International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, February 2015, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24901809
(5) “Caffeine consumption around an exercise bout: effects on energy expenditure, energy intake, and exercise enjoyment,” Journal of Applied Physiology, October 1, 2014, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25123196
(6) Center for Science in the Public Interest, Caffeine Chart, cspinet.org/eating-healthy/ingredients-of-concern/caffeine-chart
(7) “Breakfast and exercise contingently affect postprandial metabolism and energy balance in physically active males,” British Journal of Nutrition, August 28, 2013, cambridge.org/core/journals/british-journal-of-nutrition/article/breakfast-and-exercise-contingently-affect-postprandial-metabolism-and-energy-balance-in-physically-active-males/9DAC8DE59DEEF7926E81FF2BB2C5B7EB
(8) “Dietary protein is associated with musculoskeletal health independently of dietary pattern: the Framingham Third Generation Study,” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, March 1, 2017, academic.oup.com/ajcn/article/105/3/714/4569695
(9) “Neither load nor systemic hormones determine resistance training-mediated
hypertrophy or strength gains in resistance-trained young men”, May 12, 2016, physiology.org/doi/pdf/10.1152/japplphysiol.00154.2016