Women Inspired to Lose Weight
Weight loss for women and what actually works for women is a very hot topic right now. There is so much information out there, diets, supplements and some straight out dumb ideas. The reason the whole field is so confused is that much of what is considered to work is based on research and the physiology of men. The assumption that both sexes will gain and lose weight for the same reasons is simply not true.
In fact, what works for women is up to 30% different from men! This is because of the menstrual cycle and its different phases and things that can throw this cycle out of whack. Things like:
policystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS)
perimenopause (the wild fluctuations that happen leading up to menopause)
neurotransmitters are all factors that can have a material impact on your weight gain and loss.
The hormones affecting women are oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone. Basically testosterone promotes weight gain in women, oestrogen and progesterone promote fat loss. Many of the women with weight issues coming into the clinic have problems with the level of testosterone (PCOS), do not have a regular cycle, are in perimenopause or have been through menopause.
When a woman comes in for weight loss, the first question maybe “Are you ovulating?” If they don’t know then we will work it out, either with temperature charting or testing for an LH surge and temperature fluctuation. This can be done at home.
If no ovulation, she could be undereating or have PCOS.
For women who are still menstruating and not on the pill, let’s use the cycle to guide us with how we exercise and eat. The first part of the cycle is oestrogen dominant, and as oestrogen affects strength and force favourably as far as exercise goes, and most personal bests occur in this part of the cycle. The second part of the cycle is characterised by a rise in progesterone, and with it, appetite increases, will power is lower and there’s more cravings, more insulin resistance, increase in that bloated feeling and more fat storage, and slower recovery post training.
Practical Tips for Weight Loss Using the Cycle.
Diet pre-training for women in the follicular (oestrogen) phase is around 20-30 grams Carbohydrate or Protein BCAA (Branch chain amino acids) /whey and lutealphase (progesterone) part of the cycle 15 grams protein like whey, or 3 - 5gms of BCAA (Dr Sims - “Roar”).
During training; Carb intake is required, which is lower in follicular phase precisely (.8gms/kg/hr) and higher in luteal phase (1 gm/kg/hr).
Post training requires the need to replace glycogen stores, repair damaged tissue, support immune function and replace fluid and electrolyte losses.
A post training smoothie is a great idea, with some carb and some protein (usually 20 grams). In a 3:1 ratio (3 carbs to 1 protein) as soon as possible after exercise otherwise there will be more sugar cravings later on and will be counterproductive for weight management.
Tips for Women with PCOS, Peri-Menopause and Beyond
For women who have PCOS, insulin resistance or are in menopause, simplified the diet should be high protein, low carbohydrate especially low fructose.
Exercise is important for this group, especially strength training.
Metformin (medically prescribed) is often a part of the protocol along with berberene (Golden seal for example), inositol and magnesium glycinate.
A wonderful idea may be an exercise regime to go with the moon cycle instead, if there is no obvious cycle. Increase intensity in the first phase of the moon, like the new moon then decrease intensity from the full moon. Women love cycles!
In the clinic I would assess the testosterone issue and treat this as it promotes fat gain in women. Perimenopause can be the perfect storm for weight gain in women, due to insulin resistance, lower estrogen and progesterone, higher testosterone and higher occurrence of thyroid disease. Therefore I treat menopause and PCOS in a similar approach. Perimenopause requires a little more patience and detective work.
Exercise regime for PCOS, perimenopause and menopause may be some cardio, strength training, interval training, core strength and yoga. Pilates stretching and walking also increases your calorie burn.
Detective Work is Part of Being a Naturopath
In the clinic we would do some detective work or you may already have some information via your GP. We would work with your cycle and if you don’t have one find out why. We will work with your capacity to exercise and your levels of motivation. The detective work may cover any of the following issues:
We would work with your energy production, are your mitochondria working well?
Are you insulin resistant?
Are you sleeping well?
Are you stressed?
Have you got a thyroid issue?
Are you on the pill?
Is your digestive system functioning well?
Do we have to treat inflammation?
Do you have dysbiosis in the microbiome?
Are there autoimmune issues?
Are you vegan?
Are there fundamental nutrient deficiencies?
Do you fill up on liquid snacks like coffee, or alcohol?
Are there addictions, or emotional eating considerations?
We would address any or all of the above, with a diet plan, BodyTalk for the mind/body issues, herbs and nutrients.
A Weight Loss System that Works for Women in all Stages of Life
The popular diets for women out there at the moment are calorie restricted, keto and low carb, vegan and intermittent fasting.
I have had a lot of success in the clinic with high protein, low carb, so I would probably recommend this with a few individual adjustments. Carbohydrates may be required in certain circumstances, depending on how much energy is expended, even the season of the year could be considered as an approach to when to eat your carbs.
To conclude, shop and prep food for the week ahead, follow your food plan, find a friend to motivate each other, look at the emotional links, 2 weeks restriction and 2 weeks off often works better and be patient with your goals and exercise!