Hormones and Exercise

Hormones and Exercise

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Have you ever felt like the incredible hulk, attacking your workout like an olympic athlete? Then, you try to repeat the same workout the following week, and feel like a sloth, barely able to get yourself off of the couch? It just so happens there is a reason for that and it has to do with hormones and exercise.

Why is it that sometimes we have the energy to run around the world and other days we get exhausted just trying to hold down the couch? The answer is in your hormones. For women, it is slightly more obvious. We have a monthly cycle and most people are familiar with the hormonal fluctuations, but there is more.

The Female Cycle

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During ovulation estrogen and testosterone levels increase which brings with it, an incredible surge of energy. A great time to push for that olympic work out, this is the time when the female body is saying "hey, look at me, I am strong, beautiful, and able to reproduce like a champ." When we work out on the fuel of abundant testosterone energy, we can lose weight easily, produce endorphins, and just feel great!

One week later however, in the middle of the luteal phase, testosterone levels drop. The body is not prepared for the same intense workout during this stage and we can do more harm than good pushing ourselves to keep up. In fact, if we do push beyond our bodies hormonal reserve, the body will begin to tap into the adrenal reserve. The adrenals will spike cortisol, the stress hormone, in an attempt to keep up.

When cortisol is activated, the body leaves the parasympathetic or relaxed stage, and becomes sympathetic, or under stress. A sympathetic system cannot lose weight, does not create happy endorphins, and does not feel great! This is why the same workout feels like death a week after you were on top of the world.

Instead of working against your hormonal chemistry and inviting more stress into your life, try to tap into your innate intelligence. When you feel like a superstar, go for gold in your workouts. In your lower testosterone phases, look for more gentle exercises like yoga, pilates, or a nice walk outdoors. All it takes is 20 minutes of movement to increase circulation, deep breathing, improve the mood, and boost the immune system.

The Male Cycle

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Whereas a woman has, on average, a 28 day cycle, men have a 24 hour cycle. A man's body creates  testosterone at night, which is why sleeping a full 8 hours is so important. The highest level of energy is thus first thing in the morning, and a great time to squeeze in a workout.

The low intensity phase occurs somewhere between 3p-9p. Thus, squeezing in a post work workout is not the most optimal time physiologically. The body will have to work twice as hard to lose weight and there is the potential for high adrenal stress as it tries to do so.

So what does this all mean? The body has an innate intelligence that gives out clear signals when it is not functioning like a high performance machine. Feel like you would rather sleep than go for a run? You probably need the rest, to avoid suppressing the immune system, and catching a cold. You can listen to your body and find your optimal workout time, or you can ignore it, drink a huge coffee, eat some sugary snacks, and force it to overload. Perfect health is a choice we make every day.

How do you choose health? Do you take advantage of your energy spikes? Do you rest on low days? Please share your successes with tapping into your innate rhythm of hormones and exercise?

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