Author Archives: Francesca Liparoti

How stress turned me into a fat storing machine

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It was mid 2015 and I’d just left my corporate career of 13 years, having decided to start working for myself as a Nutritional Therapist. The thing is I didn’t really have a plan but I just knew I HAD to get out of my City office job and start creating a new life for myself, having spent 5 years training to qualify.

I didn’t have any savings, just one more months salary to come, then that was it until I started making an income self employed – something I didn’t have a clue about back then!

Some of my friends didn’t really understand and some of them still don’t, but I knew this was something I HAD to do and if I waited until I had a load of savings behind me first I’d be waiting a LONG time, plus I knew that NOT having a safety net would make me more determined and driven (which it totally did).

During the first 9 months of working for myself and trying to figure things out, making mistakes, dusting myself off, trying again, over and over, I became VERY stressed and lost a lot of sleep. As a result I gained a stone in weight over the course of those 9 months. My nutrition had stayed the same during that time and was pretty much on point, yet still the weight just kept creeping on.

I wasn’t sleeping properly at all for those 9 months, I’d toss and turn until 3am most nights and then have broken sleep until 7am when I’d get up.

The stress was affecting my sleep and my sleep was affecting my stress – it was a vicious cycle, and this changed how my body was running metabolically and put me into fat storing mode.

The high stress meant I had more of the hormone cortisol in my body, which can lead to things like fat gain, sex hormone imbalances (causing hormonal symptoms and more weight gain)

Stress was also creating inflammation in my body, which turned into chronic, low-grade inflammation. This chronic low-grade inflammation was having a negative impact on my hormones, especially the hormones that regulate blood sugar levels; insulin, and cortisol.

I was basically a fat storing machine with muscle aches and pains, digestive issues, and hormonal symptoms.

Apart from my nutrition still being very good I wasn’t doing anything else at all to look after myself. I was stressing and worrying from the moment I woke up in the morning, and even in my sleep because I would usually wake up grinding my teeth. I wasn’t taking ANY time out at all, I felt guilty if I went to the gym or to a yoga class, or if I spent the evening watching TV or reading a book or God forbid having any fun! I made zero time for the gym or any sort of movement including walking, and I sat in front of my computer for hours on end each day pushing and trying to make things happen for my new business. I was seeing a bunch of clients at a health club until 9pm a few nights a week then staying up late to write their programmes.

I pushed and pushed and pushed, and after 12 months like this, I was a stone heavier, and I know that my symptoms and weight gain would have been a whole lot worse if it hadn’t been for my good nutrition.

I knew things had to change – and it down to me to make those changes.

I signed up to an intro offer at a local yoga studio and did a yoga class everyday for the next 10 days, more the restorative type classes rather than strong fast ones, as I knew my body didn’t need any more stress put on it at this point.

I decided that at this point going back to the gym wasn’t going to be helpful as I needed to do things that reduced the stress load on my body and right now anything other than walking and yoga was just going to add more stress. 

After a beautiful run of yoga classes over a few weeks I started to fall asleep a little easier, I felt more ‘grounded’; a term I had always heard but never truly understood until then, basically I was feeling more calm, and more mentally and emotionally stable, and now operating from a far more powerful place.

I started to allow myself the time out that I should have always allowed from the start. Yes I was worried about making enough money each month to pay the bills, the rent and allow me to live, but working 16 hours a day and worrying all night wouldn’t help or make things happen quicker.

I started reading fiction books to help me switch off from my work and anxieties about money, I started to actually listen to Mark when he was talking to me, took myself out for walks in nature (my local green common), did lots of yoga, meditated as many mornings as I could (I did 5-10 minutes), and as I started to feel a bit stronger I added in 2 structured heavy weight lifting sessions per week, but NO cardio or ‘HIIT’ because that would just stress my body again and get me storing fat not burning it.

I’ve lost the weight now but its was SLOOOOOOWWWW, and it was never going to be quick. 

My body did nothing wrong, it simply responded to its environment – and that’s all our bodies ever do – they respond to their environment. If your environment is one of high stress, poor sleep, and zero down time then eventually it will start to respond – very negatively. 

Same way if your environment is one of calorie restriction diets and a tonne of cardio it will eventually respond by slowing itself (your metabolism) down in a bid to help you preserve as much energy as possible.

I’m glad this happened to me because it only equips me EVEN more for the work I do everyday. I help women find fat loss that lasts, get really healthy, and really happy. 

If you’re ready to learn how best to serve your body so that you CAN lose weight AND KEEP IT OFF for good, AND know how to navigate yourself through life’s twists and turns without them being detrimental then the next round of The Forever Plan is for you. Enrolment is open now and we kick off on Monday 3rd Sept for 12 weeks of unwavering support, education and transformation. Send me an email at francesca@flnutrition.co.uk if you’d like to know more and reserve your place.

To find out more about how my coaching programme (whether the group or one on one) can help you, please complete the application questions below to book a complimentary breakthrough call with me where we can speak about working with me in more detail. I can’t wait to speak with you!

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You CAN eat meat and be healthy (and lose weight!)

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Eating meat will clog your arteries, increase risk of cancer and type 2 diabetes, and take years off your life, isn’t that what we keep being told, and even more so today?

In recent years meat has become the most talked about and controversial thing when it comes to nutrition, with Netflix documentaries and warring nutritional theories becoming more and more prominent, it’s no wonder so many people are turn their back on meat or just downright confused about the whole thing.

As a species we’ve been eating meat since the beginning of our evolution, but today there are so many raging arguments about eating meat when it comes to things like the awful state of our nation’s health, the environmental impact of agriculture, and the unethical treatment of animals – and all of these arguments have become tangled up in a minefield of confusion!

If we want to live long, healthy lives, should we eat meat? How much is OK or should we completely scrap it? Should we consume ANY animal products at all?

While anti-meat advocates and scientists have tried to frighten us away from eating mean by linking it to things like cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and obesity, research actually shows meat to be a nutrient-dense food that can actually help to prevent these diseases, as well as prevent nutritional deficiencies – as long as you focus on quality and eat it with plenty of plant foods and vegetables.

Plant-based diets should be the foundation of everyone’s diet, and quality meat and fish can also form part of the diet without being harmful in any way. The typical Western diet is made up of processed foods, processed meats, inflammatory omega 6 fats (vegetable and industrially processed rapeseed and sunflower oil, margarines, hydrogenated fats), plus plenty of sugar and refined carbs, whilst being low in vegetables and nutrient-dense fruits and other quality fibre.

I’m not saying that there are NO downsides to eating meat at all, but there are good scientific and health-related reasons to eat high-quality, organic, grass-fed, sustainably raised meat as part of an overall healthy diet.

Here are 7 points to help you make the most informed decision when it comes to eating meat:

1) Meat is the single best source of protein. I hear and read a lot of people saying that beans and pulses have a lot of protein, as well as things like pumpkin seeds, chia seeds and nuts. Well, they do, for plants. But firstly you’d have to consume a large amount of them in one sitting to get the optimal amount of protein required at each meal/across a day (ideally between 1.5 and 2g per kg of body weight per day), and secondly they lack a number of the critical amino acids, and we need ALL the amino acids, not just some of them, for good health. So, fulfilling your daily protein requirements with non-animal foods requires a fair amount of attention to detail, planning and effort – something that most people can’t manage. You have to eat three cups of beans with 100 grams of carbs to equal 6 ounces of animal protein (that contains zero carbs). And plant proteins contain very little leucine, the rate limiting amino acid needed to build muscle. Most of the plant-based protein sources are not ‘pure protein’ meaning they are also carbs e.g. beans and pulses like lentils, chickpeas, butter beans etc, or also fat e.g. nuts and nut butters. The older we get the more important dietary protein (we can lose as much as 3 to 5% of our muscle mass per decade after age 30) is in order for us to maintain our precious muscle tissue which means we maintain our health, strength, structure and prevent disease and ageing.

2) Meat was, and still is, unfairly demonised. Half a century ago it was discovered (in a flawed study) that saturated fat raises cholesterol levels and causes heart disease, and this led to the widespread demonisation of meat. We cut back on meat, opted for “lean” meat, and trimmed and skimmed all the fat off our meat. The thing is though that heart disease is a complex condition that doesn’t just involve high levels of ‘bad’ cholesterol in the blood, but also inflammation (from an array of other diet and lifestyle factors), blood sugar imbalances, triglycerides, and a lot of other factors. Also, the actual impact of saturated fat on cholesterol and heart disease isn’t that simple. Studies have actually found that the main source of saturated fat in meat, stearic acid, has no impact on our blood levels of cholesterol. What’s even more shocking is that eating saturated fat doesn’t raise blood levels of the saturated fats that cause heart disease. It’s actually refined carbs and starches, and sugar that actually raise your blood levels of ‘bad’ cholesterol and the bad saturated fats.

3) Updated science research is still debating how much saturated fat is a “healthy” amount, and latest wisdom suggests that saturated fat is fairly neutral; i.e. it’s not harmful, but it’s not necessarily a superfood either. Saturated fat originally became demonised in the 60’s and 70’s after ONE research trial was done which concluded that saturated fat and cholesterol causes heart disease. We now know (although a lot of mainstream health organisations are not up to date) that this one piece of research was highly flawed.  The decision to demonize saturated fat then extended across ALL fats by the 80’s – leading to today’s (devastating) fear of such nutritious AND weight management foods like egg yolks, quality red meat, nuts, olive oil, butter and avocado.

4) Meat is a powerhouse of nutrients for us. Our only dietary source of vitamin B12 is animal protein, and B12 is an essential nutrient for health. We also get valuable minerals and other vitamins from meat, as well as enzymes that we need to access nutrients, essential amino acids, and cancer-fighting antioxidants like vitamin A, which cannot be obtained directly from vegetables (the vitamin A in vegetables, like carrots, is not the ‘active’/usable form of the nutrient). Vegans often become deficient in B12, iron, zinc, vitamin A, vitamin D, omega 3 fats and more. Yes, plant foods contain many of these nutrients, but they are just so much more bio-available in meat. Quality matters, and I am not referring to processed or low quality farms meats here.

5) Which brings me to the next point, that grass-fed meat is better. Grass-fed meat (as opposed to factory-farmed meat) contains much better types of fat than animals that are fed grains instead of grass. Grass-fed meat contains more omega-3s, fewer omega-6s (which can be a pro-inflammatory fat in excess), and more conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), which can boost metabolism and can be cancer-protective. Grass-fed meat also has higher levels of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients. It is often more expensive than conventionally farmed cuts of meat but worth the extra if you can manage it. In my house we eat less red meat (about twice a week) and higher quality, and we spend the extra on better quality chicken and turkey, and just cut back elsewhere.

6) A plant-based diet is a must. A lot of people talk about a plant-based diet in terms of being vegan. But everyone’s diet should be based around plenty of plant foods, whether a meat eater, fish only, vegetarian, or vegan.  At least three-quarters of your plate should be made up of vegetables and the rest of quality complete protein (e.g. quality meat, fish or eggs). You can include some ‘starchy’ carbs as well preferably coming from root vegetables like sweet potato, baby new potato, carrots, beetroot, or from brown, red or black rice, quinoa, buckwheat and beans and legumes like chick peas, lentils, butter beans etc. About a palm size and thickness of meat added to meals that are mostly vegetables.

7) What about all the well-publicised scientific studies showing that meat eaters are in worse health than vegetarians and die sooner I hear you ask? Well, the findings may have something to do with which meat eaters are being studied. Studies show many people who eat a lot of meat (particularly processed meat) are likely to have unhealthy habits in general. They might weigh more, drink more, smoke more, eat a low amount if any vegetables, low fibre and good fats. They are also more likely to be more sedentary. So maybe it isn’t the meat that’s damaging carnivores’ health—maybe it’s everything else they are doing to damage their health. It’s not the meat; it’s what is contained in the rest of your diet. You can be a sickly, overweight vegan or a healthy, well-nourished carnivore.

To find out more about how my coaching programme (whether the group or one on one) can help you, please complete the application questions below to book a complimentary breakthrough call with me where we can speak about working with me in more detail. I can’t wait to speak with you!

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“I Can’t Eat That”

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Something I’ve made a pact with myself to never say is “I can’t eat that”

Why?

Well, firstly because it’s not true. I can have whatever I want at any time.

Secondly, to tell myself or others that I “can’t” eat something suggests to myself that number 1) I’m being forced to follow someone else’s rules, and number 2) that I really wish I could have it, and woe is me what a sad and enjoyable life it is if I can’t have it.

If you’re constantly telling yourself that you CAN’T have this or that, then you’re subtly reminding your subconscious that what you’re doing (i.e. CHOOSING to eat healthily for your AMAZING body and for your goals) is a burden.

You’re basically saying something like this:

“This healthy lifestyle stuff is horrible, but I HAVE to do it and I CAN’T eat what I want because I dislike my body just slightly more than I dislike doing this healthy lifestyle stuff at the moment”

Does that sound like the path to success to you?

No, it doesn’t, and it isn’t

Change your inner dialogue and your attitude towards the journey to vibrant health and the body weight you want to achieve. Mindfully intervene when thoughts like this come up.

The reality is as a society we have come to place A LOT of misplaced value on junk food and we see it as a reward and a treat. Rather than seeing it for what it actually is which is unhelpful for our health goals (if you have such goals that is!). I have a very different relationship with food now than I did 10 years ago and so I don’t value junk food therefore I don’t have to say “I can’t have that”, saying that would suggest I’m depriving myself of something. But I don’t see not having junk food as depriving myself of anything.

Don’t get me wrong, this is NOT to say that I don’t enjoy cake, chocolate or other desserts, or a bag of Kettle Chips (yes the big bags!), but this stuff should be part of my overall approach to my health and my weight. I eat in a way that isn’t at all deprivational i.e. my body gets all that it needs each day to thrive, have good energy levels, well-functioning brain cells, and balanced hunger hormones, therefore i don’t crave this stuff – I just fancy it every now and again and so I have it, no guilt or shame, i just have it, enjoy in and move on.

If you focus on nourishment instead of restriction, on what you CAN have versus what you shouldn’t have, on what you put IN versus what you should take out, you’ll soon find those cravings and ‘addictions’ to various junk food items fall to the wayside.

Trust me when I say my diet when I was the ‘old me’ was pretty shocking, to think I’d ever not need or want confectionary and crisps every single day, or to binge drink every weekend, would have sounded like madness to me.

After years of yo-yo’ing in weight, jumping from diet to diet, restricting like mad and then all out eating everything and anything, I finally found out how wrong I was doing things.

I speak from a place of MASSIVE experience with this stuff, and now also with knowledge and qualifications to guide you in the same way.

So, the BIGGEST point I want you to take from this is to starts focusing on what needs to go in, then what doesn’t need to go in will naturally fall by the wayside and when you DO have it you can and should enjoy it guilt free. The difference is not having and/or relying on it daily.

Go forth and be amazing! I have every faith in you xxx

To find out more about how my coaching programme (whether the group or one on one) can help you, please complete the application questions below to book a complimentary breakthrough call with me where we can speak about working with me in more detail. I can’t wait to speak with you!

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8 Ways To Enjoy Your Holiday Without Sabotaging Your Health and Weight

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Ever gone on a strict diet and exercise regime in the lead up to a holiday and then gone wild when you arrived at your destination because you deprived yourself so much beforehand? You wouldn’t be the first!

Going on a deprivational low calorie diet to get you into shape for something special will only result in binge-like behaviour when you finally release yourself from the deprivation, and usually complete undoing of any results you might have had!

Something a lot of people do (myself included way back when) is go all out on a holiday and really do EVERYTHING they just wouldn’t do in their normal everyday life. This is usually a result of the deprivation or rigorous training routine they might put themselves through in the lead up to the event. For example you might ‘to hell with everything for the next 7 days whilst I’m in Ibiza, I’ll just get back on track when I get home”. This sort of mindset can be quite damaging. Far better is some sort of balance throughout the whole year, then when you go on short breaks or longer holidays you just let your hair down a little more than you usually would, but nothing so drastic that it throws your whole routine completely out and sabotages your health to the point where you are left feeling (and even looking) quite rubbish when you get back to the norm, and playing catch up for a good week or two and maybe longer.

 

Here are 8 ways to enjoy your holidays without sabotaging your health or weight loss efforts:

 

1) Ditch the stupid diets in the lead up

You’ll only get to your holiday and drink and eat everything in sight for 2 weeks because you’ve ‘been so good for the last month’. There really is no need to have this detrimental relationship to your food and lifestyle. The way I teach nutrition applies 365 days a year, only when it comes to fat loss specifically there is always going to be some sort of calorie deficit needed in order to shift it, but none of my women would or should be eating less than 1700-1800 calories a day, even for fat loss. So, in the lead up to getting yourself out in a bikini you might just want to tighten things up a little bit for a while before you go but that DOESN’T mean restrictive deprivational diets of 1200 calories and a tonne of cardio.

 

2) Plan Ahead & Keep it Real

Preparation is everything, especially when trying to avoid stumbling into the nearest bar or cafe when you’re starving. When you get to your holiday destination go for a stroll and see what restaurants and shops you’ve got nearby and get an idea of what’s available to you. Most beach resort restaurants will pile your plate high with heaps of fresh fish, mouth-watering fruit and veg and lean proteins. And if you finish that off with a bit of ice-cream, so be it. Know that you CAN and should enjoy some indulgence on your holiday but you don’t have to go mad, if you don’t deprive yourself for weeks before your trip you’re far less likely to have that mentality anyway (see point 1).

 

3) Book Self Catering & Bring your Own

I never go away without bringing some trusted essentials in my case. Here’s what I bring:

  • Milled flaxseed (e.g. Linwood’s) to add to things like muesli, smoothies, and sprinkle on salads.
  • Rude Health Muesli Nutty Crunch (not something I eat usually but for a holiday it’s useful
  • Protein powder that can be mixed/shaken with water (I like SunWarrior chocolate raw blend or Bulk Powders strawberry whey) for a protein hit during the day whilst enjoying an ice cream on the beach!
  • Then I hit the local grocery shop and buy some eggs, smoked salmon, cooked ham or bacon, avocados, spinach and or other dark green leaves, berries, coconut milk or nut milk (if available), tomatoes, olives, hummus, and any other veggies I can get my hands on.

 

4) Don’t forget to hydrate!

Don’t let your water intake fall to the wayside on holiday, even if you are sipping on cocktails throughout the day on an all-inclusive break to the Caribbean, GET THAT WATER IN no matter what! Your body’s cells will need it more than ever on a sun drenched holiday and even more so if alcohol is flowing.

 

5) Sleep is still a priority

Try to stick your normal routine as much as possible and get your 7-8 hours in each night. If you’re on a party holiday then just try to have a night off for every wild night and catch up on some sleep, your body and mind doesn’t have to come back ruined!

 

6) Know your limits

Which brings me to my next tip – know how much alcohol you can handle and don’t binge drink just for the sake of it. Take your time and have a glass of water in between each drink, you don’t need to get wasted just because it’s a holiday, its far nicer to remember your entire holiday! The same can be said for tamer more relaxing holidays – don’t just drink for the sake of it, ask yourself do you really want this next drink or maybe you’d rather a refreshing mint tea or glass of water instead.

 

7) Move your body

There’s no need for your exercise routine to take a complete break whilst you’re away, skip the cab and opt to walk instead, drop 20 squats each day before leaving for the beach or pool, and swim a few lengths of the pool everyday.  

 

8) Relax and enjoy yourself!

If you get breakfast and snacks right, stay hydrated, move your body, and get plenty of zzzz’s you can enjoy indulgent meals and fabulous wine guilt free. It’s not all or nothing, not at all, just do your best to limit the damage as much as you can and for the rest of it, relax!
So I hope these tips are helpful, I’d love to know! Drop me a line at francesca@flnutrition.co.uk :-)

With love

Francesca

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Are you tracking your menstrual cycle? Here’s why you might want to if you’re a gym bunny

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Do you track your periods (e.g. using an app) so you know where you are in your cycle from day to day? Read on to find out how and why it can be a game changer for your exercise schedule. 

For this post I’m referring to women who are still menstruating and those who aren’t on the pill or any other hormonal medication that alters their natural cycle, as this only applies to women with a natural cycle. 

I started tracking my cycle a few years ago and find it SO liberating and helpful, now that I understand the different ways we can feel throughout our cycle. It helps me plan my gym sessions more effectively, lets me know when I should just be focusing on walking and some more restorative movements like yoga, and when I should be going for a PB on my squat in the gym! 

I use my app to track:

  1. When I’m in the first 2 week phase of my cycle
  2. When I’m ovulating (nothing to do with trying to become pregnant, because I am not trying!)
  3. When I’m in the last 2 week phase of my cycle
  4. When I’m due on

Your appetite, energy and strength are all affected by your cycle, and understanding this can provide such liberation and understanding of your amazing body throughout the month. 

Your cycle is broken up into 3 main parts, the follicular phase (including the menstrual phase as shown in the image below), ovulation and the luteal phase. 

The follicular phase starts from the 1st day of your period (day 1) up until about day 13, the ovulation phase lasts anything pysiology-menstrual-phasesbetween 1 and 3 days from around day 13-15, then the luteal phase starts at day 15 up until the day before you come on your period again. The typical cycle will be about 28 days, but this can vary from anything between 21 and 30 days for some women, and your period itself can last anything between 2 and 7 days.

During the follicular phase oestrogen levels are higher than progesterone and during the luteal phase it’s the other way around, oestrogen take a bit of a dip. 

Your appetite and cravings:

From the day your period starts you should start to feel your energy levels, mood, and any PMS symptoms like bloating improving. This next 14 days are likely when you’ll have the most amount of energy and get-up-and-go. You’re also likely to feel more proactive and be more productive. 

During this phase your appetite should feel more normal and ‘under control’. You’re less likely to have cravings and more likely to be satisfied from the usual foods/meals that you eat. 

Once you hit ovulation day you’re likely to feel stronger cravings and be generally extra hungry (definitely the case for me!), but if you can understand this and allow your body to go with it you can free yourself from the chains of cravings and judgement e.g. “why can’t I just stop eating and have more willpower!”. When I know I’m around ovulation time I intentionally have more (good) carbs with my meals to help stave of cravings for sugar, and make sure there is optimal protein and good fats going in as well (as always). I might include oats in my morning protein smoothie and an extra tablespoon of brown rice with lunch or dinner for example. 

In the last 2 weeks of your cycle (the luteal phase, from ovulation to the day you come on again) progesterone is higher and during the last 5-7 days of this phase (leading up to your period) both progesterone and oestrogen levels drop and this is when you might start to notice PMS symptoms and your energy in the gym might start to wane. You’re also likely to feel hungrier here during these 2 weeks. The trouble is though that during the first 2 weeks of your cycle your body is better at processing carbohydrates than it is during the luteal phase, and so even though you’re more hungry here just be mindful of the types of carbs you fill up on, and go for more protein, good fats and only quality carbs (e.g. brown rice, quinoa, sweet potato, root veg, berries, apples, and oats). 

Training around your cycle – how to make it work FOR you:

Have you ever wondered why some days you feel invincible in the gym and other days you feel like a load of poo? So many women have no idea that their cycle hormonal fluctuations across a month play such a big part in how they feel and perform throughout the month, so they beat themselves up for not feeling as strong e.g. on the days during the second half of their cycle, the luteal phase (especially during the last 5-7 days).

During the follicular phase and ovulation you’re likely to feel stronger in the gym. I structure my gym sessions each month so that I do my heaviest lifting during the first 2 weeks of my cycle, then I start to taper down and focus more on depth, form and technique during the last 2 weeks of my cycle, with slightly lower weights and some sprinting, and the 5 days leading up to my next period I tend to focus on just yoga and walking until I come on again, because I tend to feel pretty rubbish and weak on those days! 

Now that I’m tracking my cycle I completely understand the way I feel in the gym across a month. I lift weights, heavy ones, and some days I am SO strong when some days I don’t even want to go near a barbell and couldn’t imagine even lifting a pair of socks from the floor! Before I figured all this out I used to beat myself up about it no end. “Why cant you just be consistently strong and effective in the gym?” “Why are you so weak and pathetic sometimes?”, these were just some of the things I’d say to myself.  

Some women notice that they feel a bit (or a lot) “off” sometimes but they assume that something’s wrong with them, they have no idea it’s a result of their natural hormonal fluctuations. The trouble is, a lot of training coaches aren’t aware of this and so they don’t/can’t adapt their female client’s training plans accordingly. When it comes to training and performance women are a unique case, but I rarely hear of (both male and female) trainers addressing this with their female clients :-( Pushing a woman to lift her heaviest deadlift or squat in the last 5 days of her luteal phase can be a recipe for injury disaster. 

Let’s walk through how a month of workouts might look if you work them around your cycle:

Days 1 to 14 (from the 1st day of your period – the follicular phase)

The first day or two of your cycle, when your period starts, you might feel cramps in your tummy, feel sluggish and heavy, or fatigued. But by the end of the first week you should be feeling strong and ready to take on the world. Generally speaking you should feel pretty good in the gym during these first two weeks.

You’re likely to have more strength and be able to hit heavier weights in your sets and maybe even more reps at the heavier weight without a problem, your energy is pretty good. 

Days 15 to 28 (after ovulation up until you come on again – the luteal phase)

You might not feel as amazing as you did during the last 2 weeks. Productivity, strength energy might start to wane a little. In the last week of this phase (7-5 days before you’re due on again) you might start to feel even less energetic, recovery after gym sessions seems to take longer, you lack motivation and you feel more ‘exhausted’ after your session v’s energised, and if you’re susceptible to PMS symptoms this is when they’ll start to really kick in. I personally cannot let heavy during these days and I stick to yoga, walking and getting outdoors in nature as much as I can, and I look forward to going back to barbell once my period starts again. 

Your appetite inexplicably ramps up and you have carb, chocolate, or salt cravings for no apparent reason. This is due to both oestrogen and progesterone dropping, NOT because you’re weak-willed, abnormal, or a bad person!!! 

If you’re like most women who don’t understand their cycles, these Week 4 challenges can be frustrating physically, mentally, and emotionally – you blame yourself and tell yourself you suck. 

Please note though that every woman is different and I’m not saying all women’s cycle will pan out like this. You personally might not experience much of a difference between the two halves of your cycle, or you might find some months easier or harder than others. There are LOTS of other lifestyle related factors that influence your hormonal balance, which influences your symptoms, such as your nutrition, your sleep, and stress levels. 

I suggest to start by downloading a cycle tracking app (e.g. The Flow) and start paying attention to what kind of workouts you’re doing and when and how you feel throughout the cycle both energy wise and appetite wise. 

More than anything else, you’ll begin to realise that the fluctuations in your gym performance and in your appetite and cravings aren’t because of lack of effort, discipline, willpower, or skill. 

I hope this blog has been helpful and given you something to work with. Let me know if its resinated with you and how its been helpful. 

With love

Francesca

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