Stress, Menstruation and Female Fat Loss

Bang for Buck…

Since the move over from our old Doggett street home, I’ve fortunate enough to pick up a lot more BioSignature clients – which so far have been about 80% female.

What I’ve noticed in nearly all of them is that they fall into the same common mistakes, which ultimately hold them back from getting the results they want:

  • WAY too much cardio training
  • WAY too much time spent training in general
  • Not enough resistance work
  • No Interval training – just steady state cardio
  • Being deficient in zinc and magnesium
  • Not enough healthy fat in the diet – specifically healthy sources of saturated fat
  • TOO much overall stress
  • Poor sleeping patterns
  • Either too little carbs or carbs at the wrong times
  • Low labido or disrupted menstrual cycles

Put all this all together and you end up with someone on the verge of complete burn-out and collapse, yet still desperately struggling to get the results they want.

I’ve had the ‘pleasure’ of watching some of the girls at my previous gym go through the same struggles.  Watching a twenty-something fitness instructor on the stair-master with tears rolling down her face tends to burn into your memory.

The point is that although an extreme level of training will work for a short time and get you leaner, eventually your body will become so stressed by it, that fat loss will appear to stop in its tracks as your health deteriorates.

So what happens? Why isn’t it just a case of more work will mean better results?

It all comes down to how your body responds to stress and more importantly the fact that your body will steal the same ingredients its needs for your testosterone and estrogen as it does to make cortisol – your stress hormone.


Introducing the ‘cortisol shunt’ or the ‘pregnenolone steal’

Take a look at this image:

This shows (in a very basic way) how cortisol is made from pregnenolone, the same base hormone that can be converted in DHEA and eventually your sex hormones.

Notice the red dotted line – in times of high stress (WAY TOO MUCH TRAINING!) your body will respond by ramping up the production of cortisol, slowing down the production of sex hormones.

If your goal is to get lean, then this is very bad news – as low testosterone will result lower lean muscle mass and a much harder time trying to stay lean.

This is the dangerous point where menstruation can stop altogether.

Your capabilities to breed are secondary to those of survival.  As far as your body is concerned, it thinks you’re spending 2-3 hours a day running away from wild animals, there is no need to be concerned with producing offspring.


So how we do we start to improve the situation?

My number one tip is to reduce the source of the stress, so cut back on training and switch it up for resistance work with a little interval training at the end.  YOU CAN GET BETTER RESULTS WITH 4 HOURS OF SMART WORK, THAN YOU WILL WITH 9 HOURS PLUS OF PURE CARDIO.

Number two, we need to think about nutrient timing to bring cortisol down as soon as we have finished training. Carbohydrates, magnesium and vitamin C are all awesome at helping us do this.  So a post workout shake with some protein, carbs, powdered vitamin C and taking some Ubermag will do the job nicely.

Next we need to give the body some more of the raw ingredients to make DHEA and in turn the sex hormones. So healthy fats are a must. Organic eggs, avocados and organic butter melted on veggies work well. But this is only worth doing after we have managed to first two points, otherwise the extra cholesterol we intake will be used for even more cortisol.

We also need to start replenishing key minerals that will be low – caused by all that sweating doing cardio. Zinc and magnesium are the two biggest issues, but adding some quality salt (look for naturally coloured rock salt) to the diet will also help.

On a similar note, especially as we are now fast approaching our Queensland sweaty season, make sure you stay well hydrated.  I recommend 3 litres of filtered water a day – just be sure to add a pinch of the quality salt per litre to up the mineral content. Being dehydrated will also raise cortisol production.


Going forward…

Even after just a few days of following these tips, you will notice improved energy as your body starts to come back into balance and cortisol production settles down.

Over time you will get better results with doing far less work. This is a big part of how Rachael has achieved a sub 10% bodyfat while still building her health.