Weight training is an activity that has been primarily associated with men throughout the history of athleticism. Men are known to lift heavy weights to build strong and powerful muscles that give them competitive sport advantages as well as locker room bragging rights. On the other hand, women have been known to do light weight training and soft exercises as a way of staying fit via weight loss and light muscle toning. But the modern woman is starting to ditch the pretty neon colored dumbbells and replace them with a little more steel. In doing so, she is able to lose excessive fat and gain lean muscle at the same time. More and more women are embracing weight training because of its health and social benefits. But remember, the goal of this blog is to give you the truth about it all, whether good or bad. So with that said, lets take a quick look at the “female hormone” known as ESTROGEN.
What is estrogen?
Estrogen is a hormone known as the “female hormone”. It is mostly found in women although it is found in men also, but in smaller amounts. Estrogen is responsible for the development of secondary female sexual characteristics, regulation of the menstrual cycle and reproductive system and also plays a role in bone building/rebuilding.
Effects of an Estrogen Imbalance
One of the most desired goals in fitness is to reduce body fat. But just like with anything else, you have to know the risks!
Body fat actually plays a significant role in reproduction because sex hormones are fat soluble and are stored in the body’s fat layers. Women that have a low body fat produce lower amounts of estrogen which can lead to an abnormal menstrual cycle or even amennorhea, which is the lack of a period altogether. Also, when estrogen levels are low as in the case with menopause, the vagina can become drier and the vaginal walls thinner, making sex painful.
Now normally estrogen levels decrease naturally after menopause, so it’s sort of like putting yourself through menopause early so to speak. Other symptoms of low estrogen also include the development of osteoporosis and bone fractures, which is common in menopausal women as well. On the brighter side, there are some benefits to having low estrogen levels such as lower risk of developing cancer and an easier transition into menopause.
But please don’t decide to give up your low body fat and fitness goals just yet ladies because there are also risks associated with high estrogen levels as well . These include thyroid dysfunction, weight gain, low sex drive, fluid retention and breast cancer. Also, the decrease in estrogen has to be significant enough to cause any real effects. Obtaining significantly low body fat is actually not that easy to do anyway. So just because you lift a little steel once or twice a week, doesn’t mean your estrogen levels will fall. The best things to do is to just make sure your levels are regulated and balanced IF you start to experience any signs or symptoms below. Because our goal here is to lift heavy, but stay sexy right? Bottom line is , try to avoid the extreme when it comes to low body fat, unless you are training for a contest, competition, photo shoot or other specific short term goal.
Here are a few tips to help increase your estrogen levels:
1) FIRST!! Get your hormone levels checked and talk with your doctor if you have signs of low estrogen like:
- Abnormal or missing period
- Painful intercourse
- Forgetfulness and mood swings
- Depression and losing interest in sex
- Not being able to conceive can also be a red flag of low estrogen in younger women.
2) Hormonal replacement therapy may be an option after talking with your doctor.
3) Increase caffeine consumption: Women who drink more than two cups of coffee (200 mg of caffeine) per day may have higher estrogen levels than women who don’t.
4) Reduce your sugar intake: Sugar can lead to hormonal imbalances in the body
5) Eat More Phytoestrogens: These foods act like an estrogen substitute in the body and occur naturally in several plants and herbs such as;
- legumes: soybeans, peas, pinto and lima beans
- fruits: cranberries, prunes, apricots
- herbs: oregano, black cohosh, sage, licorice,
- whole grains
- vegetables: broccoli and cauliflower
6) Get a prescription for birth control pills or the birth control patch, both of which can provide estrogen to the body and regulate hormones