Not always the easiest subject for Trans people to talk about but, if you feel able to, it's definitely a good one to discuss.
Today, I want to dive specifically into how your shark week could affect your training and body composition goals. All of the information I'm about to give you isn't medical advice. I'm not a doctor (shock), but I do coach people every single day who, for whatever reason, still have a shark week and have all found this information and guidance helpful in one way or another.
This blog post is going to discuss female body parts and shark week in depth. If this isn't something you're comfortable with, please don't read any further.
The Key Hormones
There's a lot going on when we dive deeper into female physiology (or physiology for those with a female body). I can sit here and name things like GnRH, FSH, and LH but, for the purpose of keeping this blog post brief and easy to understand, I'm only going to mention the following hormones through out this blog post:
These are the two primary female reproductive hormones, and play vital roles in a healthy cycle.
The 28 Day Cycle
When we think about shark week, we think about those days of bleeding. However, shark week is only one part to a 28 day cycle (28 days is the average however, everybody is different, and it could be a slightly higher or lower number for yourself).
This 28 day cycle is broken down into two phases:
- Follicular Phase (days 1-14)
- Luteal Phase (days 15-28)
When a new client starts with myself, and they still have a shark week (or they still have the ability to have shark week, even if they are irregular for some reason) I will set about trying to learn a bit more about their patterns and "symptoms". No, not because I'm nosey, because it can have the potential to play a big role in our work together (as I'll cover further down). So, it's important that, if they have any kind of tracking history, I can have access to it.
Tracking history is going to be anywhere between 3-6 months of start dates, end dates and symptoms (i.e. hunger, energy, stress, etc.).
If a client doesn't have this, it isn't a problem! But I do highly encourage them to start some form of diary (spreadsheet, notebook, app) where they keep track of those things. I know it's not pleasant and, if it makes them uncomfortable, I'd never force them to! However, it is a really great way for me to take the tailoring of my programming to another level.
Follicular Phase (up to ovulation)
This is the first 1-14 days of the 28 day cycle, as mentioned above. This phase can be further broken down into menses, which is the 1-4 days of bleeding (on average). The dominant hormone during this time will be Estrogen. Typically, during this period, we'll see the following:
• The lowest calorie requirements in order to maintain our current body composition
• Increased insulin sensitivity (aka how responsive your cells are to insulin)
• Increased carbohydrate utilisation
• Increased fat metabolism (as in the ability for one to metabolise body fat, not the macronutrient fat).
• Reduced protein oxidation equating to less catabolism
• Water retention will be lower
• Weight will be on the lower side (especially during menses, when weight will be at its complete lowest).
The luteal phase is the second part to the cycle, from days 15-28. The predominant hormone during this time will be progesterone. Typically, during this phase, we'll see the following:
• Higher calorie requirements, in order to maintain current body weight. This will possibly present itself as emotional eating.
• Decreased insulin sensitivity
• Decreased carbohydrate utilisation
• Decreased fat metabolism
• Increased protein oxidation equating to more catabolism
• Higher levels of water retention
• Scale weight will be at its highest (so consider comparing your weights on a month by month basis, as opposed to week by week).
How Does This Affect My Training?
The majority of what I listed above, if felt, will impact your body composition. However, how does this relate to training?
It's all about the Luteal Phase. This could effect the following:
• Motivation - Lowered motivation is extremely common during this time.
• Recovery - Ability to recover can be lowered during this phase.
So... What Can I Do?
If you begin to notice a pattern occurring (i.e. you enter the Luteal Phase and experience one or both of the above), you might need to look at adjusting your training accordingly. No, this doesn't mean you take time off every few weeks. You might just need to adjust your volume to accommodate to your lowered ability to recover, or add in some of your favourite exercises to try and encourage yourself to train, even if motivation is lower.
Huge warning incoming: DO NOT TELL YOURSELF TO EXPECT THESE CHANGES.
All you'll do is bring on a placebo affect. You told yourself you were going to feel something, so you did. There's a difference between planning for something, and telling yourself you will have something something.
For a far deeper and more detailed look into shark week and, for more guidance on how to cope with these changes, please check out my 2 part video series on my members site, available to tier 2 members.
This is a really important topic and, if you found this useful in any way, please give this post a like and a share. If you found it useful, chances are, somebody else will as well!