Are you depleting your hormones by exercising wrong? You could be if you’re stressing out your body with intense exercise at the wrong times. But wait… What do exercise, hormones, and stress have to do with each other? What depletes women’s hormones? Stress! When people think of stress, they often think of emotional stress, but there are three different types of stress. Toxins, traumas, and thoughts are different types of stress. Exercise can be a physical stress to the body. Instead of being a good thing for your body, exercise can be a stress that makes you sick. Is your exercise routine depleting your hormones?
When done correctly, exercise can be very good for your hormones. Exercise can help with circulation, reduce stress, and overall help with the balancing of hormones. In my clinical experience, I have worked with thousands of women who have harmed the balance of their hormones with over-exercising.
Is Your Exercise Routine Depleting Your Hormones?
How do you know if your hormones are out of whack? Your cycle should be between 26 and 32 days; the average is 28 days. If your cycle is too long or too short, it shows you have hormone problems. If your menstruation is less than five days, that’s a sign you have a hormone problem. Some women work out so much that they cease to have a period. This might seem fine, but it’s a bad sign for your body.
Other symptoms of hormonal imbalance include:
- Unexplained weight gain or loss
- Chronic fatigue and/or difficulties falling and staying asleep
- Headaches and migraines
- Changes in appetite
- Changes in libido
- Bloating and/or stomach pains
- Changes in heart rate
- Changes in blood pressure
- Sensitive skin
- Excessive sweating
There is a big difference in the female hormones of a cyclic woman compared to a man’s hormones. A woman’s hormones dramatically change throughout the month. If your hormones change, your emotions change; the body changes, so your workouts should change. I’m not saying you should be sedentary! I’m saying you should be aware of your hormones and how your exercise impacts them.
Before we go further, let’s break down the three types of exercise – Just so that we’re all on the same page. If you’re not exercising at all, you aren’t doing your hormones any favors, either.
Understanding Three Types of Exercise:
- Aerobic exercise – Exercise that changes your heart rate and gets blood flow and oxygen to the system. This is so important for the health of your organs and tissues.
- Anaerobic exercise – More intense exercise that helps build muscle. Examples include weightlifting or HIIT.
- Flexibility exercise – Stretching that increases blood flow but doesn’t increase your heart rate. This is an essential type of exercise that should be done daily and also supports your neurological system.
You should be doing some sort of exercise regularly, but not always the same type. I know we can be creatures of habit, but your body needs you to switch it up. There are times of the month the female body can handle more stress and other times of the month when it can’t. During certain times of the month, exercise can be inflammatory, draining progesterone and other hormones that make up a healthy hormonal balance.
Exercising Through the Month for Healthy Hormones
The days are approximate and should be based on your cycle.
Exercising for Healthy Hormones During Follicular Phase
Days 1-7 (First part of the follicular phase): This is the 5-7 days of menstruation. During this time, you want to take it easy with exercise but make sure you keep moving for circulation. Your uterus needs oxygen and time to contract to release the endometrial lining. It can cause hormonal depletions if you do intense workouts during this phase of your cycle. You still want to keep moving to bring oxygen to the smooth muscle and circulate blood flow.
The vibe plate is a fantastic tool for circulation in the body as it gets blood flow to all organs in the body, including the brain. Pilates, yoga, and other adaptive exercises support blood flow throughout the body. This is also an excellent time for the infrared sauna, which gets circulation up and is relaxing. This is not a good time for an intense workout. If your endometrial lining isn’t fully released, you can develop endometriosis or PCOS. You might feel good exercising hard because of endorphin release, but it’s not great for your body.
Days 7- 14 (Second part of follicular phase): This is the time for more intense work out schedules. Not only do your hormones start to go up so does your sensitivity to insulin and you can handle sugar better. Cortisol can bring sugar into the system and your body can use it better. Your body can also handle more stress during this time and a more intense workout.
Take advantage of this time when your hormonal system and insulin system are ready for the stress. Go ahead lift heavy weights because this is when you will be rewarded for your hard work and you will have more capacity for that hard work. This is where you get bigger weight loss results and build muscle.
Exercising for Healthy Hormones During Luteal Phase
Days 14- 21 (First part of luteal phase): During this time, your progesterone increases. This is when you can cause the most damage if exercising too much. If you’re always working out intensely to get six-pack abs, that will deplete your hormones. Women aren’t supposed to have six-pack abs but should have a layer of fat. So, don’t feel like you have to have your workout in overdrive all the time.
Just do flexibility exercises, yoga, vibe plates, and light walking. We don’t want your heart rate to go up. This is where most women make themselves sick. Tanking your hormones during this time can lead to long-term effects like PMS, cancer, and other hormone problems. Avoid stressors like inflammatory foods, emotional stress, and high-intensity workouts. Take time to find ways to reduce your stress.
Days 21-28 (Second part of luteal phase): This is when your hormones start to go down. It’s a great time for intense workouts like sprints, CrossFit, HIIT, and other high-intensity workouts. By working hard, your hormones will go down, and we want them to at this time of the month. This will help your hormonal health and induce the process if it is a little behind. There is an exception to this. If your luteal phase is too short, then you’ll want to continue to rest during this time until your hormones are back in balance.
Understanding How Exercise Can Help or Deplete Your Hormones
Understanding how your exercise routine affects your hormones is essential to maintain healthy hormones. Many of us exercise to look better, but it should be to feel better. The fantastic thing about exercising for health is that when you start to feel better, you often begin looking better, too. So, take care of your hormones by understanding the important role exercise plays in your hormonal health.
Originally posted 3/8/20. Updated 7/31/23.