Lift heavy is the number one tip that all female athletes in perimenopause and beyond can take on to stay strong and play to their best. Eat more protein is another. But what about those endurance goals that we love training for? How do you balance “going long” with doing strength and intensity? How do female athletes fuel for their intensity of effort? We know women are not small men.
BY TENILLE HOOGLAND
Here are two training tips, that will help you play to your best. Make sure to also register for the webinar with women’s cycling team CANYON//SRAM.
1. Hit the right intensity at the right dose for your targeted goal.
In perimenopause (aka menopause transition) there is a decline in estrogen. Estrogen is an ergogenic aid that helps females build and/or maintain muscle mass. With the decline of estrogen females need to do hard things to maintain muscle mass and the sports we love. But what exactly you need to do, and how much can be important when you want to have the fastest available pace over distance. The dosage and the specificity of intensity matters.
In short if you want to sprint you do short interval training (SIT) (e.g., 30 seconds all-out effort with LOTS of recovery) and strength work. If you want to go long you may want to do longer efforts at an overall intensity below your anaerobic threshold (e.g., high intensity interval training (HIIT) 10 x 40 seconds all-out with only 20 seconds recovery).
But as females we need to do strength, SIT and HIIT! The only way to know whether you have the right dosage of intensities is to monitor your VLamax!
VLamax is about the maximum lactate production or glycolytic power. It tells you whether your engine can go from 0 to 100 quickly like a sports car (high VLamax) or whether your engine excels at going the long haul, conserving precious fuel (i.e., carbohydrates) for when you really need it (low VLamax).
When your VLamax is too high – for instance because you only do one type of training intensity (e.g., SIT) – you’re engine turns into a high carbohydrate burning machine. If your VLamax is too low – for instance because you only do long slow distance training – it’s time to bring in other intensities. As a result, we build a performance machine ready to take on the workload specific to our design.
2. Get specific on how to fuel the energy system and your unique body.
When it comes to endurance events, the success of the race is rarely dependent on whether we got the training done. It is about whether we fueled properly to go the distance.
Traditionally coaches and nutrition experts have thought of fueling activities by grams of carbohydrate per hour. With INSCYD and the latest research in understanding the female athlete, we can get so much more specific. Why does this matter? Because proper fueling of activity has an impact on your gut health (good-bye GI distress!), inflammation (reduce injury and soreness!) and body composition! To be both metabolically efficient and to support your activity, you want to know how much and when to fuel.
First, female athletes can fuel their training differently depending on the time of their menstrual cycle (i.e., more during luteal stage). They also can shift fueling based on their life stage – pre-menopause, perimenopause or post-menopause. This is because hormones matter. In peri- and post menopause, females become more glycogen sparing meaning their body wants to use fat as an energy source. Sounds great right! The challenge is that if you do not fuel with carbohydrates you will struggle to hit the intensity, go the distance and potentially recover from the activity you worked so hard doing.
With INSCYD we can be highly targeted by understanding what energy system we are using and what we are actually using to fuel that system – carbohydrates and/or fat, and how much! Imagine going into a workout knowing it is predominantly a Zone 2 aerobic effort. You learn exactly how much grams of carbohydrate per hour you’ll burn, at that pace/power:
Maybe you also know that there is one HUGE hill that you will be working above aerobic intensity, which you will burn three times the amount of carbohydrate. Before INSCYD we might recommend that if you are out there for 3 hours and a female you need between 30-40g/hour. With INSCYD we now know exactly how much you’ll burn. This can explain why you never felt like eating that gel because you actually didn’t need it! You take the gel for the hard climb and fuel your activity appropriately. Preparation becomes specific to you. You are not taking in extra sugar you actually did not need. You are not risking gut distress.
When you want to play to your best understanding, all the components of training and fueling can feel overwhelming. If you have hit a plateau, struggling to be in a body that feels good to you or tired of your race being thwarted by GI distress, find a coach that has the expertise in knowing your unique shifts of fueling and training to your physiology. It is not complicated if you have the tools and guidance.
Tenille Hoogland is the founder and Head Coach of Elements Sports Coaching. She is committed to empowering female athletes to fulfill their athletic goals and play to their best. She does this through one to one and group coaching (Project 51).