Women's Wednesday - Women are not small Men

Stacy Sims

Interview with Stacy Sims, a MSc, PhD and Exercise Physiologist-Nutrition Scientist at Osmo Nutrition. This interview was provided to us by Jennifer Triplett, one of our wonder women writers at 303cycling.

Heroes come in all shapes and sizes. And genders. My newest hero is 5'9", blond and brainy, and a new mother who can spout science with the best of them. If you keep up with sports nutrition and the professionals making a difference, then Dr. Stacy Sims MSc, PhD should be a name you know and trust. And if not, let me be the first to introduce her. Stacy's recent presentation at the USA Cycling Coaching Summit demonstrated that women are indeed, not small men.

Yes, you read that right. Women are not small men.

Beside the obvious differences, women have a physiology that is different then men. And until very recently, most of the data collected in case studies regarding nutrition and training were conducted largely on men. That's great for the guys - but women have a menstrual cycle that gets in the way of generalizing what's good for a man must be good for a woman. And to make things even more complicated, our hormone levels fluctuate between low and high during a 28 day cycle.

How does that effect you as a female racer, cyclist, or athlete?

For starters, women have an altered energy metabolism during exercise which completely impacts how we recover. Our recovery window is smaller and we have a predisposition to become overtrained if we do too much intensity at different parts of our periods.

Do I have your attention? Good! Stacy's work is phenomenal.

During the menstrual cycle, we have two hormone phases: high and low. During the low hormone phase, our carbohydrate metabolism and recovery is the same and we are able to complete high intensity workouts. However during the high hormone phase, women are more prone to injury and our balance and cognitive reaction times lag. During the high hormone phase, you should incorporate low intensity volume (endurance rides) and recovery or pure power workouts (high hormone phase starts about 7 days out from when your period starts).

Ever had a race or workout where you immediately overheated and the line you were taking time and time again on a mountain bike trail is now off for some reason? Hello high hormone phase! Other noticeable effects include a higher respiration rate and often triggers asthma, especially at high altitude. And your heat tolerance is shortened. Ways to combat those effects are to use cooling vests prior to racing and after to bring plasma back into your core and of course use your asthma medication.

And newsflash - the recovery window for men and women is different. Women have 30 minutes for acute recovery (drinking a 3:1 ratio of carb to protein drink, not chocolate milk or soy!) and only 3 hours to eat a balanced meal for glycogen recovery. Men have 2-18 hours and should use a 4:1 ratio of carb to protein recovery mix. That's a HUGE difference. And regarding soy - while soy stops the catabolic effects of exercise, it does not enhance protein synthesis. Need a solution? Try Osmo Acute Recovery.

If we as women work with our coaches to hone our training to be in tune with our menstrual cycles, it will result in better adaptations, better recovery and you'll preform faster to where you want to.

And for those in menopause, Stacy urges you to stay on top of pre-cooling techniques prior to training and racing. She recommends increasing your protein to carbohydrate to increase lean muscle mass. For the decrease in power production, you will benefit going to the gym and doing on the bike strengthening exercises.

Interested in learning more? Dr. Stacy Sims MSc, PhD has a wide range of products designed especially for women at http://osmonutrition.com

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