Want results and will do whatever it takes to get them? It’s still important to think first of the bigger picture.
It’s a lesson I learnt when I undertook a body transformation program at a gym I had just started training at. I wasn’t unhappy with my body, but was open to dropping a couple of kilos and building some extra muscle.
So what did it involve?
With diet credited with 80% of results, it called for the upping of my protein intake, and a dramatic reduction of carbs and fats.
Combined with a rigorous exercise program to tackle the remaining 20% of results, the effect was almost instantaneous.
The couple of extra kilos I was carrying fell away. And there they were – the muscles I had been after.
Despite continually eating, my body mass index (BMI) dropped below what are generally considered to be healthy levels (below 18.5% is categorised as underweight for women).
And instead of feeling energised, I was hit by an intense feeling of fatigue.
I could barely keep my eyes open at most times of the day. I felt like a zombie, zapped of energy, pale and washed out.
Even more worrying? My periods stopped.
Irregular or absent periods can indicate poorly functioning ovaries and low progesterone – a female sex hormone produced in the ovaries.
Both over-exercising and being underweight have been shown to decrease fertility in women by reducing the production of progesterone and directly affecting your menstrual cycle.
Tests showed my body had pretty much stopped producing progesterone and I wasn’t ovulating.
Returning to balance
Reintroducing healthy fats to my diet in the form of avocados, nut butters and olive oil was the first step. These were the foods that I had been craving and they helped my body swiftly return to a healthier BMI.
Other vitamins and minerals shown to help balance hormone levels and combat stress include C, E, zinc, magnesium and B6. On top of those, good cholesterol, sulphur, fibre and L-arginine have been shown to be beneficial.
Exercising is actually considered beneficial to hormone balance and your health in general. I simply reigned in the amount I was doing and reduced the intensity.
Ensuring enough time to recover between sessions is also important to reduce the stress response.
Your energy levels should get a boost from your exercise regime. So if you’re feeling flat, it might be time to go a little more gently until you’re back to 100%. Yoga is considered particularly beneficial at times like these.
When you’re feeling exhausted, getting more sleep is a no-brainer. So I got myself to bed earlier, indulged in a few lie-ins and even the occasional afternoon nap.
Lack of sleep can mess with your levels of cortisol – the stress hormone. This can, in turn, mess with the overall balance of your hormone levels.
So make sure you are getting enough shut-eye and are not going to bed too late.
Taking some time to simply breathe can help reduce stress levels, in turn promoting better sleep and helping to bring the body back into a state of balance.
Meditation is not for everyone, but it can also be helpful.
Need a little extra help to make that time for yourself? Then download an app like Mindful to give you daily reminders.
An important lesson
The key to a good fitness program is that it should be sustainable and it should make you feel good.
If those boxes aren’t being ticked, then it’s time to swiftly reassess before your body bears the brunt.
Have you ever felt out of balance?