Tag Archives: women

Polyunsaturated fats may protect against loss of muscle mass

wodmasters kettlebell workout shirts
Check out our unique workoutshirts for strong women and the men who think they are awesome.

Our previous post (see below or click here) discussed the impact exercise on long-term strength.  In a nutshell, exercise has long term effects, even after the program has been halted.  This week we will talk about new research that shows that dietary fats may also be important for muscle mass.  Who’d have thought?  Researchers are unsure how it works, but . . . dietary fat may influence protein turnover through its effects on inflammation and insulin.  This may be important for long term health.   Preserving muscle mass may be important for athletes and for maintaining a competitive edge.  Loss of muscle mass occurs with age and is one of the leading contributors to frailty in the elderly.  Preserving muscle mass may also allow people to enjoy active lives longer.

A study just published in the Journal of Nutrition  looked at what types of fats were eaten by 2,689 women who are part of the UK study of twins.  The women were between the ages of 18 and 79.  Researchers also looked at ratios of the different types of fats (polyunsaturated /saturated fats), the percent of calories obtained from fat and the womens’ fat free mass.   “Fat Free Mass” is used as an indicator for muscle mass.  Its imperfect.  Bone, of course, has mass.  But people with higher fat free mass usually have more muscle mass.

Women who ate more polyunsaturated fats had the most fat free mass.  Women who ate more transfats, saturated fats and monounsaturated fats had less fat free mass.  The researchers also noted that the difference in fat free mass between women who ate mostly unsaturated fatty acids and those who ate mostly saturated fatty acids was about the same amount of fat free mass loss that occurs over the course of a decade.  Interesting.   These are, of course, correlations.  More research will be needed to find out if it is certain that unsaturated fats can protect people from age-related loss of muscle mass.

Good sources of unsaturated fatty acids include:

Olive oil
Avocado
Flax
Nuts
Etc.

Welch AA, Macgregor AJ, Minihane AM, Skinner J, Valdes AA, Spector TD, & Cassidy A (2014). Dietary Fat and Fatty Acid Profile Are Associated with Indices of Skeletal Muscle Mass in Women Aged 18-79 Years. The Journal of nutrition PMID: 24401817

Womens Resistance Training. Is it the same as it is for men? Hormonally speaking?

Crossfit Shirt Yoga Shirt for Strong women
Adding resistance training can make you a stronger woman. Shop for all your strong woman needs at WODMASTERS Gear

Resistance training triggers a hormonal response.  If it didn’t your body would not respond by increasing muscle mass, strengthening tendons and reinforcing bones.  The hormonal changes that occur following training are well-documented in men.  Men who do resistance training show marked changes in hormones and marked changes in muscle mass.  Men and women both benefit from resistance training.  While many fitness sites and health writers tell women that they will not “bulk up” if they add resistance training to their fitness programs, many women are still reluctant to try.  What happens to women when they start resistance training?

Womens resistance training and hormones

Men’s hormone profiles change during resistance training.  Men undertaking resistance training experience:

  • increases in growth hormone (GH)
  • increases in insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1)
  • increases in testosterone
  • reduction in cortisol
womens crossfit shirt Grey back
WODMASTERS Power Shirts say WODMASTERS on the back.

But what about women?   There hasn’t been as much research on what happens with women.  There just aren’t as many research subjects for studies, and possibly less interest.  At least in the past.  That seems to be changing.  A recent paper published by a research team affiliated with the US Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine looked at changes in womens hormone profiles when they started weight training.   It looks like resistance training also causes hormonal changes in women.   But the changes may be different.  Women showed:

  • increases in growth hormone
  • increases in total IGF-1
  • increases in several IGF-1 binding proteins
  • a decrease in free IGF-1
  • no change in cortisol
  • no change in testosterone

IGF-1 appears to protect or increase bone strength (Courtland 2013).  Laboratory animals with low IGF-1 had “older” more fragile bones than animals with higher IGF-1.  Growth hormone also maintains tissue and helps maintain strength.

Why do Growth Hormone and IGF-1 matter for women?

Strong Woman Shirt with All-Seeing Kettlebell.  Awesome Power and exceptional femininity for a crossfit shirt
Strong Woman Shirt with All-Seeing Kettlebell. Awesome Power and exceptional femininity

Women have less bone and muscle than men to start with.  They are more likely to develop osteoporosis than men.  Women may also notice the impact of strength loss before men.  This can be a serious problem leading to frailty later in life.    Frailty is a major factor in loss of independence.  Most women already know they should include resistance exercise in their fitness programs.  Hopefully understanding why and understanding how it works will help provide a little more motivation.

IGF-1 Supplements

Some supplement or nutriceutical companies market IGF supplements to women telling them it will increase youthfulness and vitality.  You may see claims that the supplements are “safe” and “natural.”  To be honest, no one knows if they are safe or not.  There simply hasn’t been enough research to know.  While IGF-1 may protect bone and muscle some suggest that suppressing IGF-1 leads to a longer life-span.   It is also very hard to know how much IGF-1 is in a supplement.  You may be getting nothing, or you may be getting an amount that may harm your health in the long run.   Supplement contents may be “natural.”  But, that is no claim to safety or to effectiveness.  Better to keep strong and healthy by eating well and exercising (and including resistance training) rather than trying to tweek your hormone levels.  We are the product of millions and even billions of year of evolution.   That deserves respect.

 

Niemann I, Hannemann A, Nauck M, Spielhagen C, Völzke H, Wallaschofski H, & Friedrich N (2013). The association between insulin-like growth factor I and bone turnover markers in the general adult population. Bone, 56 (1), 184-90 PMID: 23792936

Courtland HW, Kennedy OD, Wu Y, Gao Y, Sun H, Schaffler MB, & Yakar S (2013). Low levels of plasma IGF-1 inhibit intracortical bone remodeling during aging. Age (Dordrecht, Netherlands), 35 (5), 1691-703 PMID: 22976122

A new design featuring Our Lady of the Kettlebells

WODMasters have released a new shirt for Women

The new shirt for women features Our Lady of the Kettlebells on a background of stars.   On the back is our WODWOMEN slogan.   Our design is also referred to as “Nuestra Señora de Pesa Rusa.” So far the shirt is available only in womens sizing.  The fabric is 100% ring-spun, pre-shrunk cotton.  This Shirt for Women is also perfect for the Catholic Crossfitter.

Crossfit shirt women Our Lady of the Kettlebells
Strong women’s shirt: Our Lady of the Kettlebells, post WOD. Sorry about the messy hair and sweat stains.

Shirt for Strong Women, Inspired by Our Lady of Guadalupe

Some may notice a certain similarity to Our Lady of Guadalupe.  She is a very familiar and well-loved Icon.  Especially here in Texas.  If you are unfamiliar with the story of Our Lady of Guadalupe here it is (courtesy of Wikipedia):

Traditional accounts tell how, while walking from his village to Mexico City a peasant Juan Diego saw on the slopes of the Hill of Tepeyac a vision of a girl of fifteen or sixteen years of age, surrounded by light. Speaking to him in Nahuatl, the local language, she asked that a church be built at that site, in her honor; from her words, Juan Diego recognized the Lady as the Virgin Mary. Diego told his story to the Spanish Archbishop, Fray Juan de Zumárraga, who instructed him to return to Tepeyac Hill, and ask the lady for a miraculous sign to prove her identity. The first sign was the Virgin healing Juan’s uncle. The Virgin told Juan Diego to gather flowers from the top of Tepeyac Hill. Although December was very late in the growing season for flowers to bloom, Juan Diego found at the usually barren hilltop Castilian roses, not native to Mexico, which the Virgin arranged in his peasant tilma cloak. When Juan Diego opened the cloak before Bishop Zumárraga on December 12, the flowers fell to the floor, and in their place was the image of the Virgin of Guadalupe, miraculously imprinted on the fabric.

Here she is for you. A shirt for strong Women.


 

Does Low Estrogen Make Women Unresponsive to Anti-Depressants?

Depression may be caused by poor Serotonin handling

Depression stinks.  It hurts.  And it hurts others too.   Taking care of yourself, and your moods, is important.  A positive outlook and sense of optimism can carry you a long way.  And it will help you bring along those you care about.  Its easy to get frustrated with someone who is depressed.  “why don’t they snap out of it?”  This article reports on some very interesting research on depression and female hormones.  It is especially interesting for women whose hormones are shifting.  (in peri-menopause or menopause.)

shirt by wodmasters for crossfit women
Beautiful shirt at WODMASTERS makes you feel as cool as you look.

 

First, a little background:

  • Serotonin is a neurotransmitter
  • Serotonin allows neurons to communicate with each other.  And sometimes help produce emotions.
  • Depression in some people may be caused by too little serotonin
  • Selective Serotonin Re-Uptake Inhibitors (SSRIs)  work by keeping serotonin active and keeping nerves functioning well.
  • Prozac, Zoloft, and Citalopram are examples of SSRIs.

There are differences in Serotonin Receptors

Neurotransmitters are chemical messengers.  They travel from one neuron to another by docking at a receptor.  The receptor is a molecule that is designed especially for its transmitter.  Serotonin needs a serotonin receptor if it is going to work.   The shape of the receptor is very important.  But not every person has the same receptor shape.  There are some people whose receptors don’t seem to fit as well.  And they are more likely to suffer from depression.  And anxiety.

Estrogen and Progesterone may be needed for SSRIs to be effective

Estrogen and progesterone influence the serotonin system including serotonin receptors.  One of the genes responsible for the serotonin receptor is called 5HTT.  So far it looks like you can have either a “short”  version or a “long” version.  The short version (s-5HTT) looks like the problem version.  Monkeys have similar systems.  Like Crossfit women.  Researchers used monkeys to see how important estrogen and progesterone are the response to SSRIs.   Monkeys with the shorter gene for the serotonin receptors did not have as strong a response to SSRIs.  Monkeys with low estrogen and low progesterone were the least responsive.  Crossfit women too?

Take away for CrossFit Women and all Women.

If you are post-menopausal or hovering around that neighborhood you may not respond well to SSRIs.  Especially if you have the short version of the serotonin receptor gene.   This is one reason why hormone replacement therapy might make some women less depressed.

 

Michopoulos V, Berga SL, & Wilson ME (2011). Estradiol and progesterone modify the effects of the serotonin reuptake transporter polymorphism on serotonergic responsivity to citalopram. Experimental and clinical psychopharmacology, 19 (6), 401-8 PMID: 21843009

Crossfit Training: Women require different rest strategies for strength and competition.

250x400 Birth of Venus Banner
Birth of Venus Shirt for Crossfit Women and all kinds of other Strong Women

CrossFit women and men may differ in need for rest after WODs.  Or strength training. This may be important as athletes prepare for the CrossFit Games. Women lose strength faster than men when they take time off.  Muscle mass seems to stay the same for both when athletes reduce training for 7 days. The responsiveness of rested muscle fibers to electrical stimulation also seems to stay the same. However, women still lose more strength than men during rest periods. Rest periods are sometimes referred to as “unloading.” A new paper on why this happens suggests its nerves.  Not muscle tissue. The study looked at 7 and 14 day unloading periods. This is a long rest period for CrossFit athletes. But common among weightlifters.  Many athletes will be unloading prior to The Games. Weight training causes changes in muscle tissue. That is pretty obvious.  However, it also produces changes in nerve function. Nerves adapt and become more efficient. They become better able to recruit cells and coordinate their actions.  And make a trained person able to lift more weight.   Or a CrossFit athlete better able to do a WOD.  The larger loss of strength in women seems to be rooted in the central nervous system.   Women’s neurons may be quicker to let down their guard. This may mean that women should take shorter rest periods than men in order to maintain strength. And shorter rests before competitions.

What about Masters CrossFit and Masters Athletes?

Most studies are done using young volunteers.  There are usually a lot of them hanging around Universities.  And someone needs to collect and analyze the data.  This is often left to middle-age and older academics.  This means there is a lot less information for Masters athletes.  There is very good evidence though that neuro-muscular function improves with training in middle and older age.  It looks the same for men and women.  So keep at it.

The Take-Away: Women may need shorter unloading periods before competition than men.

Masters Athletes:  Use your judgement.

Deschenes MR, McCoy RW, & Mangis KA (2012). Factors relating to gender specificity of unloading-induced declines in strength. Muscle & nerve, 46 (2), 210-7 PMID: 22806370