Progesterone can be explained as the nesting hormone. This is the hormone that makes our body slow down numerous functions and opt to hunker down to prepare for a possible pregnancy. This hormone is created from the collapsed follicle after releasing the egg at ovulation. This hormone therefore dominates in the luteal phase, peaking slightly after the halfway mark, or a few days before the onset of menses.
Progesterone causes many changes in the body such as slowing digestion, increasing hunger hormones, increasing body temperature, increasing blood viscosity, changing sweating thresholds, decreasing body sodium levels, increasing respiration rate and last but not least, increasing protein catabolism.
So what does this mean?
Increased protein catabolism means that progesterone is causing our bodies to more readily break down our muscles. This is especially important in sport because it can inhibit our ability to lean up and also causes trouble when it comes to properly recovering.
This becomes especially troubling when we take into consideration that exercise and training also puts our body into a catabolic state. After working out our muscles are actively breaking themselves down. This is normal and part of the process of exercise adaptation. What is important to understand however is the proper nutrients our bodies need to stop this catabolism and put ourselves back into an anabolic state in order to build muscle and recover.
When in the luteal phase we need to properly address our protein needs in order to maximize our training adaptations. Because of this catabolic state we need to increase protein intake to 1.2g/kg/day. This is the amount of protein which should be taken in throughout the course of the day. Another very important nutrient intake recommendation is to consume 30g of protein within 30-45min of your workout. This is the vital time frame and amount for women to properly end muscle catabolism and maximize muscle protein synthesis capabilities.
This amount of protein in this amount of time can often seem overwhelming, especially due to the fact that immediately after exercise our hunger signals are often muted. For this reason, I recommend consuming a high quality protein drink and having it ready and available for use right after your workout. One protein shake that I use and recommend is Vital Proteins Recover.
Another important part of this protein intake is make sure to have adequate amounts of certain amino acids. The protein must be a complete protein, meaning it contains all of the essential amino acids. Also for females, we need to make sure we get proper amounts of Leucine. This is because for females muscle protein synthesis begins in our brains which then triggers our muscles, while for men it initially begins in the muscles. So in a simplified explanation, we need appropriate amounts of Leucine to trigger MPS in our brain which then triggers our muscles. Shoot to obtain at least 3g Leucine in your post workout protein.
During this time it is also important to give your body adequate time to recover. If you do not allow adequate recovery time, then your body will not be able to properly build the muscles needed and adapt to the training you are challenging it with. Training during this time should follow a pattern that looks like 2 days on and 36 hours off or very easy recovery. This may seem challenging, like you are losing opportunity to train and progress but when we consider the biology behind the training it would be nothing but a disservice to not allow for proper rest and recovery. If you do not feel properly recovered within this 36 hours then listen to your body and give yourself a bit more time.
It can seem overwhelming and sometimes unfair when we compare the differences between females and males. However, understanding how your body is functioning at different times can be overly beneficial for performance, self-awareness and overall health and happiness! Remember the goal is to always work WITH your body and not against it.