Women’s gym performance nightmare
Estrogen is not an anabolic hormone in the traditional sense, but recent studies have revealed that they have a tremendous impact on muscle mass, strength, and recovery in women.
This is exactly why sub-par estrogen levels can be a major cause of muscle loss and weakness in women, impairing their performance in the gym.
But how does estrogen affect muscle mass? Who are the people at risk of low estrogen levels? Is there an effective solution?
Keep reading to find out the details!
Possible causes of low estrogen
The most common causes of low estrogen levels are:
- Menopause and amenorrhea 1
- Chronic or severe stress 2
- Ovarian failure 3
- 4 . loss of appetite
- Chronic renal failure 5
Keep in mind that menopause begins at around 47.5 years on average , and menopause itself is between 50 and 52 years for most women.
However, about 1% of women 7 under the age of 40 experience what is known as early menopause. In this case, treatment with estrogen or phytoestrogen is highly recommended, since low estrogen levels at a young age significantly increase the risk of developing a wide range of diseases, and even possible early death.
The benefits of estrogen for physical performance in women
1. Protects muscles and promotes recovery
One of the most important benefits of estrogen on skeletal muscle is that it is extremely beneficial for recovery 8 . According to studies, estrogen can:
- Reduce exercise-related muscle damage
- Relieves sore muscles after exercise
- Accelerate the regeneration of micro-injuries and promote overall healing
- Promote the regrowth of atrophic (withered) muscle mass
Most likely, estrogen does all this by stabilizing the membranes of muscle cells and acting as an antioxidant. As a result, muscle tissue suffers less damage, so it can recover faster after exercise.
2. Supports muscle growth
Technically, none of the estrogen produced in the body is considered anabolic. After all, they do not directly promote muscle growth (anabolic).
However, recent studies 9 reported that estrogen replacement therapy (HRT) in postmenopausal women can increase the signaling strength of insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1), a highly anabolic hormone.
This is why estrogen or natural plant estrogen therapy (a safer alternative) can be effective to help prevent muscle loss in women with low estrogen.
3. Enhances muscle strength
Although estrogen hormones don’t have much of their own anabolic power, 10 studies have also confirmed that they may improve muscle strength.
Essentially, estrogen helps intensify the force by which muscle fibers (actin and myosin) attach to each other. The stronger their relationship, the more force the muscles can generate when contracting!
Estrogen also enhances muscle strength by fighting local inflammation 11 (including muscle soreness after exercise) and promoting the recovery of damaged muscle tissue.
How to restore low estrogen levels
In some cases, low estrogen levels can be restored by treating the underlying condition. For example, getting enough rest to combat chronic stress is likely to improve estrogen balance.
However, in the vast majority of other cases, the only way to solve the problem of low estrogen is to take hormones, conventional or natural (phytoestrogens).
To illustrate how effective this approach is, the scientists studied 12 HRT in 15 pairs of identical twins at ages 54 to 62. In each pair, one received HRT and the other twin did not receive any hormones.
After about 7 years of studying, the difference was amazing!
The twin who took HRT showed, on average:
- 7% faster walking speed
- 16% greater muscle strength
- More muscle overall
- less fat
Other similar studies 13 on the effect of HRT on physical performance, reported that women on HRT:
- increase muscle size
- Increase the height of the vertical jump
- Increase running speed
This is compared to not having HRT or getting a placebo.
However, conventional hormonal therapy requires a prescription, must be controlled at all times, and even comes with some side effects that are worth remembering – an increased risk of breast cancer 14 , for example. So, what about natural alternatives?
Natural sources of estrogen
Plant estrogens are plant compounds that mimic the action of human estrogen. It is completely natural and safer than traditional HRT in most cases, which is why many women decide to try it first for relief of menopausal symptoms. Now, using phytoestrogen to support physical performance in women approaching the age of forty seems like a great idea too!
Here are some of the best food sources of healthy phytoestrogens:
- Sesame seeds
- dried fruit
- Berries (strawberry, cranberry, cranberry)
- red grapes
Another option is to use topical phytoestrogen products such as serums and creams. In this case, a small part of the phytoestrogens will be absorbed into the bloodstream and act systemically, but the lion’s share will affect the skin and muscles locally.
For example, the Thai plant Pueraria Mirifica is one of the most powerful natural sources of phytoestrogens, jam packed with more than 17 active compounds. If you apply a skin serum with Pueraria Mirifica, you will not only boost hydration 15 and elasticity 16 of your skin, but also deliver a good dose of natural estrogen to the core muscles to support their recovery and strength.
When applied to the chest, topical breast creams with Pueraria Mirifica have the remarkable advantage of enhancing breast size to some degree and firmness – a feat that HRT cannot provide.
Estrogen levels are an underappreciated factor that affects a woman’s strength, muscle mass, and post-exercise recovery rates17 , especially in women approaching their forties. If you suspect that you may have suboptimal estrogen levels, it may be a good idea to get some tests done and chat with your doctor.
If the tests come back positive and you already have low estrogen levels, do not rush to go for as much estrogen as possible. After all, while estrogen is good for muscles and bones, it can also be somewhat harmful to tendons and ligaments because it reduces their stiffness. 18 when present in high doses.
In other words, you need to get to just the right area: not too high, not too low.
To restore estrogen, start adding more natural sources of phytoestrogens to your diet. Next, try using a topical product containing phytoestrogens to promote topical muscle recovery when needed. Although you can choose any phytoestrogen source for that matter, Pueraria Mirifica is probably the best way to go.