A little while ago I was listening to the Another Mother Runner podcast and they spoke to Stacy Sims, the author of the book Roar: How to Match Your Food and Fitness to Your Female Physiology for Optimum Performance, Great Health, and a Strong, Lean Body for Life (affiliate link – long title, here forth known as Roar book) and I was so interested in what was said I immediately sought out the book. Fortunately, my library had the Roar book available so I checked it out that day.
We just had International Women’s Day and it’s still clear that we kind of live in a man’s world in many regards. Not getting into politics here, but let’s take a look at healthcare. Issues in this area are what prompted the author to study this area and even write this book.
Cycles Make a Difference
When Sims was in undergraduate school working on metabolism labs, she asked her professor why she was getting different results when everything was the same as the guys and the professor said it was an “anomaly” and they’d just use the guys’ data. When she later wanted to do further research in sex differences, an advising professor cautioned against it because women’s hormones are difficult to understand and can skew results.
So… our hormones, a naturally occurring part of us, are looked upon as a nuisance by many in the health industry? So instead of studying these fluctuating things and using that information to make decisions that could improve the lives of women, we’re treated as smaller men? That bugs me, but many men don’t seem to think much of that. I even started explaining this information to my husband and I could literally see him tune me out. “Ugh… girl stuff and cycles, don’t listen.”
Our cycles have two different phases and those phases have different impacts on how we feel, both in training and in regular every day life. Your blood plasma can drop up to 8% in the high hormone luteal phase, that can impact your hydration and cooling during sport. It’s also harder to hit high intensities at this time and recovery is more challenging. Monitoring your cycle and how you feel throughout can help so you know when you feel the worst and can adjust protein and fluid intake.
There is a chapter on menopause and I feel like I need to revisit that when I get into the perimenopause stage (hopefully not for a while.) As it is so often referred to, “the change” can affect your training but adjustments can be made and it doesn’t have to derail an active lifestyle.
Boys and Girls are Different
Have you ever heard of “bikini medicine“? Basically, it’s the long-standing tradition that men and women are basically the same except for the areas covered by a bikini.
That seems so obviously NOT the case to me, that right down to the cellular level we’re different and those differences affect lots of things, but evidently, brilliant researchers didn’t think this way?
Some of the things that caught my eye in this book that I thought I’d point out was that women have more fat than men (we all know this, right?) and that makes it so we are good fat burners and great at endurance. Our muscles tend to be more slow-twitch fibers than men’s, again… good for endurance.
Our brains are smaller and neural connections throughout are difference, making women better at multitasking and more emotional/empathetic. We also don’t get as much of a rush from extreme, high-risk sports like men do… I’m assuming that must be why boys do such stupid things. (I had neighbors that had 12-year-old twin boys and I would watch them doing stuff in the street and just think to myself, “Don’t do that, don’t do that, that’s going to hurt.” Sure enough, they would launch themselves off a ramp or high location and get hurt. Men’s brains are wired to enjoy that stuff!)
Boys and Girls are Similar
Remember earlier when I said female brains are smaller? Yeah, that has no impact on IQ, so if you’re a dude who wanted to say something sarcastic about intelligence, save it… average IQ scores are the same for both genders.
With proper training, women can be just about as powerful as men when measured pound for pound. The top female athletes may not catch the top men in any given sport, but they’ll come damn close.
I think every female athlete could get something about of the Roar book. Regardless of sport, age, goals… there is probably something that will make you go “AHA!” and feel like you have information that you can use to make actionable changes.
There’s a whole chapter on digestion. I’ve known that my body is bad at that basic skill for my whole life. But some little tricks like popping peppermint Tums before/during endurance exercise to help has been a good little trick for me to pick up and include in my recent training.
A good chunk of the book is about taking all of the information presented and using it to build actionable plans. How to plan your own nutrition, hydration, recovery strategies by using knowledge of physiology and looking at yourself is included. General ideas of worksheets and how to construct these plans are included.
When I looked up the Roar book on Amazon, the price as of this writing is a phenomenal deal. I snagged a copy of the Kindle edition to have on hand for reference. You can get it on Kindle for $7.09 and paperback for $7.46. (affiliate links) That’s a pretty awesome deal for the amount of information you get in this book.