What comes to mind first when you think of anabolic hormones?
It's probably not the estrogen hormone. However, some recent studies reported that female sex hormones are vital to muscle mass, strength, and even post-workout recovery.
Suboptimal estrogen levels are a common cause of muscle weakness and loss of muscle mass in women. Losing muscle can cause poor physical performance in the gym and competitions for no apparent reason.
What are the common causes of low estrogen levels? Who is at risk How do estrogens affect the muscles?
Let's sort the details one by one.
Common causes of low estrogen levels in women
Studies and statistics show that the main causes of hypoestrogenism (low estrogen) in women are:
Of course, age is the most common cause of low estrogen levels. Estrogen levels naturally decrease in women from the age of perimenopause (on average 47.5 years). Menopause begins at around 50 to 52 years of age, and then the symptoms of low estrogen levels appear.
However, about 1% of women start menopause much earlier. This condition is known as primary ovarian failure or premature menopause and can manifest itself before the age of 40. Early menopause is not just a question of physical fitness in the gym.
It also increases the risk of a number of dangerous diseases and even increases the likelihood of premature death.
For this reason, many women around the world are looking for hormonal solutions to keep their estrogen levels healthy – either through conventional hormone replacement therapy (HRT) or through herbal alternatives such as phytoestrogens.
Aside from premature menopause, how does estrogen affect physical performance?
Are estrogen and physical performance linked?
Estrogen promotes muscle regeneration and regeneration. First, estrogen plays an essential role in muscle regeneration. Several studies reported that estrogen:
- Damp muscle damage caused by exercise
- Soothe muscle inflammation after exercise
- Improve the healing of micro-injuries in the muscles
- Stimulate the growth of atrophied muscle mass
This is an impressive list. But how is that possible?
Not all details are clear on this matter, however It appears that estrogen can stabilize the membranes of muscle cells and significantly reduce local oxidative stress.
This helps prevent major muscle damage (including exercise-related losses) and accelerate the recovery of existing injuries.
Estrogen promotes muscle growth
Let's make that clear: none of the body's estrogens is an anabolic hormone in the traditional sense of the word. You cannot inject estradiol and expect your muscle mass to double in a few weeks. It doesn't work that way.
However, studies have shown that hormone replacement therapy (HRT) with estrogens leads to muscle growth in postmenopausal women. Instead of directly increasing muscle growth (like testosterone and DHT), estrogen increases the effect of insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1).
This is why women tend to lose muscle mass as they approach menopause. This is also the reason why both HRT and phytoestrogens are a fabulous but little-known method of preventing muscle and performance loss in women with under-optimal estrogen levels.
Estrogen somewhat increases muscle strength
Most likely, you already know that muscle tissue consists of two types of muscle fibers – actin and myosin. One of the factors that determine the strength of a particular muscle is the strength of the bond between its actin and the myosin filaments.
Studies have shown that this is one of the effects of estrogen on muscle tissue. Estrogen somewhat strengthens the connection between myosin and actin fibers in the muscle, which leads to a slight increase in physical strength.
Fixation of low estrogen levels
The first and most important step in restoring your estrogen is to find and treat the cause of your condition.
For example, if you suspect that your estrogen waste is due to chronic stress, rest and try to solve your most pressing problems as soon as possible. Most likely, eliminating your stress would result in a good rise in estrogen levels.
And yet the solution is rarely that simple. In most cases, the only way to permanently fix a low estrogen problem is to start HRT or use natural phytoestrogens.
But how effective is this approach?
A study examined the effect of HRT on physical performance and muscle mass in 15 pairs of identical twins. All women were between 54 and 62 years old, so these are hormonal changes in the menopause and after the menopause.
For each pair of twins, one woman took conventional HRT hormones and the other twin received no menopause therapy (conventional or otherwise).
After seven years of this treatment, the twin taking HRT took:
Some other studies on the relationship between HRT and strength, muscle mass, and physical performance in women reported that HRT:
- Promotes muscle synthesis
- Increases muscle strength (measured by running speed and vertical jump height)
But wait a second, don't go out and stuff yourself with estrogens. These effects were primarily observed when a woman has little estrogen. If you are a healthy woman with normal estrogen levels, you don't have to look for HRT.
This diagnosis is particularly relevant because HRT can only be obtained with a prescription and is so serious that it can be monitored continuously and even then has some side effects. In some cases, the side effects can be as serious as an increased risk of breast cancer.
That is why so many women use phytoestrogens as a natural HRT alternative.
Phytoestrogens as an HRT alternative
In short, phytoestrogens are herbal substances that act similarly to the estrogens that the human body produces. Women around the world have used various sources of phytoestrogens to relieve menopause symptoms before doctors even knew what menopause was.
Now women who are approaching their 40s have another good reason to look for additional phytoestrogens in their diet: to support physical performance and prevent loss of muscle mass during menopause.
Do you need a quick shopping list? Here are some of the richest (and most delicious) food sources for phytoestrogens::
- All soy products, except soy sauce (soybeans, tofu, soy milk)
- Legumes (lentils, chickpeas, beans)
- Berries, especially colored red and pink (strawberries, cranberries, raspberries)
- Red grapes and red wine
- Alfalfa sprouts
- Dried fruit
- Sesame seeds
If you don't want to change anything in your diet, you can also take supplements or use skin care products with phytoestrogens such as serums and creams.
The latter approach is particularly suitable for athletes, since the lion's share of the phytoestrogens acts locally on the skin and muscles.
One of the world's strongest sources of phytoestrogens is, for example, Pueraria Mirifica, a Thai plant that local women have used as an elixir of youth for centuries.
By using a skin care product with Pueraria Mirifica, you can improve local muscle regeneration and support the moisture and elasticity of the skin. Double action, double advantages.
Note that Pueraria Mirifica can slightly increase breast size due to its high estrogen content. So keep that in mind when you apply it to your chest area to support your pectoral muscles.
The bottom line
Although this fact remains unknown to most athletes, coaches, and even health professionals, low estrogen levels have a major impact on a woman's strength, muscle mass, and recovery rates after exercise.
If you are a woman approaching your 40s and you think you may be dealing with a case of suboptimal estrogen, ask your doctor to do some tests and discuss your treatment options.
However, keep in mind that you don't have to drive your estrogen levels through the roof for performance in the gym or even general health.
While estrogen is great for the health and performance of your bones and muscles, studies have found this out Excessive estrogen levels can make your tendons and ligaments weaker and more prone to injury.
So moderation is the key. Low estrogen levels are probably as bad as high ones.
An excellent first step to getting your estrogen back to a normal range would be to eat more sources of phytoestrogens like soy and other legumes. If you want to promote local recovery after physical activity, try applying a topical skin care product. Any source of phytoestrogens will work well, but Pueraria Mirifica is probably the least expensive option.