Book of the month for November is a special one. For me, most health and fitness books can be categorised as either a fad or a rehash of what is already out there. However, once in a while a book is released that changes the way you look at things. With this in mind, I am delighted to introduce ROAR (How to Match your Food & Fitness to your Female Physiology…) by Stacy Sims PhD.
Most of the material in books and magazines comes from scientific studies that use male test subjects. This is simply because men are easily controlled subjects due to their more predictable physiology. This is mainly regarding their hormones and the fact that they are not affected by the female menstrual cycle. Consequently, when women go looking for exercise and nutrition advice and for me as a coach working with female clients, we find a wealth of male centric material and not a great deal of female specific guidance.
Do women have the same goals and needs as men? As the author of this month’s book of the month says, “Sex differences extend far beyond ponytails and sports bras.”
Stacy Sims Phd. is a physiologist and nutrition scientist and former ironman world championships triathlete, so she knows a thing or two about exercise. She describes, in the opening pages, how training and fuelling like a man did not prepare her optimally for competition. One thing she noticed was how she and her female colleagues suffered differently in the heat depending on where they were in their menstrual cycle. When they drank the same way as every one else, the women a few days out from their period were at high risk of water intoxication compared to the women who were just a week further along in their cycle (water intoxication is a potentially fatal condition caused by drinking too much water). She decided to switch the subject of her PhD. to finding out more about women’s training and nutrition needs.
In Part 1. I was immediately struck by how honest and frank the author is in speaking openly about the differences between men and women and she gets straight down to business with the menstrual cycle, pregnancy and menopause. This book will help women understand their bodies and their food and exercise needs at different times of the month and stages of life. There are tips and advice to help mitigate things such as low energy, mood and even body temperature. Ultimately, the open tone of this book encourages the reader to feel more comfortable speaking openly about these often taboo subjects and men, especially male coaches and trainers, can be better prepared to advise their clients appropriately.
This book is about more than hormones though. You will find out more about where you carry your muscle and power and how you sweat differently from men.
In Part 2. you will learn more about body weight, fat loss and maintaining healthy weight as well as the all important subjects of gut and bone health. Bone health is important at all ages and stages, not just later in life. There is also a nifty section with photos and advice on some home exercises you can do, most of which do not require any expensive equipment. I like that each section of the book has a summary page with take away points to emphasise what you have just read. When you are trying to take in a lot of new information, it certainly helps to have a recap and something you can quickly flick back to.
Finally, Part 3. is written with racing and competition in mind, but there is a wealth of tips and advice that everyone can benefit from. Including hydration, recovery from your workouts and daily fuelling. Anyone with aspirations to go faster in their parkrun 5km, 10km personal record for example will find lots of nuggets here that you can try out to see what works for you and your fitness goals.
The latter pages of the book give advice on dietary supplements including how some can help and others may hinder along with some superb brain training techniques for mental strength and mindfulness too. The reference section at the back is, as to be expected from a PhD. extensive and for anyone who wants to dig a little deeper and “geek-out” on more of the sport science, this is a goldmine.
In summary, this is a book for anyone interested in reaching their health and fitness goals and it has plenty of substance for coaches and more serious athletes to get their teeth into. I found the detail informative and unintimidating and I highly recommend it.
As the author Stacy Sims says,
“Women are not small men, stop eating and training like one.”
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