Women can be very complicated, many women aren't familiar with their own phases of the menstrual cycle or how their hormones physiology changes. Outside of the specialist, neither are their health care providers and there the focus is primarily medical rather than being applied in terms of how it impacts on diet, nutrition, fat loss or training.
It should be clear that if females don't understand the topic, men, whether coach, athlete, or significant other has no chance of understanding it. There are a few implications of this:
The first is that, fairly obviously, a woman has to be treated at least somewhat differently than a man when it comes to both her diet, training and fat loss. Make no mistake, the same generalities will always hold here.
Women face issues that men simply never will, for example some women experience changes in their performance, coordination, etc. throughout the month. This means that their training may have to be adjusted to better synchronize with those changes. This will never apply to men. There are other examples and this is a problem as, in the same way males dominated athletes for a long period of time, most coaches have traditionally been males. They know what they did as a (male) athlete and usually know how to coach male athletes.
One place this perennially shows up is when it comes to dieting and fat loss. Due to the differences in all aspects of their biology, some of the approaches that are effective for men are either ineffective or outright damaging to women (this is especially true in the physique subculture where strategies to diet down to the lowest extremes of body fat were originally developed on and for men). Additionally, since they are typically larger, men have more food and calories to "work with". This allows them to use strategies that end up being inappropriate for women or at least to avoid certain problems that female athletes run into (i.e. not having enough calories in their diet to get sufficient protein and fat and still have enough carbohydrate to sustain training). This fact typically goes completely ignored by most.
Many coaches, including me for a while do not know how to approach this topic and for that reason they treat females exactly the same as males. Sometimes coaches change from one stance to another but this tends to go along with the use of anabolics. With high enough doses of testosterone in women, the menstrual cycle usually disappears and women can be trained just like men. Even without drugs, women with relatively higher levels of testosterone (often seen in PCOS but also in other situations) can often be trained relatively more like men.
All of the woman I work with as coach do not take anabolics, however I do have some clients who have PCOS and for that reason I treat them a little different in the coaching process.
No two women are the same and they may show differences from one another and any given woman may vary from month to month. Looking at training and considering only the menstrual cycle, one woman may see her performance vary enormously while another has no such change. Changes in mood during the final week of the cycle (i.e. when PMS typically occurs) are monstrous. One woman may have no issues while a second might have severe mood swings or fatigue and a third may be completely physically debilitated and suffer from clinical depression. The patterns of mood swings can vary as can any other aspect of a woman's physiology. While some of the hormonal modifiers actually work to stabilize this, they still change a woman's physiology to some degree and add another level of complexity. And one that no male or coach training a male will ever have to face or deal with.
It goes without saying that differences in physiology between women and men are huge and the response differs in some fundamental way which may make an approach that is effective for men be less so for women. More importantly, I want to address those differences in terms of what changes a woman should (or should not) make in how she approaches reaching her goals.
A woman's approach to diet, nutrition, fat loss or training should differ because of that. And to begin to understand that means starting with a discussion of arguably the primary factor that differentiate women from men. That is not only the differences in the primary female reproductive hormones from that of men's but in how they change across the monthly menstrual cycle.
On the next blog I will look the menstrual cycle.
The above information is taken from the The Woman's Book by Lyle Mcdonald with Eric Elms