There are so many wellness trends around eating that it can make us a little obsessive. Instead of trying to decipher exactly which trend to follow, whether it’s fasting, calorie restriction, etc., we spoke to someone who has a firm grasp on the absolute baseline that we need to consider as female-identifying beings—our hormones.
Alisa Vitti is a functional nutrition and women’s hormone expert, founder of FLO Living, author of WomanCode and In the FLO, and creator of The Cycle Syncing Method and the MyFLO Cycle Syncing App. She is beyond versed in this crucial baseline. When it comes to maintaining hormone health, rarely is it ever about forced calorie restriction. In fact, doing that at certain times of the month can actually trigger our fat-storing genes to turn ON, creating the opposite effect we are working so hard to achieve.
Being in tune with every stage of our hormonal cycle is like a special key that unlocks so much understanding about what our bodies need and when. Vitti details this in both of her best-selling books. She generously shared with us a distilled version of this timing to get us thinking about food in a healthy, holistic way that makes sense for each of us individually.
“Optimize your hormonal health.
The most important thing to set your hormones up for a great day of balanced production is to dial in both the timing of breakfast and what you eat. This ensures that you will protect your blood sugar balance and insulin levels. If insulin levels get disrupted first thing in the morning with the wrong start to the day, the rest of your hormones will be disrupted that whole day as well.
First, eat about an hour after waking.
Second, eat food BEFORE you consume any caffeine.
Third, learn more about caffeine intolerance to see if you have any signs, and if you do, eliminate it completely from your diet as it can negatively affect your hormonal balance.
Fourth, eat the right meal types for the phase of your cycle—think more protein shakes and smoothies in the first half (before ovulation), and more oatmeal, avocado toast, and eggs in the second half (after ovulation).
The best way to optimize your metabolism is to align your calorie intake with the metabolic shift that is governed by the infradian rhythm that you experience across your 28-day cycle. In the first half of your cycle, your metabolism is slower, and you should eat fewer calories relative to your normal intake. In the second half, the luteal phase, your metabolism speeds up, and studies show you need 279 more calories per day—fact.
If you don’t proactively give them to yourself, not only will you find yourself bingeing on junk, but you will turn on fat storage! I’ve maintained a 60 lb. weight loss for 20 years and had a baby, and the only thing I do to optimize my metabolism is to use The Cycle Syncing Method that I created based on my research into the infradian rhythm to organize my food and fitness according to what is actually happening with my female biology.
Again, this comes down to managing blood sugar levels and making sure you are getting foods that provide you with a variety of micronutrients that support energy production, electrolyte balance, and detoxification. So eat every three hours, eat foods that provide you with slow-burning carbohydrates like legumes and root veggies, and incorporate lots of green veggies for the micronutrient boost!
When you eat according to your infradian rhythm (the metabolic changes that take place across your cycle), you immediately keep cortisol levels balanced, which will improve your response to stress. This is because if you eat the same calories daily (which only works for men), that creates blood sugar disruption, cortisol compensation, progesterone suppression, and ovulation disruption, which will jack up stress, worsen PMS, and increase anxiety.
Though women are often underrepresented in medical studies, the new research is showing that not only are women’s ecosystems totally distinct from those of men but that we should also stop adopting the dietary standards (like eating the same calories daily) that have been widely accepted as the truth for so long now. These assumptions are gender-biased and are keeping women fat, hormonally imbalanced, and stressed.”
While this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to understanding our hormones, it may be a completely eye-opening, mind-blowing discovery for some! Understanding that we deserve, biologically, more carbs and calories during our luteal phase (hello, PMS) is not only relieving emotionally but helps us understand our cravings and why it’s so hard to restrict ourselves during that time. We and Vitti encourage everyone to explore and understand themselves more deeply in order to find their perfect, healthy relationship with eating.