What’s a Woman to Do When Fitness Research Is All About Men?

Have you experienced going Keto or Paleo and feeling great for one week, but feeling terrible the next? Have you lost weight one week and then gained it the next while staying on the same nutrition plan? Have you wondered why that is happening when all the studies and expertise are saying that if you follow the rules of their nutrition and fitness regimes, you will lose fat and gain muscle? If you’re partnered with a man, do you wonder why he feels great doing HIIT, Cross Fit, or weightlifting all month long, but you don’t? Do you feel like you lack willpower when he wants to do the same exercises you did together last week, but this week you aren’t motivated to do it or just can’t keep up?

The truth is that the majority of medical, nutrition, and fitness studies are designed for men, and their findings are helpful for men. Women are biochemically different from men. The same fitness and nutrition protocols that are good for men are actually harming women. If women want to improve body composition, lose weight, gain energy, stabilize mood, and remedy menstrual issues, we have to take into consideration that due to hormonal fluctuations, our metabolism, cortisol, and calorie needs shift throughout the month while men’s stay the same. Women have often been left out of scientific studies precisely because they are harder to track and more variable. The result is that tailored nutrition and fitness plans for women are hard to come by.


Women’s bodies are biochemically different than men’s bodies.


Here’s a start, women! Metabolism is slower in the first half of our cycles during the follicular and ovulatory phases. Estrogen and testosterone are high, and we tire less easily. This is the time to do high-intensity workouts like HIIT, Bootcamp, Hawt Pilates, Power Yoga, and sprinting or long-distance running. This is also the time to follow methods like Keto or Paleo. In the second half of our cycle, during the luteal and menstrual phases, our metabolism increases. Testosterone and estrogen drop while progesterone rises. We tire more easily. This is the time for restorative practices like Slow Flow Yoga, Gentle Yoga, Restorative Yoga, Yin Yoga, Yoga Nidra, Meditation, and light walking. During this phase, we should eat more calories (because we are burning more) and healthy comfort food like sweet potatoes, rice, and quinoa.


High-intensity training is best during the first half of your cycle.


Gentle yoga and meditation are the perfect support for the second half of your cycle, especially during menstruation.


What happens if women don’t respect the varying needs of their bodies throughout the month?

Our adrenals become overworked and we dive into exhaustion. Generally, in the first 30 minutes of exercise, all the glucose in our bloodstream is used. After that, our adrenals release cortisol to shift our metabolism so that we burn sugar instead of fat to sustain our energy levels. If a woman’s estrogen levels are too high, the sugar will get converted to fat instead of supplying more energy. Most women are hormonally imbalanced and estrogen dominant due to environmental toxins that mimic hormones. If you are experiencing symptoms such as acne, bloating, cramping, heavy, irregular, or missing periods, it is likely that you are hormonally imbalanced and need to be extra careful about when and how you exercise as well as what and when you eat. If you don’t mind your body, you will be caught in a vicious cycle of weight gain and energy depletion. If you are pregnant or have just had a baby, follow the guidance for the second half of your cycle, as outlined above. Listen to your body and nourish yourself with plenty of bone broth, restorative relaxation, and sleep.


Salads are great, but remember to add in whole grains and healthy carbohydrates like sweet potatoes during the second half of your cycle.


This fall, Mind the Mat will be launching a series of 30-minute virtual workout sessions for women for each phase of your cycle along with other recommendations for that phase. These sessions will include workouts for women of all ages, including women who are pregnant, post-pregnant, peri-menopausal, or menopausal. Stay tuned! Interested, email questions to info@mindthemat.com.

COVID Update: We are continuing to add more Outdoor Classes every week, including HIIT, stretch, and more. Right now, nature is our studio and will continue to be throughout the fall. We are still providing an abundance of Virtual Classes as well. Check out our New Client Deals for Virtual and Outdoor Classes!

Interested in knowing more about women, fitness, and wellness during the childbearing years? Check out our upcoming 85 Hour Prenatal & Post-Pregnancy Yoga Teacher Training, starting virtually on September 18th.

Pregnant or just had a baby? Check out our upcoming virtual 6-week specialized series for moms, including Prenatal Yoga & Pilates with expert instructors and Get Fit After Baby starting September 15 & 17! Also, check out our virtual specialized weekend workshops for moms, including Birthing Classes, Infant CPR, and Prenatal Partners Massage!

Don’t miss our outdoor socially distanced Mommy & Me classes on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Fridays at 10:45am with expert instructors!

Want to dive way deep into the heart of yoga? Mind the Mat Yoga School is considered one of the very best 200 Hour Foundational Teacher Training Programs in the D.C. area. Would you like more information? Email Caroline Deitch at mtmteachertraining@gmail.com.


  • The latest from Sara
co-owner, CMT, e-RYT 200, RYT 500 | Mind the Mat
Sara VanderGoot, CMT, e-RYT 200, RYT 500, is Co-founder of Mind the Mat Pilates and Yoga and Director of Mind the Mat Yoga Alliance certified teacher training program. Sara is an experienced Registered Yoga instructor with Yoga Alliance. She studied Interdisciplinary Yoga with Don and Amba Stapleton in Nosara, Costa Rica and at Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health. Sara is Nationally Certified in Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork, licensed by the Virginia Board of Nursing. Sara has been practicing massage therapy, including specialties Prenatal Massage, Postpartum Massage, Deep Tissue Massage and Thai Yoga Massage, in Del Ray, Alexandria for over 15 years and a yoga instructor for 7 years. At Mind the Mat she specializes in Prenatal Yoga, Postpartum Core Yoga, Mommy and Me Core Yoga, Partners Yoga, and Hot Flow Yoga. Sara frequently acts as a birth companion for many of her clients, doing massage and yoga during labor and delivery to facilitate comfort during both medicated and unmedicated births. Before becoming a massage therapist and yoga instructor, she was a lawyer in the Washington D.C. area and found that the healing practices of massage and yoga brought a balance to her life that she had been searching for.

Mind the Mat Pilates & Yoga was founded in 2008 by Megan Brown, Doctor of Physical Therapy and Polestar Certified Practitioner of Pilates for Rehabilitation and Sara VanderGoot, Nationally Certified Massage Therapist and Registered Yoga Teacher (e-RYT 200, RYT 500). In their private practices as physical therapist and massage therapist respectively Megan and Sara observed that many of their clients were coming in with similar needs: relief for neck and shoulder tension and low back pain as well as a desire for more flexibility in hips and legs, stability in joints, and core strength.

Together Megan and Sara carefully crafted a curriculum of Pilates and yoga classes to address needs for clients who are pregnant, postpartum, have injuries or limitations, who are new to Pilates and yoga, and for those who are advanced students and are looking for an extra challenge.


3300 Fairfax Dr.
Arlington, VA 22201



  1. Avatar Suzanne says:

    Since some of us are in menopause I wonder if the cyclical thing still applies to us?

  2. This is a great question. Women who are in a post-pregnancy phase or in menopause who aren’t menstruating should follow the guidance for the second half of the cycle, since estrogen, testosterone and progesterone levels all decrease in menopausal woman (generally). This means slowing things down in terms of exercise. Exercise is still very important, but exercise that is too rigorous will tax adrenals and create inflammation in the body after menopause. Note: If there is an estrogen imbalance, women can be estrogen dominant after menopause which can cause other issues.

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