So stop eating and training like one.
There are so many takeaways from Stacy Sims' book ROAR: How To Match Your Food and Fitness to Your Female Physiology got Optimum Performance, Great Health, and a Strong, Lean Body for Life. As someone who loves to learn, I appreciate books that offer so much critical information that I can apply right away.
As women our bodies are designed differently from men — and thus we have different training and nutrition needs, which Sims covers in-depth. Below are highlights and learnings I found valuable.
Chapter 1: Battle of the Sexes. As women, we have more essential fat, carry more of the lean mass in the lower body, and have greater proportion of type 1 endurance (a.k.a. slow twitch) muscle fibers then men — great for endurance sports. Pound for pound, a well-trained woman is nearly as powerful as her male counterpart — ROAR!
Chapter 5: Making Weight. We are more than just a number. Sims asks the reader to choose a category for their body type: ectomorph, mesomorph, and endomorph. Once you determine your body type, you can then follow the specific eating and training advice she offers in the chapters that follow. She suggests focusing on body composition, rather then the number on the scale. For those women approaching menopause, her suggestion is to have more frequent doses of amino acids as menopausal bodies become more sensitive to carbohydrates and have a harder time repairing. She also isn't a proponent of intermittent fasting.
Chapter 6: Core Strength, Stability, & Mobility: Like me, Sims believes that it's critical to have a strong core that provides us with stability and mobility. The core, from our collarbone to hip bones, is the foundation for everything we do. Not a proponent of performing crunches, she suggests planking over traditional crunches. Planking strengthens your shoulders, back, and glutes, which improves your posture and helps you stand straighter — a major benefit for those of us who spend a fair amount of time hunched over our laptops and devices. She also includes exercises to perform for strengthening our core like walking lunges, single toe raises, and floor bridges. See my blog on core work.
Chapter 7: Power Up. Strong is not only sexy — it's essential. Around age 30, women begin to lose muscle density. Lean muscle mass slips away to the tune of 3%/decade between the ages of 30 and 80, while strength declines 30% between the ages of 50 and 70 and takes a major nosedive after that. After age 40, even high levels of aerobic activity don't translate into meaningful changes in lean body mass. The solution is strength training. She recommends high-intensity power training as this type of training stimulates your neuromuscular system, which in turn activates the maximum amount of muscle fibers. Lift heavy, lift often, and mix it up. Check out strength training on my blog.
Chapter 10: Daily Fueling. There are certain nutrients—both large and small—that every woman needs to consume to feel and perform her best. Men, and women alike need macronutrients: carbohydrates, protein, and fat. Women need a daily intake of 40%-45% whole food carbohydrates (veggies, fruits, ancient grains). Protein, which Sims calls a dietary superstar, is critical for performance and recovery. There are complete and incomplete proteins. Complete proteins include meat, fish, eggs, and most dairy products, as well as plant sources like nuts, whole grains, and vegetables. She also advises to pay attention to key amino acids, in particular leucine, which can dramatically affect muscle protein synthesis. Sims recommends about 30%-35% of your daily calorie intake should be allotted to protein. Fat is an essential source of fuel for aerobic exercise and life itself. It protects our organs, aides in regular menstrual cycles, and helps preserve our bones. For women it's advisable to get more dietary fat from omega-3 fatty acids (found in salmon), which are natural anti-inflammatories. She recommends getting about 30% of your daily calorie intake from fat by eating healthy, whole foods. Sims also suggests eating low on the food chain — the closer it is to the natural form, the better it is for your body.
Chapter 11: Sport-Specific Fueling. Sims recommends topping off your tank prior to exercise. Include carbs and maybe more importantly, pre-exercise protein. Research shows that pairing protein with hard exercise sessions can improve your body's ability to make muscle, as well as boost how well your muscles adapt to training efforts. During exercise she states that we have enough stored carbs to run a moderate intensity for about 15 miles, which of course will vary based on your performance and endurance. So how much should you consume while moving? She suggests aiming for a calorie count and using mixed macronutrient foods to avoid overloading any one macronutrient receptor at one time. For active women, that is 0.9 to 1.13 food calories/pound per hour while participating in a non-jostling sport. Though carbs are paramount during long endurance events, don't forget to consume a little protein, as the amino acids can provide up to 10% of your total energy. For post-workout fueling, she recommends protein in order to protect muscles and come back feeling stronger. Women recover faster with 25-30 grams of protein within 30 minutes of a hard workout. Alongside the protein make sure to include carbs, as the combination of protein and carbs together will increase your glycogen storage rates. Lastly, be a label reader. Products containing fructose should be avoided if possible, as fructose is not rapidly absorbed through the GI tract, which can cause potential issues for those with sensitive GI tracts.
In this chapter she also has a section on gels, which she is not a proponent of. I do indeed use gels for longer endurance activities because of their convenience. However, after reading her critique on gels, I'm going to try some of the alternatives that she suggests. She sites that gels often contain ingredients like fructose and because of their concentration, they don't necessarily enter the bloodstream as efficiently as other options. In addition, the blend of carbs that are included in gels aren't necessarily the best for absorption and can sometimes cause what she refers to as Goo-Gut: bloating, gas, and general GI discomfort.
Chapter 12: Hydration is Power. The main point of hydration is to keep your body-fluid levels high enough to continue functioning properly. Sims says that it's critical to drink fluids that make their way into your bloodstream swiftly and efficiently. She includes a list of recommended and non-recommended drinks. She is also adamant that we do not need to add in salt tablets. Even as a salty sweater, your body has ample sodium stores, and you will consume plenty of sodium from the foods you are eating and drinking.
There are so many more nuggets of wisdom and topics in this book that I didn't cover here. The chapter on menopause is enlightening and offers information many women will find useful. There are also chapters on pregnancy, understanding and improving digestion, bone health, learning more about your own physiology through biohacking, and much, much more. There's no doubt that this book should be a part of every women's collection.
Let's keep roaring on!
Check out what other books are in my collection.