Blood Sugar Balance for Female Runners

January 28, 2021

Blood Sugar Balance for Female Runners

Blood Sugar Balance is a foundational part of great health and if not in balance may lead towards many healthy concerns. As female runners there are 3 areas which potentially can affect any of us if blood sugar balance is out of sync i.e.

  • ENERGY DIPS – feeling that we haven’t got the energy we require to enjoy our running
  • WEIGHT GAIN especially around the middle – which may make us feel heavy and sluggish and impact on running performance
  • Disrupted FEMALE HORMONES resulting in symptoms such as PMS, Period Pains, Heavy Flow, and conditions such as PCOS, Endometriosis and Fertility Issues – all very concerning and potentially disruptive to our running plans throughout every month.

Balancing blood sugar is a foundational nutritional strategy you may implement to support female hormone health. An imbalance in female hormones may lead to a disrupted menstrual cycle with PMS, pain, cramps, heavy flow all of which leads to a disrupted running schedule.

Address these imbalances you may have a much smoother cycle and be able to enjoy your running throughout the month without interruption.

LISTEN HERE Episode 41: Blood Sugar Balance for Female Runners


Blood Sugar Balance for Female Hormones


How hormonal imbalance has impacted on Aileen and Karen with regards to daily living and running.


An introduction to our topic today


An overview of blood sugar balance, how imbalance occurs, the blood sugar balance rollercoaster and typical symptoms.


How blood sugar imbalances affect sex hormone imbalance and how we are aiming for balance and harmony with all hormones.


Considering how a blood sugar imbalance is contributing to chronic inflammation, high testosterone levels, oestrogen dominance and a suppression in sex hormone binding globulin.


Key nutritional and lifestyle steps to support hormonal balance and blood sugar balance.

Eating Habits and WHEN you eat

  • Eat Regularly – for most people than means 3 meals a day approx. 4-5 hours apart
  • Don’t graze between meals – eat enough at your meals to satisfy you so you don’t need snacks
  • Use snacks strategically i.e. if you know a meal time will be delayed beyond the 5 hour point or to support your running schedule
  • Encourage a non eating window of at least 12 hours between dinner and breakfast

Everyone is different and may have slightly different requirements but eating regularly and leaving gaps between meals and snacks not only allows a rest and digest cycle but also allow insulin to switch off – if we are constantly grazing sugary foods and drinks then we may get into that insulin resistance state we talked about earlier.

Next steps would be to:

  • Eat Protein at every meal and snack – protein slows down the absorption of glucose into the bloodstream supporting the even blood sugar balance we are aiming for
  • Follow Plate Balance – the starting point would be ¼ plate protein, ¼ plate of low GL carbohydrates and ½ plate of non root vegetables – we covered this is E 11 Nutrition Basics for ALL Runners and it’s a key part of our Easy Nutrition For Easy Runners Programme
  • Focus on portions – particularly choosing LOW GL carbohydrates

It’s important to:

  • Choose Wholefoods – avoid processed foods – the highly refined foods e.g. white flour/bread/pasta/cakes/pastry. These refined foods get converted to glucose very quickly so may lead to a blood sugar high. Whilst the wholefoods take longer to digest, keep you fuller for longer, are more nutrient dense and will help to keep blood sugar even.
  • Minimise Stimulants like alcohol, caffeine, refined sugar as they can lead to a spike in blood sugar
  • Manage stress – remember that can spike blood sugar and insulin.
  • Have a regular bowel movement every day – eat natural sources of fibre – vegetables, fruit, wholegrains and be hydrated – all to support the excretion of excess sex hormones.


Following a Low GL eating plan, insights into high GL foods and Low GL Foods, Plate Balance and how you may adapt carbohydrate portion sizes to meet your training requirements.


Blood Sugar Balance for Female Runners

Some of the potential hormonal issues that a BLOOD SUGAR IMBALANCE may impact on female sex hormone balance are:


High Blood Sugar may contribute to chronic inflammation – one impact is that inflammation may make hormone receptors unresponsive to hormone molecules which limits their ability to do their job.


High Blood Sugar leads to raised testosterone levels in women (it lowers testosterone in men).

We have been talking about how high blood sugar triggers high insulin. High Insulin levels leads to the ovaries producing more testosterone which can lead to conditions like PCOS – polycystic ovary syndrome, excess hair on face and belly, sometimes acne. When PCOS – diagnosed when patient has a combination of high glucose, Hb1AC, insulin and high testosterone. Women with PCOS are advised to lower blood sugar levels as first step in their plans to resolve PCOS, as this will support sensitising their insulin receptors.


High Blood Sugar is a contributor to Oestrogen dominance

Oestrogen dominance is when a woman has normal or excessive levels of oestrogen but little to no counterbalancing hormone, progesterone, to mitigate its effects in the body

Testosterone is higher up the hormonal production pathway than oestrogen, so if you have high testosterone levels it may lead to higher oestrogen levels because there is more building block materials available to produce oestrogen. So likely that Oestrogen levels are out of balance with progesterone.

Some of the effects of oestrogen dominance are heavy periods, fibroids, oestrogenic cancers

It’s also worth mentioning is the importance of the body being able to dispose of excess or old hormones so we again don’t have too many hormones in circulation.

Sex Hormone Binding Globulin (SHBG)

SHBG is a protein made by your liver. SHGB binds excess oestrogen and testosterone in blood so it won’t be used. BUT when insulin spikes (as we were talking about earlier)it may lead to lower levels of Sex Hormone Binding Globulin (SHBG) and when SHBG is low then circulating Oestrogen and Testosterone may be higher.

So, lots of reasons to balance blood sugar to resolve female hormonal imbalances and symptoms.


Blood Sugar Imbalance for Female Runners

1. Balancing blood sugar is foundational to good health and may support a female runner particularly in the areas of energy, body composition and balancing female sex hormones.

2. An imbalance in female hormones may lead to a disrupted menstrual cycle with PMS, pain, cramps, heavy flow all of which leads to a disrupted running schedule.

3. Typical signs that you may be experiencing Blood sugar imbalance are

a. Body composition – overweight/weight gain around the middle/High VF rating/TOFI

b. Cravings for carbs and sugary foods and drinks

c. Energy slumps 1-2 hours after eating

d. Tired all the time

e. Low Mood and Irritability

f. Female Menstrual symptoms

4. Some of the potential hormonal issues that a BLOOD SUGAR IMBALANCE may impact on female sex hormone balance are:

a. Chronic inflammation

b. High Testosterone

c. Oestrogen Dominance

d. Suppressed Sex Hormone Binding Globulin

5. Introduce a Low GL Food Plan to balance blood sugar and alleviate menstrual and hormonal symptoms

6. Adjust your carbohydrate intake in line with your run training requirements

7. Many female runners find that their run training is disrupted every month by their periods due to hormonal imbalances. Address these imbalances you may have a much smoother cycle and be able to enjoy your running throughout the month without interruption.

Related Episodes:

Nutrition Basics for ALL Runners

Managing Menstrual Cycle and Running Performance


The suggestions we make during this episode are for guidance and advice only, and are not a substitute for medical advice or treatment. If you have any concerns regarding your health, please contact your healthcare professional for advice as soon as possible.

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