Estrogen is the main sex hormone in women.
While it’s not typically thought of as having a prominent role in building strength and getting results in the gym, some new research has come to light indicating it may actually have a rather significant impact on strength, lean mass, and recovery in women.[1,2,3]
Today, we discuss how estrogen affects muscle and strength as well as what are the signs of low estrogen, who is at risk for low estrogen, and what are the possible solutions for low estrogen.
Let’s get started!
How Does Estrogen Help Boost Athletic Performance & Recovery
Estrogen has been identified as having an important role in muscle metabolism
In fact, research indicates that estrogen may actually help muscles to contract with greater force, which helps increase strength as the faster more powerfully your muscles contract the more weight you can lift.
Estrogen may also indirectly help boost strength output by combating inflammation.
Promotes Lean Muscle Growth
While estrogen isn’t typically thought of as an anabolic (muscle building) hormone in the same light that testosterone is, research has found that hormone replacement therapy (HRT) with estrogen in postmenopausal women can increase the effects of a rather potent anabolic hormone known as insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1).
Researchers also noted that hormone therapy in conjunction with resistance training was superior for increasing strength and lean muscle mass in women. Because resistance training plays such a vital role in building strength, this is one of the reasons why we include a customized training program for every individual who enters our transformation challenge.
Not only does estrogen play a role in strength and muscle development, it also impacts your ability to recover.
Research indicates that estrogen supports recovery via:
- Decreasing exercise-induced muscle damage
- Reducing inflammation
- Increase the re-growth of atrophied muscle tissue
Signs of Low Estrogen
Signs of low estrogen include:
- Difficulty concentrating
- Hot flashes
- Breast tenderness
- Irregular or absent periods
- Increase in urinary tract infections (UTIs)
Low estrogen is also known to lead to more frequent bone breaks, which may be due to a reduction in bone density. This is because estrogen works in tandem with vitamin D, calcium, and other minerals to keep bones healthy and strong.
Possible Causes of Low Estrogen
Some of the most common causes of low estrogen levels are[6,7,8]:
- Menopause or perimenopause
- Chronic kidney disease
- Ovarian failure
- Chronic stress
FYI, perimenopause typically begins around age 47, and most women enter menopause between the ages of 50 and 52 years old.
Other risk factors for low estrogen levels include:
- Age, estrogen production decreases as you age
- family history of hormonal issues
- Extreme dieting
- Excessive exercising
- Eating disorders
- Pituitary gland complications
Lastly, it should be mentioned that ~1% of women under 40 experience a condition calledpremature menopause.
In this scenario, it may be necessary to consult a doctor to see about hormone therapy with estrogen since having low estrogen levels at an early age is known to significantly increase the risk of a number of diseases.
Furthermore, low estrogen levels may contribute to weight gain.
How to Promote Optimal Estrogen Levels
Eat a Healthy Diet
No matter what area of your life you’re trying to improve, diet plays a critical role, and estrogen optimization is no exception.
Some of the key foods to include in your diet if you’re looking to promote healthy estrogen levels include:
- B Vitamins: serve a vital role in the synthesis and activation of estrogen in the body. Low levels of B vitamins are also known to lead to reduced levels of estrogen
- Boron: trace mineral necessary for the metabolism of the sex hormones testosterone and estrogen. It’s also believed that boron affects estrogen receptors by allowing the body to more efficiently utilize bioavailable estrogen.
- Flax Seeds: rich in a type of phytoestrogen called lignans, which are beneficial in estrogen metabolism
- Soy foods (tofu, miso, etc.): rich in plant-based estrogens that mimic estrogen in the body by binding to estrogen receptors.
In addition to fundamental lifestyle habits like eating a healthy diet and maintaining high levels of physical activity, certain dietary supplements are also known to support healthy estrogen levels.
For instance, Dong Quai is a botanical used in traditional Chinese medicine that contains compounds that function as phytoestrogens. In fact, one study found evidence that several compounds in doing quai exhibit estrogenic activity.
Another popular supplement for estrogen support is chasteberry, which contains the phytoestrogen called apigenin.
1UP Hormone Support Plus is a comprehensive formula for women formulated to support hormone balance, metabolism support, skin hydration and menstrual regulation. Every serving of Hormone Support Plus contains quality doses of Dong Quai and chasteberry along with several other natural plant extracts, vitamins and minerals to provide support where women need it most.
- Javed AA, Mayhew AJ, Shea AK, Raina P. Association Between Hormone Therapy and Muscle Mass in Postmenopausal Women: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. JAMA Netw Open. 2019;2(8):e1910154. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2019.10154
- Chidi-Ogbolu, N., & Baar, K. (2019). Effect of estrogen on musculoskeletal performance and injury risk. Frontiers in Physiology, 9. https://doi.org/10.3389/fphys.2018.01834
- Tiidus PM. Benefits of estrogen replacement for skeletal muscle mass and function in post-menopausal females: evidence from human and animal studies. Eurasian J Med. 2011;43(2):109-114. doi:10.5152/eajm.2011.24
- Lowe DA, Baltgalvis KA, Greising SM. Mechanisms behind estrogen's beneficial effect on muscle strength in females. Exerc Sport Sci Rev. 2010;38(2):61-67. doi:10.1097/JES.0b013e3181d496bc
- Tiidus P.M. (2017) Estrogen and Menopause: Muscle Damage, Repair and Function in Females. In: Hackney A. (eds) Sex Hormones, Exercise and Women. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-44558-8_5
- Santoro N. Perimenopause: From Research to Practice. J Womens Health (Larchmt). 2016;25(4):332-339. doi:10.1089/jwh.2015.5556
- Prokai D, Berga SL. Neuroprotection via Reduction in Stress: Altered Menstrual Patterns as a Marker for Stress and Implications for Long-Term Neurologic Health in Women. Int J Mol Sci. 2016;17(12):2147. Published 2016 Dec 20. doi:10.3390/ijms17122147
- Machura P, Grzymowicz M, Rudnicka E, et al. Premature ovarian insufficiency - hormone replacement therapy and management of long-term consequences. Prz Menopauzalny. 2018;17(3):135-138. doi:10.5114/pm.2018.78559
- Ramesh S, James MT, Holroyd-Leduc JM, et al. Sex Hormone Status in Women With Chronic Kidney Disease: Survey of Nephrologists' and Renal Allied Health Care Providers' Perceptions. Can J Kidney Health Dis. 2017;4:2054358117734534. Published 2017 Oct 27. doi:10.1177/2054358117734534
- Okeke T, Anyaehie U, Ezenyeaku C. Premature menopause. Ann Med Health Sci Res. 2013;3(1):90-95. doi:10.4103/2141-9248.109458
- Powers CN, Setzer WN. A molecular docking study of phytochemical estrogen mimics from dietary herbal supplements. In Silico Pharmacol. 2015;3:4. Published 2015 Mar 22. doi:10.1186/s40203-015-0008-z
- Rani A, Sharma A. The genus Vitex: A review. Pharmacogn Rev. 2013;7(14):188-198. doi:10.4103/0973-7847.120522