The 3 Pieces Of Productivity Advice You Should Avoid At All Costs

With spring about to, well, spring, may of us are trying to refocus on wellness and are seeking to balance it with our personal and professional goals, hoping for a healthier and happier kickoff to sunny seasons. While bopping around online or reading self-help books, there are a few pieces of advice we are apt to see over and over again for how to keep productive and healthy at the same time, but the thing is, a great deal of that advice isn't actually geared towards women, because while men can do the same thing every day and get the same effect, women's hormonal cycles mean that there are certain types of schedules, workouts, foods, and other things that are better at certain times of the month than others. 

Alisa Vitti is a functional nutrition and women's hormone expert, the founder of FLOLiving and the bestselling author of the books WomanCode and In the FLO. She says there are three pieces of productivity advice that women should toss right out the window. Vitti explains that these "protocols" work great for men, but, "the interesting thing is that when women try them, not only does it not increase their productivity, but it also makes them feel worse! From weight gain, to mental fog, to increased stress and fatigue, women just don't get results with these traditional pieces of advice. It turns out that these practices work better for men and now we have new science to explain why."

When you should wake up in the morning

The first myth Vitti tells us women should avoid is waking up at the exact same early hour every single morning. While waking up early regularly can be great most of the month, there are points at which women might notice this early alarm is making them feel more irritable, anxious, tired, or foggy. She explains, "for women, resting cortisol is slightly higher after ovulation, which means waking up early will result in increased stress on their adrenals and disrupt blood sugar which can lead to mood issues, fatigue, cravings, and brain fog. In addition, because women have more complex brain circuitry, they need 20 min more sleep EVERY night compared to men!"

The reason we hear that we should wake up early every single morning and work out on the same schedule is because it works for men. Vitti says, "Men's hormonal, metabolic, cognitive, and stress response patterns follow the circadian clock — which means it repeats exactly every 24 hours. And that means that for them to be their healthiest and most productive, they should in fact wake up at 5 a.m. every morning to take advantage of the peak testosterone and cortisol zone, work out early to gain lean muscle, eat the same caloric level daily, and get to bed no later than 10 p.m. And they should do this day in and day out for optimal results." 

Meanwhile, women's hormonal, metabolic, and stress response patterns are heavily influenced by their Infradian clock, which depends upon their monthly cycle.

Workouts should depend on your cycle

The second "myth" women are subjected to is that it's best for us to work out at the same time and same intensity every day to experience consistent and positive results. In reality, Vitti tells us that multiple studies have proven that because women's metabolism changes and shifts throughout their cycles, they should not actually do high intensity interval high training (HIIT) workouts in the second half of their cycle, or after ovulation, because rather than causing weight loss and muscle building, it actually will signal stress in the body that will cause fat storage and muscle wasting. Therefore, doing the same type of high intensity workout every day of the month can actually lead to weight gain, fatigue, and other issues in women, where it benefits men.

So if you've been feeling guilty for not feeling "up to" that HIIT workout the week before your period, you no longer need to feel guilty about it! That is just your body telling you it needs more gentle exercise right now, so if yoga or a walk or a dance class sounds more your speed, trust that. Vitti says, "women have been left out of much of medical, fitness, and nutrition research, and so we've just been hearing about the study results being researched on male subjects and making the assumption they would apply to women. Now that we know about the Infradian Rhythm, women can begin to have our self-care line up with our biology and ignore advice geared to optimize male health and productivity."

1200 calories isn't always going to cut it

The third piece of advice we often hear that we shouldn't follow is that we should be eating the same calories and the same foods every single day for optimal weight control and health. Vitti explains, "women's metabolism is slightly slower in the first half [of their cycle] and slightly higher in the second half ... and studies have shown that women need 279 more calories per day to accommodate this metabolic shift in the second half of their cycle." So once again, we shouldn't be feeling guilty for listening to what our bodies are telling us. Craving a burger a few days before your period? Have one! Your body actually needs that extra fuel. Feeling like just a yogurt with some berries for breakfast the first week after your period? Then don't force a high-protein, high-fat breakfast if you're just not that hungry. 

"No wonder so many women have been struggling with diets, fitness plans and success routines. When we exclude women's infradian rhythm from conventional advice, they are set up for failure," says Vitti. What a revelation to learn that all those "cravings" and "feelings" we get aren't actually in rebellion against what's good for us, but are actually our bodies telling us exactly what we need.