3 Popular Health Trends That Are Good For Men But Not For Women

You may be thinking that the results of diet and exercise trends can’t be too different between the sexes, but there are plenty of health kicks promoted for men that women shouldn’t bother with. Here’s why.

By Olivia Flint4 min read
Pexels/Vitor Diniz

Countless influencers out there are promoting a long list of exercise routines and diets that they claim are as beneficial for women as they are for men. However, our bodies do have significant differences – we menstruate, men don’t; we can grow babies, men can’t. And because of these unique differences between the sexes, even most medical studies aren’t done with women because of how our fluctuating hormones could affect the results.

That’s why it’s important to research any new diet or exercise trend you’re thinking about trying. If not, you may find that your new health kick could have negative effects on your health and hormones. Here are just three health trends worth reconsidering before jumping in.

1. Cold Plunging

Although cold plunging has been around since at least the fifth century, Wim Hof is potentially the biggest influencer of this method today, encouraging people to adopt his deep breathing, meditation, and ice bath routine into their everyday lives. 

In using this method, Wim Hof has achieved many great things, including holding the Guinness World Record for swimming under ice and prolonged full-body contact with ice, as well as the record for a barefoot half marathon on ice and snow. He also took part in an experiment involving a harmless pathogen being injected into himself and other trial participants. The study showed that the followers of the Wim Hof Method were able to control their immune response, causing fewer flu-like symptoms compared to the control group.

Not only that, but there have been many studies proving cold plunging to be beneficial in a variety of ways. From enhanced mood and reduced inflammation and muscle soreness to improved immune systems and an accelerated metabolism, it certainly seems like an adventurous yet research-backed way to improve your overall health. Unfortunately, like most medical research, the studies have mostly been carried out on men, so it may not be as effective or safe for women. 

One reason for this is that women are more sensitive to the cold than men (meaning they don’t need as cold a plunge as men), so women start shivering at a higher temperature. This means women feel colder and less comfortable than men during the same cooling protocol. 

In 2020, a literature review found that cold water swimming prior to pregnancy may lead to better outcomes for pregnancy compared to those who didn’t engage in that activity. However, there’s no evidence supporting that cold water immersion is safe for pregnant women, and it has been known to significantly alter blood flow to the fetus, which could be harmful.

As hot water exposure, such as hot tubs, is well-known to be potentially harmful to an unborn child, some “experts” are claiming that cold water must be safe because it’s the opposite. However, there’s no evidence to support this. In fact, there’s actually evidence supporting that cold exposure may lead to preterm birth. This is why it’s especially important that women avoid this method during pregnancy. 

If you suffer from painful menstrual cramps, it also wouldn’t be wise to take a cold water plunge, especially during menstruation. A 2022 meta-analysis with 78,068 female students found that primary dysmenorrhea menstrual cramps may sometimes result from cold exposure during menstruation, particularly if there is no known underlying condition. Cold water immersion, as well as eating cold foods during menstruation, was found to be a potential risk factor. There currently isn’t any research indicating that practicing cold water exposure during other phases of your cycle will worsen menstrual cramps, just on or around your period. 

Studies have shown that cold water immersion has many cardiovascular benefits, including reduced blood lipids, reduced inflammation, and reduced stress and anxiety. However, extreme temperatures may pose a risk for those who already have a heart-related condition, and it’s potentially more risky for women compared to men.

Although there isn’t much research on this, women have been shown to experience greater cardiovascular strain than men. A small study of 14 people (seven men and seven women) involved exposing participants to cool, neutral, and hot air temperatures while submerging their left hand and foot first in warm water for five minutes, followed by cold water for 40 minutes.

After submerging their hands and feet in cold water, the female participants were shown to experience greater cardiovascular strain than men, which was detected by increased heart rate, blood pressure, and cold-induced vasodilation reaction in the fingers and toes.

Despite this being a small study, it’d be wise for women with a history of heart disease to avoid cold water immersion. It’d especially be important for these women to consult their doctor first before attempting a cold water plunge.

2. Keto Diet

The keto diet (or ketogenic diet) involves consuming a very low amount of carbohydrates and replacing these carbs with fat, with the goal of promoting the body’s fat burning process. It was originally used in the 1920s to treat people with epilepsy, as the diet was found to reduce the frequency and intensity of seizures.

Nowadays, men benefit from this diet because of its ability to help shred pounds while also building muscle mass, which is appealing to a lot of men. However, due to its restrictive macronutrient ratio, the ketogenic diet isn’t appropriate for many women. In particular, it isn’t ideal for pregnant women or women who are nursing. In fact, a ketogenic diet during gestation has been shown to result in alterations in embryonic organ growth, which may be associated with organ dysfunction and behavioral changes in postnatal life.

Plus, as the keto diet lowers fiber intake, estrogen levels can increase and worsen estrogen dominance. This could affect your menstrual cycle negatively and your fertility. This isn’t to say that the keto diet is bad for all women, as some women notice considerable benefits to their cycle from keto. It really depends on your individual situation.

3. Intermittent Fasting

There are plenty of benefits of intermittent fasting, such as improved blood pressure and less brain fog. However, if a woman is looking to lose weight, intermittent fasting isn’t the way to go. One of the main reasons for this is because short-term fasting increases cortisol in the body, which in turn leads to increased insulin resistance and fatigue, as well as a decrease in the conversion of thyroid hormone over time. This will actually make your body hold onto fat and store it. 

Plus, as it’s so easy to undereat when intermittent fasting, it could cause a caloric deficit that may result in a menstrual disorder because of the disruption to hormones. Again, this wouldn’t make for a good weight-loss environment. 

Furthermore, cortisol is a stress hormone that can raise blood sugar by releasing stored glucose. As intermittent fasting influences cortisol, in men, this tends to slow down digestion, increase blood pressure, and raise blood sugar. In women, chronically high levels of cortisol can disrupt reproductive hormone production and delay ovulation and menstruation. This is why many fertility-focused doctors and nutritionists recommend women eat a high-protein breakfast within 90 minutes of waking up to stabilize their blood sugar and keep cortisol levels stable.

Closing Thoughts

Although the current gender debate attempts to blur the differences between the sexes, it’s quite clear that on a biological level, women are significantly different from men. This is why it’s important to do your own research and consult your doctor before trying the latest health trend influencers and celebrities are promoting.

For optimal health, it’s important to listen to your body. As each phase of your cycle requires different nutrients, it’s better to eat for that specific phase. You’ve probably noticed that during different times in your cycle, you’re a little more energized or fatigued – that’s why it’s also important to exercise for the phase of the cycle you’re in. Being in tune with your body and hormones is one of the best ways to maintain a healthy hormonal balance and ensure long-term health.

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