Pros and Cons of Phytoestrogens
Phytoestrogens. If you’re a show competitor your coach has mentioned this word before. If you’re any type of other athlete this word might have crossed your path once or twice as well. But what are they, and are they “good” for us?
I found a study, that can be found HERE that talks about the pros and cons. I absolutely suggest you read through the whole thing but I will also give a quick and dirty summary as well. Esentially phytoestrogens are found in plants/foods and have a molecular makeup that is ALLLLLLMOST the same as estrogen in the body. These phytoestrogens have the ability to bond to the same receptors as estrogen, and in some cases cause very similar effects to the body. There are some subtle differences as well. For example, phytoestrogens bond much better to one of the two main estrogen receptors in the body.
For most people who might be suffering from hormonal imbalances from their environment, phytoestrogens might be very good for you. Phytoestrogens have been shown to help menopausal symptoms, slow down osteoporosis and prevent heart disease. Now what I want you to recognize here is that the three things that phytoestrogens help also tend to be linked to low levels of estrogen in the body. In that case, phytoestrogens might help “top up,” hormone levels in those deficient. So elderly might have extra benefit from phytoestrogens.
For the show prep athlete and some other demographics it might not be the same benefit. Let me just copy and paste a part from the study
” in humans, it is generally accepted that consumption of isoflavones-rich soy foods suppresses circulating estrogen and progesterone levels and can attenuate the preovulatory surge of luteinizing hormone (LH) and follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH),” so this can have an effect on the body and possibly screw up ovulation.
But I just said soy helps those with potentially low hormones?!
So I think it probably best to look at this from a larger picture. Phytoestrogens can be thought of as sex hormone-like. If you’re low in them, then it might help. If your hormones are “normal,” then it might fuck things up.
In female prep athletes we know that the stress of dieting and prep can have a negative impact on cortisol levels (stress fucks up males too, lets be clear.) In females this happens through a mechanism called “prenegnalone steal,” and can cause weight loss to stop and the body to hold water. If the athlete is in a state of high stress then it is my hypothesis that these phytoestrogens can give more fuel to the prenegnalone steal and therefore cause excess water weight and a “flattening out,” effect. If the athlete is not stressed about their prep and in a generally good mood then I would hypothesize that phytoestrogens might have less of an effect.
In males I would say it’s more straight forward in that phytoestrogens can bump testosterone out of it’s place in SHBG and have the athlete appear like estrogen is high (more water retention, possible mood changes.)
My advice then is that if you’re in a state of stress, then avoid the beer, soy and peanut butter (all containing high phytoestrogens.) If you’re not stressed then phytoestrogens might be good for you, they might not. Lastly, then, the best way to avoid any issues or stressing the body would be to avoid phytoestrogens.
If you’re feeling run down from dieting, peanut butter is likely the last thing you need to make anything go better!