Fast Talk, ep. 74: Why women are not small men, with Dr. Stacy Sims

In episode 74, we speak with Dr. Stacy Sims about the numerous and complex differences between male and female physiology, and the significant impact that has on women's training and performance.

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The VeloNews Fast Talk podcast is your source for the best training advice and most compelling insight on what it takes to become a better cyclist. Listen in as VeloNews managing editor Chris Case and our resident physiologist and coach, Trevor Connor, discuss a range of topics, including sport science, training, physiology, technology, nutrition, and more.

In episode 74, we speak with one of the leading researchers on how women’s physiology influences optimal training and performance.

There has been a long history of gender-neutralizing sports science. Money in sports science research is tight, and physiologists often assume they don’t have the resources to study male-female differences. We’ll address later in the show why that “added expense” assumption isn’t true, but the more important issue is that most research is conducted on men and then generalized to women.

The problem is that women are not just small men. Now that sports science research is being conducted specifically on women, we are discovering, not surprisingly, that men and women don’t have the same physiology. And what works for men doesn’t always work for women.

Dr. Stacy Sims has been leading a surge in research on women athletes. Her book Roar takes a deep dive into female physiology and how it impacts training. There’s a wealth of knowledge in the book – far too much to address in a single episode – but today we’ll focus on a few of its key points, including:

  • Stacy Sim’s background, and how she became a leader in women’s sport’s physiology
  • Why the “shrink it and pink it” approach to women’s sports research doesn’t work – optimal performance means tailoring training to the female physiology
  • How the menstrual cycle affects both training and performance, and why some types of training can be very effective at certain times during the month and relatively ineffective at others
  • Why all female athletes should track their cycle and learn how it impacts their training – there’s a very real physiological explanation why you sometimes get on the bike and just can’t put out the power
  • Why women often need more protein for recovery
  • The impact of birth control pills, and why the very common practice of giving athletes the pill may be misguided
  • Why research has too often ignored these questions, and why that actually presents a big opportunity for coaches and physiologists
  • Finally, Dr. Sims will offer advice specific to both masters and junior female athletes

Our primary guest today is, of course, Dr. Stacy Sims. Many of you know her as the founder of Osmo and one of the founders of Skratch Labs. But her research has always focused on the physiology of female athletes and her book Roar is a must-read.

In addition to Stacy, we also talk with Brent Bookwalter, a WorldTour pro with Michelton-Scott. His wife is an ex-professional cyclist and we discuss how their training regimens differ.

Finally, Chris speaks with Ruth Winder, a top pro with Trek-Segefredo and winner of the 2017 Redlands Classic. Ruth had some insights on how the length of women’s races affects race dynamics and, more importantly, as a big fan of Stacy’s book, how understanding the science specific to women has helped her training.

And one final note: We know that the majority of Fast Talk listeners are male. But before you say, “So much for this week’s episode,” we encourage you to listen in. Dr. Sims does a great job of explaining this complex subject. And as she points out later in this episode, just about every one of us has a wife, daughter, sister, or a female training partner. This is a sport that’s about helping one another out and you can’t help if you don’t understand.

And with that, let’s make you fast!

Fast Talk is available on all your favorite podcast services, including iTunesStitcherGoogle Play, and Soundcloud. If you enjoy the podcast, please take a moment to rate and comment on iTunes after listening.

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