HPN 29: An Ultra Story Of Minding Menstruation and Health, Plus: Cold Thermogenesis Is It Right For You? (Hint: It’s Not For Everyone)

October 8, 2021


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Welcome to episode 29 of Holistic Performance Nutrition (HPN) featuring Tawnee Gibson, MS, CSCS, CISSN, and Julie McCloskey, a certified holistic nutrition coach who you can find over at wildandwell.fit.

On this episode:

Julie’s 50k Debrief


  • Kept her menstrual cycle normal through 5 months of intense training!
  • Ate more overall especially post workout.
  • Took 2 full non-running days per week.
  • Prioritized sleep.
  • Self-care: chiro/acu/massage for nervous system support.
  • Sports nutrition and hydration:
    • Went from not eating much to eating every hour, and not using many electrolytes during my run to having a bottle of Skratch and preloading with Precision Hydration the night before and morning of a long run. Also was way better at eating ASAP after runs and not starting a run hungry.
  • Strength work and specificity training:
    • Julie’s legs were MVP. Not even sore the following week?? They carried me through without a peep while my entire upper half was screaming in discomfort.
  • Mentally speaking Julie shares that these changes were super positive for her wellbeing but they were difficult to do.


  • Race feels and nutrition:
    • Got nauseous fairly early in. Mile 13 started to feel sick, swollen, difficulty breathing, and off. Appetite disappeared. This was new, didn’t happen in training. Stuck to her plan until she literally couldn’t anymore. Goal was 200-250cals/hour and of that it consisted of 60g/CHO/hr.
  • Mindset/attitude:
    • Difficult day, accepted it, and did her best to manage her condition. Had to keep a quiet and calm mind because even too much internal chatter made her want to puke. Stayed calm and responded in both a disciplined and compassionate way.
    • Crisis management and problem solving came into play—practiced a lot of mindset training prior to race and that helped.
    • Was only 15min from goal time despite adversity.
    • An example of knowing one’s self and following that self-awareness to guide forward.

Areas to improve upon in the future:

  • Body’s oxygen transport system 🙂
    • Altitude was a crusher. Mix of intensity, smoke, heat, and altitude—pain! 
    • Couldn’t eat or drink for the last 5 hours of the race. 
    • Tried nasal breathing, keeping calm, and basically just focusing on the breath.
  • Possibly went out too fast, but it wasn’t anywhere near blazing. 


Cold Thermogenesis: Who should avoid this practice?

What is it? 

  • Thermogenesis is the process by which your body produces heat.
  • So cold thermogenesis is the process by which our body generates heat to keep us alive when expose to cold.
  • Body will pull out all the stops to stay “normal” at 98.6 degrees.
    • When it’s exposed to cold it accelerates various metabolic processes such as muscle activity, fat burning and energy production to keep us warm. 
  • 3 mechanisms that protect us from the cold:
    • Vasoconstriction
    • Shivering
    • Non-shivering cold thermogenesis – activation of brown fat to keep us warm

Pros of CT

  • Increase immune function
  • Increase in muscle recovery/improve performance
  • Reduce inflammation
  • Increase activity of antioxidant enzymes
  • Increase in mood and cognition
    • Relief in depression symptoms
  • Increase in caloric burn
  • Increase in metabolic processes
  • Increase in energy
  • Can be used in treatment of obesity and metabolic diseases
  • Mental toughness, resiliency


  • Can be too much for a compromised system/ some pre-existing conditions.
    • Eg) Low thyroid because you already have a decreased tolerance to cold.
  • Norepinephrine release which does a lot of good, but constricts blood vessels so can be too much for people who struggle with conditions such as Raynaud’s.
  • Caution with going from hot to cold as big blood pressure changes can be dangerously quick.
  • Can add to stress when not used appropriately.
  • Can be taken too far, especially for more sensitive individuals.

Conditions in which to avoid CT

  1. Hypothyroid/thyroid autoimmunity .
  2. Severe HPA axis dysfunction (including cortisol issues or amenorrhea).
  3. Low progesterone.
  4. Overly stressed out- While it can help you manage stress, in the wrong setting it is an added stress and if you don’t tolerate well it just creates more stress.
  5. Timing with cycle: May need to avoid ~8-10 days before period when body is working hard to create progesterone (signs of low progesterone- anxiety, poor sleep, hair loss).
  6. Any chronic ailment/condition- weigh the pros and cons. Will cold therapy help or hurt? If any chance it can hurt then don’t do it. Prioritize healing, nutritional deficiencies and sleep. Direct that energy toward healing not heating the body.
  7. Also- if using it as a “hack” to lose weight, this is the wrong approach.


  • Tawnee and Julie share personal experience and histories of cold exposure.
  • Intensity of the cold and duration matters.
  • For some of the population it is a really healthy lifestyle behavior but must be used with caution and start slowly.
  • Who shouldn’t do it? People who have a low tolerance to cold and generally unhealthy people (focus on your specific healing needs first and get a good baseline of health).
  • How do you know? Observe your body closely—excessive shivering? Dizziness? white/pink/blue skin? Taken too far.

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