Exercising while on Birth Control Pills

Does taking birth control pills have an impact on your exercise regimen? Studies show that taking birth control pills will impact your ability to increase muscle mass and quickly recover your muscle strength.

Research on Birth Control Pills and Exercise

A few studies have examined whether or not taking birth control pills will have an effect on a woman’s body, specifically with regards to exercise. One study looked at the effects of oral contraceptives on a woman’s muscle mass. The findings were that taking birth control pills reduces the ability to gain muscle in comparison to control groups. The control group saw a 60% greater increase in muscle mass compared to the women on birth control pills.

A slight reduction in aerobic capacity has also been found in women taking birth control pills. However, this difference is minor and further studies are needed to understand the implications.

One study set out to determine whether the muscle damage seen in animals exposed to estrogen is also observable in human beings. Women who were taking birth control pills containing estrogen and progesterone were compared to women not on oral contraceptives. The women in both groups were asked to perform 50 muscle contractions using their arm muscles.

The findings of this study were significant in relation to recovery of muscle strength. It took the group on birth control two days longer to recover their muscle strength in comparison to the control group.

The Impact of Birth Control Pills on the Brain

Additional Studies have examined what happens to the brain when a woman is on birth control pills. One study showed that women taking oral contraceptives had larger volumes of gray matter in their pre-frontal cortex and temporal regions. This is in comparison to women not on oral contraceptives. However, it is unclear what this means for impact on exercise, behavior or health in general.

Birth Control Pills and Weight Gain

Some women are afraid that taking birth control pills will make them gain weight. Birth control pills contain estrogen, which increases the size of fat cells but does not increase the number of fat cells. It is possible to retain more fluid while taking birth control pills. The fluid retention may potentially show up in your hips, breasts and thighs. This may discourage some women who exercise regularly but are feeling larger due to fluid retention, despite their workout efforts.

Further studies are needed to determine the true impact of birth control pills on exercise outcomes. The current findings indicate that if you are taking birth control pills, you may find it more difficult to develop muscle mass or quickly recover muscle strength. However, these implications may not be significant if you are exercising for general fitness and not focused on muscle building and/or competitive athletics.

Additionally, the studies on the impact of birth control pills on your brain and aerobic capacity are not clear or conclusive enough. Further research is needed to understand the true impact of birth control pills on exercising and on your health in general.


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