Making the most of your workouts during your period or throughout the course of your menstrual cycle.
Women are frequently misinformed about the phases of our menstrual cycle and how they affect training and nutrition, or more likely, they are not properly educated about these topics.
It’s critical to comprehend the phases we go through each month and how they affect performance, whether you’re a professional athlete or just interested in health and fitness.
For three to seven days during our period, we experience more than just a duller version of ourselves.
If we do not fuel appropriately during the period outside of when we are actually menstruating, it may actually reverse the improvements we have made in training.
Let’s examine why that is, and how to tailor your workout to fit your cycle.
The typical length of a cycle can be up to 35 days, not the standard 28 days that we have all been told or learnt.
This needs to be made clear first. If you keep track of your period, you may already be aware of this and feel panicked, as I did when I was sitting at 34 to 36 days.
Act I: Menses and the Follicular Phase
I would advise focusing on strength and power during this stage, even 1RM or 3RM tests, because if progesterone and estrogen increase later, that physiological capacity will decline.
Act II: Pre-Ovulation and the Follicular Phase
After your period, follicle-stimulating hormone is now actively working to transform the follicle into an egg during the following seven to nine days.
As estrogen levels rise, the anabolic impact also rises. In the event that the egg is fertilized, this effect heals the uterine lining and successfully prepares the oven.
I did, however, say anabolic. Yes, the woman hormone can aid in the growth of our muscle mass.
Nevertheless, increasing your volume a little during this phase can result in a fantastic hypertrophic reaction.
Prior to ovulation, testosterone also rises for a few days. If you test throughout this timeframe, studies have shown that your potential 1RM could improve by as much as 10%.
Lastly, and possibly most crucially, tendon laxity has been observed to drastically decrease during this phase, which is important for training purposes.
You may be aware of the worry of ACL tears and women who are in menstruation, but that worry is rather unwarranted.
When discussing female sex hormones alone, this phase, which occurs right after your period, is when you have the biggest potential risk of soft tissue damage.
Immediately after this: Ovulation
The completely developed egg is released at ovulation by the hormone luteinizing hormone (LH).
Act III: Luteal Stage
The luteal phase, where progesterone rises and estrogen declines, is where our friend LH starts our adventure.
We are currently launched into a catabolic condition, in contrast to just a few days ago.
The improvements we earned in Acts I–II may be lessened if we are not adequately fueled with enough protein, in addition to general exhaustion and decreased motivation (lack of serotonin).
The next step is obvious: start over from the beginning. I’ve often remarked that if there is one thing women are good at, it’s anticipating how we will feel at different times of the month.
But what should we do and how should we train during our cycle? At any point in our lives, health education doesn’t really teach us that.
It’s crucial to highlight that if you use an oral contraceptive or another type of chemical birth control, you should learn how the synthetic hormones they contain affect your menstrual cycle by doing some research, speaking with your OBGYN, and using those products. I’ve outlined a cadence that resembles a “normal” cycle.
- According to Balachandar, V., et al., “Effects of the Menstrual Cycle on Lower-Limb Biomechanics, Neuromuscular Control, and Anterior Cruciate Ligament Injury Risk: A Systematic Review.” 136, https://doi.org/10.32098/mltj.01.2017.17, Muscle Ligaments and Tendons Journal, vol. 7, no. 1, 2019.
- Yann Le Meur and Christophe Hausswirth, “Physiological and Nutritional Aspects of Post-Exercise Recovery.” 861-882 in Sports Medicine, vol. 41, no. 10, 2011, doi:10.2165/11593180-000000000-00000.
- Janse de Jonge, Xanne A. “Effects of the Menstrual Cycle on Exercise Performance.” Sports Medicine, vol. 33, no. 11, 2003, pp. 833–851., https://doi.org/10.2165/00007256-200333110-00004.
- Najmabadi, Shahpar, et al. “Menstrual Bleeding, Cycle Length, and Follicular and Luteal Phase Lengths in Women without Known Subfertility: A Pooled Analysis of Three Cohorts.” Pediatric and Perinatal Epidemiology, vol. 34, no. 3, 2020, pp. 318–327., https://doi.org/10.1111/ppe.12644.
- The Normal Menstrual Cycle and the Control of Ovulation – NCBI Bookshelf. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK279054/.
- Wikström-Frisén, Lisbeth, et al. “Increasing Training Load without Risking the Female Athlete Triad: Menstrual Cycle Based Periodized Training May Be an Answer?” The Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness, vol. 57, no. 11, 2017, https://doi.org/10.23736/s0022-4707.16.06444-6.