Menstrual cycle and training
So ladies, I’m going to talk about menstrual cycle and training.
Do you ever have those weeks where your just tired, cba and drained?
Weeks where training is hard, you can’t achieve what you did a few weeks ago but nothing has changed in the way of food, sleep or lifestyle.
Do you feel bloated, craving sugary foods and demotivated a certain week in the month or even just a few days each month?
It’s the menstrual cycle.
Firstly let me start by saying it’s extremely healthy to have periods. If your not having periods and feeling the above you could be overtraining, undernourishing and suffering from Amenorrhea.
“Amenorrhea is the absence of menstruation — one or more missed menstrual periods. Women who have missed at least three menstrual periods in a row have amenorrhea, as do girls who haven’t begun menstruation by age 15. The most common cause of amenorrhea is pregnancy.”
Now we all moan about having them but it’s a good sign, and today we are going to go over why it’s good to monitor your symptoms.
Firstly I would recommend using a diary or an app to note down feelings of fatigue, cravings, bloating, spots etc. I use a period tracker app and it’s great for monitoring the symptoms as well as length of cycle, emotions, and estimating my start date. It’s 99% accurate of the day il start.
With this to hand we can see weeks we feel better than others. If noting down a training log too, you will see weeks where you are stronger, faster and more energised than others. I would always recommend having an exercise diary or even noting down in your diary how the session went and felt.
You maybe able to train harder or find it easier to train at certain times in the month. This is due to the changing hormone levels throughout the cycle.
It’s ok to train when on your period too, almost 80% of women said that exercising helped to ease period pains. This was a study done by women’s health.
When we exercise we release endorphins which is the happy hormone. This can decrease the period pains we feel. After we stop exercising the pains can come back but for some they don’t. It’s important to remember that every women is different.
Phases of the cycle
Menstruation is your period.
Follicular is from the first day of menstruation to ovulation. 1-14days
Ovulation is the releasing of the egg at around day 14.
The luteal phase is from ovulation to the just before you start your period (menstruation). Last about 14 days.
Monthly cycle breakdown
Week 1: On the first day of your period, estrogen and progesterone levels are at their lowest. This makes us feel more powerful as this is the closest we get the becoming super women as we feel less pain (higher pain tolerance) and may recover faster. We feel more active during these weeks than previous and it’s all due to the lower levels of hormones. They do gradually rise during your period. My theory is because we have those bloody horrible period pains going on, a little exercise is no where near as painful. It’s a relief haha.
Week 2: In the week after your period ends, your energy levels might begin to go up. Estrogen levels begin rising quickly in preparation for ovulation (releasing an egg from the ovary). This is where you can push hard. Go for the PB, go for an increased 1RM. Use this extra energy in a high intensity workout. Just remember to warm up and cool down properly with dynamic and mobility stretches/ exercises.
Week 3: Estrogen levels peak around the time of ovulation, about two weeks before the next period for most women. This is when women are more likely to cry, kick off without any warning and be more moody. Elevated progesterone delays your sweat response, causing your body to take longer to expel excess warmth.
This means our heat tolerance isn’t great and we can feel warmer quicker and get hot flushes. This means workouts will be harder, along with feeling sluggish and bloated. But it’s important to still exercise during this time especially as serotonin levels can drop and we crave food to give us a happy fix again. Exercise has been proven to boost your mood, so especially in these weeks it’s important to still train. First thing in the morning maybe the best time to exercise to boost your mood throughout the day and miss the energy slump that can happen later on.
Week 4: In the week before your next period, you may feel less energy as both estrogen and progesterone levels are falling. Being active can help your PMS symptoms.
If your feeling really low on energy just reduce the intensity of your workouts, enjoy a lighter session or have a day off. However, make up for it next week when your feeling up for it again. By doing a lighter session your not pushing yourself too much or going to lose motivation when your not lifting what you normally do. But your still get the benefit of being active.
Staying hydrated is important.
An increase in body mass is common prior to menstruation, due to water retention, alterations in electrolyte balance and glycogen storage. These can have a slight impact on women where weight is important for competition.
Women using hormonal contraception (like the pill, patch, shot, or vaginal ring) your energy levels may still go up and down with your cycle, but the differences may not be as noticeable.
Remember every women is different and we can all train throughout our cycles, we may have no symptoms at all and be fine. Some may have more than others. That’s why it’s important to log everything and to be mindful of the above to work to your bodies advantages.