How well do you know your cycle and how it affects your training?
The surprising truth is that not many females realise how to train around their cycle, and I’m not surprised as it’s not something you hear about or are taught about in school.
So why does this matter?
As a woman, each month your body goes through a series of events known as the female menstrual cycle. What most women don't realize however is the influence this cycle can have on your metabolic state and training results.
Now, the start of your cycle begins immediately after you finish menstruating with the Follicular phase lasting from day zero to 14. This phase is characterized by increasing estrogen, normal progesterone, and an average body temperature.
From there, you move into Ovulation, which takes place around day 14. When this occurs, your estrogen level surge and progesterone starts to increase. Its very common that you begin to get hotter as your basal temperature goes up.
From day 15 to 28 of your cycle, you'll enter the Luteal phase where estrogen is declining, progesterone is increasing, and your body temperature remains higher than baseline – if no implantation has occurred, menstruation occurs and we start the whole cycle again.
What do you do with this information?
You have a higher tolerance for pain, as well as increasing levels of endurance. Your body will also be more prone to utilizing muscle glycogen to fuel exercise during this stage. To add to this, your insulin sensitivity levels will be higher during this phase, which means you can tolerate more carbohydrates in this phase of your cycle.
This can mean different things. Traditionally speaking, this is where your body becomes primed for conception - hormones are at peak levels, temperature is raised, metabolism increases, and you become more in the mood for you know what.
From a training perspective this is where you go for gold of a different kind, you can do more 1RM's, and Personal Bests and you’ll simply perform better at the gym or on the field.
One thing you want to watch out for in this phase is your craving for high carbohydrate foods. Your serotonin production will be lower, and that can promote poor mood and irritability. Your instinct will be to eat more carbs as they cause a rapid release of serotonin, instantly providing a mood boost and natural high.
In this phase women have a tendency to have poor insulin sensitivity (poor sugar regulation) and a fatigue quicker when exercising. In this part of the cycle its great to start powering down with moderate to slow paced exercise and a change in diet that sees increase in healthy fats and proteins and a drop in carbs. This drop in carbs can serve you well not only for weight loss but also for those who suffer from thrush/candida outbreaks and Acne breakouts.
I find this part interesting as many women still keep up the same intensity of training as they did every other week. Hormonally, this is your reset point. With the first day of your bleed, your estrogen and your testosterone are at their very lowest. This is a time for nourishment not punishment; it calls for nice walks, yoga, Pilates – activities that will give you body a break so you can be ready to start all over again.
It is important to note that the above information applies only to women with natural, regular periods; natural meaning, not on the pill or any form of contraception. This is explained below.
Questions you may have.
I’m on the pill, so how does this system work with me?
Unfortunately it doesn’t, being on the pill means you don’t ovulate or have a real period, you have what’s called a pill bleed. It’s a different ball game when it comes to being on the pill. Without ovulation, you won’t produce nowhere near as much progesterone. This is important to know as your natural progesterone stimulates your thyroid and is a calming hormone to your nervous system.
I have an irregular period and not a 28-day cycle so how does this work with me?
Again it doesn’t. Irregular periods whether short, long or all together non existent are symptom of something deeper happening inside and a cause for further investigation and treatment. Such causes could be Ceoliac/gluten sensitivity, thyroid issues, PCOS, Chronic stress just to name a few.
As hormones have a huge impact on training and vice versa, it is important to understand what is going on and listen to your body in every stage of your cycle. As every woman is different, it is also important to find out what is right for you.
If you want to know more about how you can maximize training with your cycle, fill out our online patient form here and start your journey today.