When Evgenia Koroleva began learning about her menstrual cycle and the effect it was having on her, week by week, she says, “It blew my mind. Why did I know so little about my body? “Owner of a gym, Koroleva has since created a training program based on an individual’s cycle, which it says will optimize the results.
Yours isn’t the first to take the menstrual cycle into account when it comes to exercise. Interest has grown enormously in recent years, with elite athletes following the physiological changes and coaches educating themselves on the effects. For the rest of us, there are apps and bike trackers, but the area is still woefully under-researched (blame male-dominated medicine and sports).
There are also many conflicting results, while nearly half of the existing studies are of poor quality, says Kelly Lee McNulty, a doctoral student at Northumbria University who investigates the effects of the menstrual cycle on performance, adaptation and recovery. . “While menstrual cycle-based training and performance is such an interesting and popular concept right now, there is not enough high-quality published evidence,” he says. (There is even less on the impact of hormonal contraception on exercise performance, which is why here we are referring to the menstrual cycle, it is for women who do not take the pill or do not use an implant.) However, there are generalities that might be helpful to some women. This is how your cycle may be affecting your training.
Know your cycle
The 28-day cycle is divided into two halves: follicular and luteal, on either side of ovulation. In very general terms, taking a 28-day cycle as a textbook example, McNulty defines the most relevant phases as early follicular (days one to five), with low estrogens and progesterone; late follicular (days six to 12), with high estrogen and low progesterone; and medium luteal (days 20 to 23), with high levels of estrogen and progesterone. “Women are so different; we experience our menstrual cycles differently and a blanket approach is not going to work for everyone, ”she says. Collect your own data, he advises (there are numerous applications, but a notebook is fine) “and then look for patterns.” If you can do a high intensity workout one week and barely do it the next, it doesn’t mean your fitness has regressed. If your motivation is suffering, it does not mean that it is a failure. It could all just be hormonal. “So you have daily hormonal fluctuations, so everything becomes more complex,” says McNulty.
Try to exercise despite symptoms
“There are over 150 symptoms, like sore breasts, headaches, and nausea… potentially, it’s time to slow down if you don’t feel it,” says McNulty. “But it has also been shown that moderate intensity exercise, such as yoga, is beneficial for premenstrual symptoms. “Around days three to five of your period, estrogen starts to rise,” so you may start to feel better and want to exercise at that point. “Koroleva says,” Work out on your period is a good way to offset your symptoms. “
Push yourself until week three …
In the late follicular and mid-luteal phases, estrogen is higher. McNulty says that one of its many effects is to help build muscle mass. “This is when we can really power female bodies,” says Koroleva. “For the first three weeks, we pushed it in terms of strength training and added cardio. Our bodies don’t have a lot of testosterone, but it does rise during ovulation and this makes it an ideal time to really push yourself, due to the energy levels. “This is the time when you can set your personal milestones and” navigate through high intensity training, “he says. However, it is not a fact.” In that mid-luteal phase, progesterone rises; that has its own physiological effects, so you may not notice that difference. ” he says, “It’s just being aware of what might work for you.”
… but beware of injuries related to ovulation time
There is some evidence that when estrogen is highAround the late follicular phase, there is an increased risk of injury, because the hormone makes the ligaments and tendons more lax. For example, an anterior cruciate ligament (knee) injury is more likely. “It’s something to be aware of, but I would never say don’t train,” says McNulty. “But if you know that this phase could have a higher risk of injury, you could warm up better.”
Take advantage of estrogen
While it can make you more prone to injury, estrogen also has benefits. It is believed to have a positive effect on mood, “so this could increase your motivation to train,” says McNulty. “It also has neuromuscular effects, so it may indicate that you need to increase your ability to activate your muscles. There is evidence to suggest that our ability to recover from training improves, since Estrogen is believed to have a protective function against muscle damage.. “It also reduces the inflammatory response, so it could reduce muscle soreness.” This could mean that we recover more quickly and therefore adapt to training more easily. “
Estrogen is also believed to reduce the amount of carbohydrates the body uses as fuel for exercise, rather than burning fat. “In theory, it could be that when estrogen is high, your body could use more fat for energy, but again there are conflicting research findings,” says McNulty. There is some evidence that metabolism speeds up towards the end of the cycle (and this may be why you have carbohydrate cravings). “In any weight loss program, the goal is to create a calorie deficit in the body,” says Koroleva. However, if you go too far, it can backfire. “If you are trying to lose weight and you are in the second phase of your cycle, if you are doing a high intensity training and you do not add carbohydrates and you do not increase your calories, your body can start to support the weight. It is almost contradictory, but due to hormonal changes, calories must increase. “
Don’t overheat in week four
In the mid-luteal phase, progesterone rises along with estrogen. This may limit some of the effects of estrogen, but it has its own consequences, McNulty says. “Basal body temperature increases, so if you’re doing an endurance sport, you may be struggling a bit more in a warm environment in that mid-luteal phase, and you may need to adopt cool down strategies.” Progesterone is also a “calming hormone,” he says. It can increase sleep, but it can also affect the way the brain acquires new abilities. Trying to perfect a dance routine or change your golf technique can be more difficult during this phase.
Take it easy
“After the third week, slow down and do more restful exercise, like yoga or Pilates,” says Koroleva. “This is not the time to try to break records or do a lot of strength training. If you are trying to lose weight, this is a good time for long walks and low intensity training. In a world where we are surrounded by these very high intensity workouts and we hit our bodies to the ground, working with your cycle is a much kinder way to take care of your body. “
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism