Half of the active population goes through monthly menstrual periods. However, it is not only until late that people are actually paying attention to how monthly cycles affect a woman’s training, nutrition, and supplementation.
Having a regular menstrual cycle is a good thing for women athletes because it is a sign of good health, great energy balance, and good hormonal function.
Basics of the cycle
On the average, the menstrual cycle lasts for about 28 days. The first phase is called the follicular phase and the 2nd half is the luteal phase. During the early follicular phase, estrogen and progesterone levels are relatively low so exercise performance not affected as much.
When estrogen and progesterone start to rise in the late follicular and luteal phase, that’s when it has an effect on performance and a woman’s mood.
How does this affect training and nutrition?
During the follicular phase:
- To keep it simple, your hormones is at its lowest during menstruation. This is the best time to train hard because your body is at its most resilient so you can do high intensity sessions. The closer you move to ovulation, the more you can focus on strength.
- At this stage, you should focus on increasing iron intake. Eat more dark chicken, red meat, shellfish, beans and peas.
- Inflammation can be controlled by increasing your intake of fresh fruits, whole grains, and taking fish oil supplements.
During the luteal phase:
- On day 14, your estrogen and progesterone will start to go up and you can make your training steadier at this time. You can also take advantage of your body’s ability to turn fat into fuel at a faster rate during this phase.
- Your body will need more carbs at this time as it burns more calories as you get closer to your period. Give your body what it needs instead of fighting hunger.
- As your progesterone rises, so does your temperature so keep yourself hydrated.
- If you suffer from menstrual cramps, take magnesium, zinc, or fish oil supplements.
If you are training to race or compete, there is no way to make them sync to your cycle. However, you may use the information above to get the most out of your training and make sure that you put in the right recovery and rest.