Your menstrual cycle can have a big effect on your training, how you are feeling and how much you are able to lift or perform. Below is a table of the 28 day cycle and the phases within it. Estrogen and Progesterone are the key hormones that fluctuate within the menstrual cycle.
Estrogen – Responsible for increasing the metabolic rate using carbs for energy and controlling hunger.
Progesterone – Normally the hormone that makes us women feel awful, tired and hungry. It has also been suggested that it can block Estrogen and cause the muscle to break down.
Follicular phase – In this stage, is where Estrogen is released, we are likely to have higher pain freeholds in this stage, increasing levels of endurance and we are stronger in our voluntary force generation. With Estrogen increasing and Progesterone low we are able to work efficiently, carrying out a high amount of heavy sets and also have a very good recovery. This means it is the best time for muscle growth and for training well.
This is also the best time for you to adapt and start changing your eating habits (I will not say the word ‘DIET’ as that should only be used in the fact that we are all adapting our own diets, not being on a ‘diet’). The reason for this is you are less likely to have cravings, whereas in the Luteal phase you will most likely have them. Also in the Follicular phase your body is able to use carbs for energy more effectively. Ovulation (Normally around day 14)
At ovulation your Estrogen levels will peak, your core body temperature will increase, you may start to feel hungrier and you will still be feeling pretty STRONG, this could possibly be a good time to push yourself that bit further to lift heavier. Research has shown (Journal of physiology) that we have an 11% increase In strength in our quads and hand grip in this stage. This also tends to be the stage where we are more prone to injury so be careful
Luteal phase – In this stage your Estrogen levels decrease and your Progesterone levels increase. Naturally you will tend to feel weaker, more tired, bloated and even psychologically not in a good place. Your body temperature will be higher and metabolically your body will burn more calories as it is at its highest, but in return you will feel hungrier and will consume more. This also tends to be the time where you crave certain foods (for most of us it sugar or chocolate) as you know it is hard to avoid these cravings and we normally give in. In the Luteal phase especially the second part I would suggest you avoid lifting too heavy, maybe opt for lower weights and higher reps, or adapt to a different style of training. This is the stage where you should not beat yourself up if you are unable to lift as heavy as you normally would, embrace your body and wait for the Follicular phase to build strength.
Menses – This is where we start to bleed, Estrogen will then become more dominant, Progesterone will normalise along with your body temperature and metabolic rate returning to normal.
So you can now work out when your dates are of the different parts of your own cycle, and then tailor you training around your body. You can now be aware that at certain times of the month you just may not be able to lift as much or perform as well. Not because you are weak or a failure, but because your bodies processes won’t allow you.
I hope this has been helpful to you all.