Did you know that your menstrual cycle does more than causing a host of symptoms you dread during your “Time of Month?”
Your “cycle” actually has 4 phases that will each impact your energy, mood, and training differently. Today we are giving you a crash course in managing training within your menstrual cycle.
Menstrual Phase: Around Days 1-5
- Lower energy than normal
- Lower motivation than normal
- Bloating/digestive changes
- Lower estrogen levels
Progesterone and Estrogen are at their lowest of the month.
FSH (follicle-stimulating hormone) starts to increase.
If you’re feeling tired or weak, listen to your body. It’s okay (and maybe needed) for you to do a restorative yoga session or to get some active recovery work in, like a long walk or stretching. However, if you do feel good, there is no need to hold back as your hormones are in a good place to train well while avoiding injury.
The Follicular Phase: Around days 6-13
- Increased energy
- Increased strength, force production, and endurance
- Increased insulin sensitivity (ability to utilize carbs)
- High pain tolerance
- Mid-cycle “spotting” is possible during this phase
Estrogen and Testosterone start to rise.
FSH continues to rise, helping an egg mature in the ovary.
This is your training sweet spot. Take advantage of this phase of your cycle to make the most of your gym time. Not only will you feel your strongest and most “fit,” but you’ll also have the most control of your form and technique as your joints will not feel loose like they will later in the month.
The Ovulation Phase: Around Day 14
- Peak strength and endurance
- Peak energy
- Hormonal changes cause laxity in tendons which can lead to injury (ACL tear rates are 4-8x higher during ovulation)
- Happy and usually in more of a social mood
- You may feel the urge to be sexually intimate
- You will notice a change in vaginal discharge (this is also the time of the month you can get pregnant)
Estrogen and Testosterone reach peak levels.
FSH is at its peak.
You should keep your form 100% during this phase to avoid injury. Though you will feel strong, it’s also a time you need to be most careful as your joints and tendons are more relaxed.
The Luteal Phase: Around day 14 to around day 28
(To be honest, we feel this phase could be broken into two phases. One of which is really quite pleasant whereas the second half is the “time of the month” most women dread the most.)
- The first few days will feel similar to the Ovulation Phase slowly trending towards feeling worse
- Strength and endurance will start to decrease and level into a low point by the end of this phase
- You will burn 5-10% more calories
- Impaired carb tolerance (more varied blood sugar levels)
- A drop in Serotonin leads to unstable moods
- Increased sluggishness and fatigue
- The second half of this phase you will notice PMS symptoms like food cravings, bloating, hormonal headaches, anxiety, irritability, feelings of inadequacy
Estrogen and Testosterone decline during this time as Progesterone levels increase.
In the first half of this phase, you will feel pretty good in the weight room. Hold steady and keep showing up. Towards the end of this phase, you will likely feel pretty crappy and motivation may be at an all-time low. This may be a good time to take a “deload” or to scale back based on where you’re at that day. Typically, you will experience a day in the gym where you will be noticeably weaker than usual and this can be a good sign that your cycle is coming in the next 24-36 hours.
Keep in mind, these phases are only applicable if you are not taking hormonal birth control and even then, 28 days represents an “average” cycle length with some women’s cycle’s being as short as 20 days and others being as long as 60 days. Regardless of the length of a woman’s cycle, she will likely ovulate within 10-20 days before the start of her menstruation phase.
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