“Where you are at in your menstrual cycle has a massive impact on your metabolic state, strength, training, results and recovery. Work with your body, not against it” -Nicola Joyce
In 2016 Nicola wrote a great article for liftbigeatbig.com and to this day it is one of my most favorite! I learned an incredible amount of information about the female body and how to work around my crazy hormones. I base my meet prep and competition dates off what I’ve learned…so I figured why not write a little review on this topic to help a girl out! Let’s get right into it!
Your cycle is broken down into two 14 day phases, follicular & luteal.
Day 0-14 is the Follicular Phase or the low hormone phase. During this time your estrogen levels are making a comeback post menstruation and progesterone levels have normalized. Your bodies sensitivity to insulin is increased and you are able to intake higher amounts of carbs and use them more efficiently. You will also feel less fatigued and able to endure longer and harder workouts!
TRANSLATION: EAT ALL THE CARBS & HIT PR's (during this phase).
Day 14 is when Ovulation begins (about mid way through your cycle). Typically strength and power is increased as well as estrogen levels…watch out for injuries! I like competing right around my period ending because my hormones are on my side…for once!
Day 15-28 is the Luteal Phase also known as the high hormone phase. This is where we experience the “sleepies” or fatigue much quicker than usual. Your estrogen and progesterone levels are at their highest point about 5 days before menstruation, let the PMS begin. Feeling lethargic and bloated is normal, I suggest planning a deload or integrated HIIT, focusing on low weight and higher reps.
Take note that estrogen reduces carbohydrate oxidation and increases free fatty acid availability. This simply means your body will be using fat as fuel and not your glycogen stores. Carb cravings will be higher, but keep in mind your body is not using them the same way as it would during the follicular phase (your sensitivity is low).
Menstruation Phase: After you’ve survived a ride on a hormonal roller coaster your body goes back to normal and you start all over again.
During different phases of our cycle we will battle higher amounts of fatigue, make sure to focus on recovery during both phases but especially during your high hormone phase. Remember, women’s recovery window is a lot smaller than men’s so make sure to eat at least 45min-60min post training. Nutrition timing is important in order to give your body the building blocks to recover properly. The female body is so dang complex! If we educate ourselves on how our fine machinery works, we will have better training session and more effective nutrition approaches.
Nakamura, Y. et al. (2011) “Hormonal Response to Resistance Excercise During Different Menstration Cycle States”. Medicine & Science in Sports & Excercise, Vol. 43 (6) p. 967-973
Joyce, N. (2016) “Training & Recovery During Your Menstrual Cycle” p.1-18
Odell, N. (2006) “The Female Athlete: Understanding your cycle and performance” p.1-3