Harness your monthly menstrual cycle to optimise performance
Have you ever noticed that at different times of the month you feel like you can take on the world while at other times, you feel like a shadow of the athlete you know you have become?
This is because the hormones that govern your menstrual cycle have such a significant impact on your insulin sensitivity, metabolic state and training performance. Each month, the female body goes through a series of events, and if understood, can be a real advantage to your performance results.
What if I told you that you could harness your monthly cycle to reach new personal bests, eat loads of carbs and train like a beast? Read on to find out more.
Day 1-13: Menstrual and Follicular Phase
From day 1-14, women will experience increasing tolerance to pain, increasing force generating capacity and increased endurance. This is the time to work with you higher insulin sensitivity by fuelling your body with quality carbohydrates after intense workouts.
This will help you to build lean muscle mass and ultimately help you to hit a new personal best. It is important to note that women are more likely to injure themselves around during the ovulation phase (Day 14), due to higher oestrogen levels. So while women should aim to train hard, care should be taken to ensure the quality of the movement first.
In short… Go hard in the gym and eat carbs
After day 14- Luteal Phase
After this time, it can feel like you are fighting an uphill battle in the gym as the women’s body will be more reliant on fats for fuel. While at first glance this seems like an advantage, in reality, it will mean your body will need to work harder to make fuel available to power your workout. This will increase the rate of fatigue, both at a muscular and cardiovascular level.
Around this time, your metabolic rate is at its peak, running around 7.7% faster than normal. Interestingly, while your body is enjoying a higher thermic effect, your insulin sensitivity is low and your body is craving more carbohydrates. Giving way to these cravings, coupled with less activity as a result of bloating or fatigue, can lead to ideal conditions for weight gain. Decreases in our feel good hormone, serotonin, helps to explain why many women experience poor mood and irritability the week prior to getting their period.
This is the time to start to de-load your program, lower your intensity or enjoy more restorative training such as yoga. It is recommended that women adopt a higher fat, lower carb diet at this time, as it will help you to capitalise on fat loss potential and calm food cravings.
In short… Adopt lower intensity workouts and eat less carbs
In summary, as you move through your cycle you should consider programming to optimise performance. Your cycle effects your strength, how well you build lean muscle mass and how well you burn fat.
Ange Drake is an personal trainer, women’s empowerment coach and fitness blogger in the northern suburbs of Melbourne. She is the director of one of the few womens’ only strength training gyms in Melbourne, 23W. Ange helps women to learn how to use strength based training, nutritional strategies and a positive mindset to transform their bodies, relationship with food and mind.
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