Periods and Weight Loss
By Dee Segrave
Ladies… Do you remember learning, in school, about the phases of your menstrual cycle, the hormones that are dominant in specific phases, and how your body responds to these hormones?
Because I sure don’t. And if I did, I certainly didn’t retain it!
I started the journey of learning about the menstrual cycle and all the hormones in play when I began working with more women on a holistic level. This in-depth knowledge has helped myself and my clients to achieve sustainable health and weight-loss results.
I was also on a personal 12-month journey of ‘fixing’ my own cycle after being on the oral contraceptive pill for 8 years. This was the only time I actually began to understand what my body was doing on a daily/monthly basis!
I discovered I had a completely distorted understanding of the menstrual cycle, when women are most fertile and did not know that you can work with your cycle once you become in tune with all the ins and outs of your own body.
This blog will be a 2-part series, in the next piece I will be running through what we feel in the particular phases of our cycles and how we can structure our training, recovery and weight-loss journey around them.
First, we need to understand the 3 phases of the menstrual cycle:
Women’s cycles generally range from 25-36 days. However at least 20% of women have irregular cycles, and only around 10% of women have cycles that are actually 28 days. Menstrual bleeding typically lasts anywhere between 3-7 days.
The follicular phase of the menstrual cycle will last around 12-14 days, but this is the phase that varies the most, depending on many factors. The ovulatory phase lasts about 1-3 days and the luteal phase lasts around 14 days before the next cycle begins.
Now that we’ve got the basics here, we can talk about the hormones that come into play and what their roles are.
- We’ve all heard of this one before, but do we know the actual functions? Oestrogen is produced in the ovaries and is responsible for regulating the menstrual cycle. When an egg is not fertilised oestrogen decreases to trigger the menstrual cycle. It also controls the growth of the uterine lining during phase 1 of our cycles, plays a role in blood clotting, maintaining strength and thickness of the vaginal wall and urethral lining, vaginal lubrication and more. It also has an effect on skin, hair, mucous membranes and the pelvic muscles. So oestrogen does a lot for us! And this is why we can often have some major PMS issues if we are in an oestrogen dominant state. But more on that in part 2!
- Progesterone is the other well known reproductive hormone. It is a steroid hormone produced by the Corpus Luteum – a temporary endocrine gland that is produced after ovulation. Progesterone prepares the uterus for pregnancy by thickening the endometrial lining to accept a fertilised egg. It also prohibits contractions in the uterus that may cause rejection of an egg. An increased level progesterone will mean that ovulation does not occur.
When an egg is not fertilised the Corpus Luteum breaks down which decreases the levels of progesterone, this along with a decrease in oestrogen is what causes our menstrual bleeding to begin.
Follicle-Stimulating Hormone (FSH):
- This one is not as well known, but as the name indicates this hormone is what stimulates the growth of ovarian follicles before the release of a single egg from the strongest follicle. Unlike oestrogen and progesterone, this hormone is produced in the pituitary gland in the brain.
Luteinising Hormone (LH):
- This hormone is also produced in the pituitary gland in the brain, and is responsible for the trigger of ovulation and the development of the Corpus Luteum in our luteal phase.
So that’s a pretty good run-down of what’s happening inside our bodies day-to-day basis, hopefully you’ve learnt a little bit more about your menstrual cycle!
Tune in to the next blog to learn how to work with your period for your fitness and weight-loss journey.
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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