Maximising your Monthly’s
I recently have just covered the topic of the female cycle in my studies that I am doing currently and I have to say it’s fascinating how many changes occur in the female body throughout the cycle!! So, in light of my newly found knowledge I thought it’s only right to give my girls and insight in how to optimise there cycle…. SORRY fellas you’ll have to sit this one out and skip to another blog for some knowledge bombs 🙂
Unfortunately girls, it’s not as simple as having a training and nutritional program and sticking to it week in week out. For you girls (referring to premenopausal ovulating women here) you have to also deal with fluctuating hormones at different times of the month. These will affect some females more than others but as long as your aware of what’s happening in your monthly cycle then it’s possible to manipulate your training and nutritional content to maximise how you feel and cope.
So I will quickly cover the cycle phases and what happens to your hormones.
Day 1-14; The Follicular Phase appropriately named as this is because the follicle which is holding the egg starts developing. So day 1 is the start of menstruation and the hormones oestrogen and progesterone levels are low.
Then from around day 14 ovulation occurs where the follicle ruptures from a surge in luteinising hormone and the egg is released. Oestrogen peaks here and progesterone levels start to increase.
Day 15-28; The Luteal Phase where the follicle turns into the hormone secreting structure ‘the corpus luteum‘ which secretes progesterone making this the dominant hormone at this time. At this time your body temperature increases so if you have ever wondered why some nights you’re particularly warm this is why! If the egg is not fertilised, then the corpus luteum degrades causing both oestrogen and progesterone levels to fall and a negative feedback loop occurs causing menstruation to begin the next cycle.
Training and menstruation
In the first half of the cycle you’re oestrogen dominant meaning you are more insulin sensitive, thus more likely to gain more muscle and store less fat at this time. You also have a higher pain threshold so focusing on heavy strength and hypertrophy weight training would be smart. If you are eating sufficient carbohydrates your body will utilise them efficiently during this phase so you can useably get away with having a slightly higher carb intake as your energy and strength levels will be at their peak.
Moving into the luteal phase, increasing progesterone levels make our body more insulin resistant and unfortunately means that it also wants to hold onto fat stores a little more at this time. If fat loss is your goal, then this is the time to be careful with the amount of carbs you’re eating and compensate with a higher healthy fat content to help keep to your calories.
During this time, you’re energy levels might start to decrease meaning that pushing big weights might be out of the picture but shift towards lighter loads, more reps and shorter recovery periods to keep the heart rate up. Recovery methods such as meditation, foam rolling, massage or warm baths are good to utilise too. Basically, be nice to yourself 🙂
While the cycle stages might not be much of an issue for some females, others can have horrendous symptoms which often cab be helped to a certain extent by consistent whole food choices with healthy fats, optimum levels of protein and fibrous fruit and veggies.
In the week prior to menstruation if you get symptoms such as breast tenderness, water retention and bloating, clumsiness, forgetfulness what is important is not to judge yourself too much at this time and remember that you will be fine in 7-10 days time.
Regarding manipulating your diet – here’s an example below of how you might like to do this:
Days 1-14; 1810 kcals per day
Days 15-28; 1810 kcals per day
*Protein should be kept the same through both phases.
A lot of women get hungrier in the run up to menstruation. If this is you try to keep a consistent level of energy throughout the day by spacing your meals out evenly and having a mix of all 3 macros in those meals. The healthy fats should help with satiety but if you’re still finding you are still ravenous then try upping your carb levels by a small amount (10-15g).
Another tip is, chocolate, we all know that’s the first thing you reach for so maybe having some high quality dark chocolate in hand to help sooth any cravings and raise serotonin and dopamine levels which will drop just before your period.
To help with the bloating having a play around with different healthy fats i.e. flaxseeds, pumpkin seeds as they have a natural anti-inflammatory effect on the body. Maybe adding some sprinkled over you morning porridge will help 🙂
Most importantly – DO’T STRESS about it! This happens very month so it’s about being able to manipulate it to work FOR you not AGAINST you.
Hope this was helpful and wasn’t too long of an email, till next time.