Hormones & Training

As Patsy Cline once sang, sometimes it’s hard to be a woman. Especially when you’re experiencing a monthly cascade of hormones affecting everything from mood to energy and strength. Has it ever occurred to you to match your training schedule to your monthly cycle?

Yep, you read that right. Depending on your time of the month you might knock out that PB or you might find yourself fatiguing at the end of your warm up set.

Recently more and more trainers are starting to tailor programmes to menstrual cycles, helping women achieve better results. The research about the best practices to follow is debatable, but it’s worth taking note of your own cycle, observing how you feel and figuring out what works best for you.

Hormones 101

The follicular phase is from day 1 of menstruation (bleeding) to ovulation (release of the egg) about 14-15 days later. This phase is characterised by increasing oestrogen, normal progesterone, and an average body temperature. When you ovulate, your oestrogen level peaks and progesterone starts to increase. You’ll also notice you start to feel warmer. The luteal phase is from ovulation through to the next menstruation (cays 14 to 28). Oestrogen is now declining, progesterone is increasing, and your body temperature remains high. These hormones can also influence your strength and endurance.

Focus on progress

The follicular phase is when women should focus on progress. It’s characterised by a higher tolerance for pain, the highest maximum voluntary force generation capacity and increasing levels of endurance. Your body will also be more prone to utilising muscle glycogen to fuel exercise due to higher insulin sensitivity during this stage. So those high carb meals are great for fuelling and refeeds.

Smash that PB

During ovulation, your strength levels will still be high and you may notice the highest sheer force generation capacity during this phase. If you want to set a PB, now is the time to try. But high oestrogen levels can make women more prone to injury so make sure your form is correct. The metabolism also starts to rise so adding a few extra calories to your diet from unprocessed foods is a great idea.

Curb those carbs

During the luteal phase, your body temperature is higher than normal, you’ll experience higher cardiovascular strain and a decrease in time to exhaustion. Your body will also rely more heavily on fat as a fuel source instead of muscle glycogen. Doing workouts that utilise fat as fuel is a wise move. An exercise plan that combines lower-intensity cardio and moderate intensity strength work is best. However, you can often experience high carb cravings as your serotonin levels are quiet low. Your insulin sensitivity is low and the lower intensity of workouts mean you need to keep your carb intake under control.

So by factoring in your menstrual cycle you can learn to work with your body and not against it meaning a happier and healthier you.

Martina Dunne is a certified personal trainer who specialises in pre and post natal coaching and small group fitness sessions with a love for health and fitness. For more information visit fromthetinyflat