How to develop an effective workout according to the phases of a woman's cycle

The menstrual cycle influences daily life in many ways, training is one of them. The main actors of this female hormonal swing estrogen and progesterone. The former has the bad reputation of increasing fat mass and joint instability but is essential for protection against catabolism and supporting muscle repair. The second is an estrogen antagonist: it promotes the loss of muscle mass and reduces the ability of the brain to recruit muscles, inhibiting the motor cortex.
Girl training in the mountains
It is precisely the relationship between these two important hormones that regulates the influence of hormonal activity on training.  The menstrual cycle has a duration that can vary from 21 to 45 days, in the case of young women, or from 21 to 35 for adult women, generally considered an average of 28 days.

Training varied according to the phases of the menstrual cycle

There are 4 different phases in the cycle that can vary in duration according to that of the cycle itself. The phase is characterized by a different hormone balance and different approaches are recommended during each phase both at the level of food and training. In this article we will try to describe these approaches clearly without going too far into the endocrinological details so that we can give guidelines for simple interpretation.
Cardio activities on the stairs of a large building

Follicular Phase

This is characterized by an increase in estrogen levels while body temperature and progesterone tend to remain unchanged. In this phase, there is high tolerability of pain, perfect for endurance training. It is the time of the cycle when it is possible to express the maximum amount of voluntary strength.

In this phase the body will tend to use more muscle glycogen as a source of energy and insulin sensitivity is higher than average.

Girl checks heartbeats to assess recovery
This would suggest an advantage to modifying the diet to include a higher proportion of carbohydrates (especially in pre-workout) and perform intense workouts that can use the reserves of glycogen. This dietary and training strategy will counteract the lower resting metabolic rate that is observed during the follicular phase.

Ovulation

This phase is recognizable as body temperature starts to rise, progesterone increases and there is a peak in the production of estrogen. Some studies have shown increased strength levels at this stage, especially in the legs, so it's time to work on maximum strength. At the same time, high estrogen levels can have an impact on collagen metabolism and neuromuscular control. To balance the previous advice to push the limits of strength, it is important to pay close attention to technique and avoid injuries that are statistically higher during this stage of the cycle
Pain caused by the cycle
It may be possible to increase calorie consumption without weight gain during this phase as overall resting metabolic rate is elevated. Since insulin sensitivity tends to decrease compared to the follicular phase, it may be more relevant to achieve a balance between carbohydrates, proteins, and fats.

Luteal Phase

At this stage progesterone increases and estrogen starts to drop, while the temperature tends to remain high. It is precisely the insistence of a higher than the normal temperature that can lead to a greater cardiovascular effort and a reduction in resistance to fatigue. During this phase of the cycle, there will greater accumulation of water retention.
Feeling of marginalization
Analyzing the metabolic situation is the best time to focus on weight loss, setting the strength training with average intensity and cardio prefer LISS training: 65-75% of the maximum heart rate for a time ranging from 35 to 60+ minutes.

Menstrual phase

Also called the transition phase, in which the body temperature tends to return to normal levels, water retention drops or disappears completely, and metabolism begins to fall. At this time, it will be necessary to redistribute the macronutrients to prepare for the next follicular phase. During the days of more intense flow, de-load or recovery days can be programmed, to allow a gradual transition to the first phase of the new cycle.
Walking with your dog
As for high-level performance, the current literature indicates that VO2max is not affected by the various phases of the menstrual cycle.
Running in a picturesque environment

Adaptation and nutrition to the menstrual cycle

The difficulty for a woman to adapt training and nutrition to her menstrual cycle is in understanding exactly when she moves from one phase to another. One of the few parameters that can be measured in a simple way is body temperature, if a woman wishes to schedule training in this way, she can measure her temperature every day to try and identify when the transition between the various phases takes place. It must be considered, however, that there are many factors, both environmental and internal, that can also cause changes in body temperature, making this data unreliable.
Allungamento post-allenamento
There are women who are much more sensitive to the hormonal changes that occur during the cycle, visible both physically and psychologically. For these individuals, it would be useful to plan training and nutrition following the various phases of the menstrual cycle, there are also women who do not have this need because they experience fewer effects from the hormonal fluctuations present during the various periods of the menstrual cycle. In this case, the improvements that could be derived from a programme based on their own cycle would be minimal. For the many women who do not have a regular menstrual cycle it is impossible to follow the suggestions given in this article.
Running on stairs
Being able to clearly distinguish the different phases, remains very complicated and, even if the points of transition from one phase of the cycle to another are tracked successfully, and the diet and training program adapted this does not necessarily mean a better training response. Women respond better to constant stimuli rather than to continuous variations. It is fundamental to underline that progesterone and estrogen are two very important hormones but it must also be said that they interact with a huge amount of variables, so planning training by primarily taking into account these hormones would mean not considering all the other variables that may occur, thus minimizing the complexity and importance of many other key factors.

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