Does the menstrual cycle affect strength training among women?

We probably can’t win the war against hormones but we can at least learn enough to get the most out of the trainings. So what about our menstrual cycle and trainings?

 

Don’t tell me girls that you don’t know about this – You’re looking forward another trainings in the fitness centre that will change your body the way you want to but you know that those „ladies days“ are comming. Some of you don’t stress out about it but for others it may be a disaster. I’m sure you’ve already noticed that the strength and stamina during the workout are not the same every day of the month. Your workout performance is partly related to the phase of your menstrual cycle. That’s the reason why it’s good to know all pros, cons and even the trainings tips during the individual phases of your menstrual cycle . If your set up your training right ,depending on your menstrual cycle it can help you with muscle growth. And if not, you’ll at least feel more comfortable.

What should you know about the menstrual cycle?

Let’s divide the entire female cycle at the beginning. We’re gonna talk about follicular phase, which begins right after menstruation and last around 14 days. The dividing spot for us is gonna be the ovulation and after that the cycle turn to the luteal phase. Female cycle should last 28 days but to be honest ladies let’s raise the hand every one of you who has it like that.
According to doctors it’s absolutly normal if the cycle last a week less or more than 28 days. That’s why you should adjust all of the facts mentioned below and apply it to your own body. Each of us is different and unique. Even that sometimes we wish for that magic 28 we can’t fight with our hormones.

Follicular phase

This phase begins on the day one after the menstruation. This is the right time for the women to train as hard as posible. We’re talking about the first half of the cycle which ends with the ovulation.
What is my advise for you ladies? Try to add heavier weights and harder exercises to your workout. In this phase women have generally more energy, their endurance naturally increases and the pain threshold increases as well.
We’re becoming a superwomen who can also gain more muscle mass now. This is also confirmed by studies that were dealing with insulin sensitivity during the different phases of our cycle. Why do i mention insulin? This hormone is produced by pancreas and transports glucose from the blood circulation to the muscles, liver and fat cells. Besides that insulin also has strong anabolic effect.
Changing levels of estrogene and progesterone in body also affect the insuline and even the katabolic kortisol. That’s why they’re able to change the way the female body store and make use of nutrients.
In folicular phase the levels of estrogene are gradually increasing, insulin sensitivity is highest ( even a little amount of insulin in the body causes a high response), recieved carbs are processed effectively. But what does all of this mean in practise? In this phase of the cycle is strenght training the most beneficial. You can also try intensive sprints.

Ovulation

After the folicular phase is women strength still increasing ( the highest one may be even a few days before ovulation) This claim is supported by studies which found out that women have during the ovulation an 11% stronger quadriceps, and the strength of the upper body has improved to the same extent.
Beware, however, of injuries. This is also reported by the American Journal of Sports Medicine, which reported that the incidence of anterior knee ligaments is 4-8 times more common in this phase of the cycle. This is also associated with a high level of estrogen, which can affect collagen metabolism and neuromuscular control.
That's why you train hard, but at this stage it's especially necessary to be careful about the correct execution of all exercises - each move must be under 100% control. These facts are confirmed by a study comparing the women who practiced predominantly during the follicular phase and the women who practiced during the luteal phase.
The result? Unique! Women exercising more intensely during the follicular phase gained 42% more strength and 46% more muscles than women who exercised more intensively after ovulation. During ovulation, metabolism is also started, and so some women may feel a little more hungry than usual - it's okay, you can add a few calories in the diet as valuable protein sources. Why? You should keep in your mind that at this stage insulin sensitivity is reduced and therefore your diet should be a balanced mix of proteins, fats and carbohydrates.

Luteal phase

During this phase (about day 15 - 28) of the cycle, women often start to feel weaker. That’s because of the hormones again. Now is the right time to change up your training . Progesterone which adversily affects the motor cortex of the brain is increasing and limiting excreation of androgens. Luteal phase also lowers estrogen levels and reduces insulin sensitivity.
Consequence? At this stage, the body responds better to cardio at a low heart rate. Why? The explanation is simple - such a form of cardio does not require fast access to glucose as a source of energy. Aerobic activities (running, zumba, aerobics, walking, or cycling) should be included in the first half of the luteal phase.
Exactly in this phase you are gonna profit from simple circuit trainings. Beware of the drinking regime! Your body temperature increases as well so women should be sufficient hydrated and shouldn’t train in hot and wet space.
However, at the end of the luteal phase, there are sympthoms associated with menstruation such as headache, abdominal pain, cramps, bloating or excessive water retention in the body. ( No, you didn’t gain those 3 kgs of body fat over the 2 days). So very slight trainings, pauses from exersices or free days are totally valid. If you regulary note down your weight, you should never compare it within different phases of the cycle. Always compare the first week of one cycle with the first week of another.

And what about the training right during the menstruation?

If is your menstruation painful or you are feeling uncomfortable you are allowed to take a few days off or train in a slow pace. If not, there are not much forms of training you should avoid. But every woman is unique and has to listen to her body – some of us are exhausted and unable of working out during the menstruation, some of us aren’t.
In this phase, however, we return to the follicular phase so you can gradually accelerate. If you have cardio training set up, there is no reason to change it. However, you can mitigate it and exchange it with light running, cycling or walking for that period of time. Weight training also does not have to be taboo as it increases strength, restores metabolism and, moreover, can protect the body from weight gain, which is a common problem for women during the menstruation.
In addition, lower back and abdominal exercises can alleviate painful conditions during menstruation. I also recommend something from yoga (of course, no positions that may be unpleasant during menstruation) as it works relaxing.



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