One for the ladies

Sorry guys, this is one for the ladies!

Staying on top of your nutrition and training during your monthly cycle

Do you feel like training is harder and more difficult in the week running up to that time of the month?

Do you get strong cravings for sugary or starchy foods?

During your monthly cycle, you go through different phases and these may have a considerable effect on how you feel and perform in the gym.

Broadly these can be split into two; the follicular phase, where hormones stimulate the release of an egg. This phase starts at the onset of menstruation and lasts until ovulation, which takes place around half way through the cycle, about 14 days. At this point we enter into the luteal phase which lasts from approximately 15-28 days. It is in this phase where several changes occur and the level of hormones, particularly estrogen elevates and then drop again when an egg is not fertilised.

How does this affect how I feel and perform?

Just before and during your period, your body temperature rises, your weight increases and the blood plasma volume drops. This means that the blood becomes thicker and moves more slowly between muscles and this could mean a slower recovery time.

We do know that thermoregulatory and metabolic changes occur during the luteal phase and these are responsible for making us feel fatigued.

Many women report bloating and general lethargy, however, no conclusive evidence has come out of studies to show that performance is actually affected. It’s a difficult thing to measure if you think about it as the symptoms are not easy to measure and also – all women are different!

Psychologically and physiologically, you are probably going to be at your best during the first week of your cycle, or just after the period ends.

The worst time is the week before menstruation, but if you are one of those people who do suffer from noticeable pre-menstrual symptoms, don’t let it be an excuse to let go of your training and nutrition completely. If you’re not feeling you best then here are some tips on how to get through it feeling as good as possible.

  • Manage your cravings. Sugar, caffeine, alcohol, stress and lack of exercise all contribute to worsening PMS so don’t succumb to the cravings for trans fats, processed foods and sugar. Keep your diet clean.
  • Supplements can help ease PMS symptoms by improving metabolic function and hormone metabolism. Fish oil for fatty acids, magnesium, evening primrose oil, Vitamin B6 are all recommended for managing PMS.
  • Keep moving. If you’re not feeling up to an intense workout, then think about timing your deload week for the pre-menstrual phase and do mobility work / yoga / swimming or some light cardio.
  • Keep hydrated. Have a sodium based fluid before / during training to keep well hydrated.