Menstrual Cycle Periodization

It is important to understand that women are not just the dwarf-versions of men. Women are too special and complex than men.

Do you know what the biggest difference between men and women is? Menstrual cycle.

The menstrual cycle is a result of complex series of hormonal changes. On one hand, men have almost linear hormonal profile throughout the months & years, but in case of women it’s always kind of like a zig-zag and this is the reason why women’s mood and strength fluctuates a lot during the month. A female can be extremely strong on one day and extremely weak next day, whereas if a man is strong, he will be strong every single day. So, it is safe to conclude that menstrual cycle alone makes nutrition and training need of women different than that of men.But you can efficiently take charge of your cycle by tailoring your training program to your menstrual cycle. Let’s understand how you can periodize your workout in accordance with your menstrual cycle for maximum results.

Phase Overview:

The normal menstrual cycle can last anywhere between 25-35 days and can be divided into 3 phases:

1.Follicular phase (Day 1-14): During this phase, the ovarian follicles mature and get ready to release an egg. This phase is linked with increased pain tolerance, insulin sensitivity, and much lesser cravings. During this phase, the Estrogen (responsible for good mood, optimism, brain alertness, pain endurance etc) and testosterone is rising and progesterone( thesedating hormone responsible for mental fog, cravings, bad mood etc) is at lowest. Also, studies suggest that women are strongest during this phase.

2.Ovulation (Day 14): Ovulation is the second phase of the ovarian cycle in which a mature egg is released into the oviduct by ovarian follicles. The relative strength remains elevated during this period and the Estrogen concentration elevates during this phase which can affect collagen synthesis and neuromuscular control.

3.Luteal phase (Day 15+): The luteal phase is the last phase of the ovarian cycle and it corresponds to the secretory phase of the uterine cycle. This phase is linked with a sudden reduction in athletic performance and cravings peak during this phase.  The estrogen and testosterone level reduces and increase in progesterone levels is observed.

Tailoring your training according to your menstrual cycle:

Phase Follicular Ovulation Luteal
Physiological changes
  • Increased pain tolerance.
  • Increased hepatic and intramuscular glucose storage and usage.
  • Greater force generation capacity
  • Possible changes in behavior and athletic performance
  • Reduction in strength.
  • Altered cardiovascular output.
  • Reduction in glucose usage.
Training suggestions
  • Women can train harder during this period. They are best served to focus on training progress during this phase. Therefore, it is suggested to increase the training intensity during this period.
  • If they are planning to start a fitness regime, this is the best time to start.
  • Heavy load training with lesser repetitions is suggested during this phase
  • The ideal time to attempt personal records (PR).
  • Elevated risk of injuries.
  • Attempt your PR but adhere to the perfect form to prevent injuries.
  • Go little easy with your workout since the strength decreases during this phase.
  • Lighter load with higher repetitions will be the best bet during this phase.

 

So now you see why it is not the best way to train women like little men? Whether your goal is fat loss or muscle gain or strength gain, periodizing your workouts according to your menstrual cycle will allow you to get the best results. But it’s important to understand that every woman is unique. The length of the cycle, as well as associated energy & mood fluctuations, are not same in every case. So make sure you first understand that how one phase differs from the other and gain insight on the associated changes in mood, energy, and performance to successfully ‘cycle your training’.

 

Article Credits – Aditya Mahajan

References:

  1. Straneva, Patricia A., et al. “Menstrual cycle, beta-endorphins, and pain sensitivity in premenstrual dysphoric disorder.” Health Psychology 21.4 (2002): 358.
  2. Sung, Eunsook, et al. “Effects of follicular versus luteal phase-based strength training in young women.” Springerplus 3.1 (2014): 668.
  3. Pallavi, L. C., SoUza, U. J. D., & Shivaprakash, G. (2017). Assessment of Musculoskeletal Strength and Levels of Fatigue during Different Phases of Menstrual Cycle in Young Adults. Journal of clinical and diagnostic research: JCDR, 11(2), CC11.
  4. Burgess, K. E., Pearson, S. J., &Onambélé, G. L. (2010). Patellar Tendon Properties With Fluctuating Menstrual Cycle Hormones. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 24, 2088–2095.
  5. Frankovich, R. J., & Lebrun, C. M. (2000). Menstrual cycle, contraception, and performance. Clinics in sports medicine, 19, 251–271.
  6. Hausswirth, C., & Le Meur, Y. (2011). Physiological and nutritional aspects of post-exercise recovery: specific recommendations for female athletes. Sports Medicine, 41, 861–882
  7. onge, X. A. K. J. de, Boot, C. R. L., Thom, J. M., Ruell, P. A., & Thompson, M. W. (2001). The influence of menstrual cycle phase on skeletal muscle contractile characteristics in humans. The Journal of Physiology, 530, 161–166.
  8. T Nation, Shannon Clark . “The Hormone Cycle and Female Lifters.” T NATION, www.t-nation.com/training/hormone-cycle-and-female-lifters.
  9. Arora, Akshita. “Menstrual Cycle Periodization: Training.” INFS Blog, INFS, 8 Oct. 2017, infs.blog/2017/10/08/menstrual-cycle-periodization-training/.