Did you know that most research on men is based on young men, while it is widely applied to women of all ages and it seems that many “experts” in health, sport and exercise treat women the same as men. Women are even considered not good research participants because estrogen and progesterone can skew the results!
Women’s monthly cycle hormones affect their bodily systems differently than men. It’s true, the menstrual cycle does not only affect our reproductive system, but also what and how much we eat, our sleep and also our physical performance.
The stark differences between males and females begin around puberty, when testosterone rises in boys, and estrogen and progesterone cycling begins with the onset of the menstrual cycle in girls. Once the cycle has started, it continues until menopause (not counting periods of pregnancy).
This is a natural rhythm; we have to accept it and allow it to react naturally.
Our energy, metabolism, sleep and eating habits fluctuate during each menstrual cycle. Yet we are usually encouraged to train and perform the same throughout our cycle.
Understanding the phases of your menstrual cycle isn’t just about knowing when you’re fertile, you can use your cycle as a barometer for your overall health, productivity, energy, and fitness.
Are you ready to unleash your innate feminine abilities?
Your cycle begins with your period, which is when you are expecting pregnancy and your hormone levels are low. Your body is more relaxed and your hormones are in favor of exercise.
Although you may feel more feminine around this time, your exercise physiology is more like that of a man due to low sex hormone levels. You’ll probably feel stronger, so you can choose to do strength exercises.
It’s important to listen to your body and if you’re experiencing PMS symptoms, reduce the intensity of your workouts. Your iron levels will drop during this week, so you should focus on iron-rich foods.
Follicular phase :
You then enter the follicular phase, which begins with low hormone levels, but towards the end of this phase, your estrogen levels experience their first and biggest increase in your cycle. This is usually a time when you feel good, sexy, flirtatious and gorgeous.
When estrogen levels are high, our ligaments loosen, but the tendons become stiffer. Longer warm-ups and not overstretching can be beneficial, as can replacing explosive moves like burpees or jumping jacks with heavy weights or endurance training, which can be a effective practice to prevent injury.
Your testosterone is also higher at this time, which promotes efficient muscle synthesis and repair. At the end of this phase, your estrogen levels begin to drop and your luteinizing hormone peaks, prompting the follicle to release the egg – you ovulate.
Once ovulation has taken place, you enter the luteal phase, during which the lining of your uterus thickens to prepare for a possible pregnancy. At this point, your estrogen levels drop and then rise again, and your progesterone levels peak.
During the first half of pregnancy, you will likely continue to feel energized and able to perform vigorous, moderately intense movements. During the second half, as progesterone rises and the body begins to weaken in preparation for menstruation, you will begin to feel a drop in energy. You might notice a decrease in stamina at this time, especially if you suffer from the symptoms of PMS.
It is not necessary to give up training entirely during this phase, but you may want to reduce the intensity of your sessions. Your body temperature is elevated and your heart is working a little harder. This is the best time to rest and do gentle activities like yoga, Pilates, and walking.