Your menstrual cycle, training and Nutrition
A lot of women out there simply do not fully understand their own menstrual cycle and more so the role that it plays when it comes to your training and nutrition.
Now, you might be reading this and thinking what the hell does this man know about the menstrual cycle. Who is he to talk he doesn’t understand, he has never been through it?
Yes, you are right. I don’t know how it feels to deal with it and I do not know everything about it.
However, the bit I do know might just help you understand why some weeks you are simply not as strong in the gym or certain weeks you just keep falling off plan and “ruin” your diet. You might even create a better relationship with the weighing scales.
From speaking to clients, a lot of woman simply don’t know this about their bodies. So I hope this helps.
Disclaimer; These are guidelines and every single one of you are different and respond differently so take the information you learn and use it to help you the best it can.
So, let’s get stuck in…
A regular menstrual cycle is 28 days, but this can fluctuate and vary woman to woman. Day 1 of your cycle is when you get your period. You have 2 main phases. Day 1-14 is your follicular phase and day 14-28 is your luteal phase.
There are 2 hormones I will be mentioning. Oestrogen and Progesterone. These hormones fluctuate throughout your cycle. In the follicular phase (first half) Oestrogen begins to rise and progesterone begins to lower. This will help you have more energy and you may feel stronger in the gym. Cravings and hunger are slightly lower in this phase.
This is a good time to be slightly more restrictive on your diet, it is also a good time for training in the gym. Especially in week two is where you will tend to perform at your best.
Week two or around day 10 – 14 is where you will also retain the least amount of water and not feel as bloated. So, weight and measurements may be at there lowest here. We will discuss this further on.
Phase two; the luteal phase is the second two weeks of your cycle. Oestrogen begins to lower; progesterone begins to rise. This can lead to water retention, feeling bloated and sluggish. Hunger and cravings tend to increase during this time.
This phase especially in week 4 of your cycle might be a good time to just taper back the intensity slightly in your sessions. You might not be as strong this week as previous weeks, but it is important to note you are simply different hormonally during this time. You haven’t gone backwards. It is a time to be kinder to yourself. You won’t lose all your progress by going slightly easier for one week.
This phase also is not a great time to be dieting hard. Hunger hormone (Ghrelin) is increased and another hormone that helps signal when you are full (CCK) is lowered. This on top of dieting hard can lead to the backlash of diving into the full tub of ice cream and not being able to stop and thinking you have ruined all your progress. (You haven’t)
Think about slightly increasing your calories during this phase, even by 150/200 calories per day. This can be an apple or a piece of chocolate. Doing this can help with cravings and adhering to a plan and stopping an all-out binge.
During this luteal phase, your body temperature increases and this in turn slightly increases your metabolism. So, you burn an extra 100 + calories per day during this time and this can allow for the extra calories in your diet to help with the cravings.
Finally, one of the most important things to take from this blog is that as females you are different physiology every single week. Your hormones can make your bodyweight look like a rollercoaster.
People’s relationships with the weighing scales can be toxic. We know the scales is volatile at best and there are so many reasons it can fluctuate. One reason it can mess with your head can be not understanding that you are physically a different person each week. So, comparing your week 4 of your cycle weigh in (most water retention) to week 2 of your cycle weigh in (least water retention) makes no sense whatsoever.
Water fluctuations from your menstrual cycle alone can be anything from 1-5lbs. At least if you understand your cycle a little better you can be aware of these situations as they come up and have abetter understanding of why you might be a little weaker or the why the scales might be up.
Track your cycle using apps like flo. Work with your coach for your training and nutrition around your cycle. Female fat loss is very complex, and your cycle plays a large role.
A closing note;
If you have amenorrhea (No menstrual cycle) please consult your doctor. This is something that needs to be addressed as I have seen too many people think this is a normal thing. Especially when it comes to athletes or ladies with very low bodyfat levels.
There are other areas such as PCOS that can affect this also and I hope to discuss this with you in more detail in future blogs.
I do hope this helps you understand your cycle a little better and any questions you have feel free to ask.