Training and your menstrual cycle
If you're a woman you will know the struggles; increased appetite, decreased motivation, increased chances of becoming grumpy, decreased chance of fitting into those skinny jeans, increased chance that the big event you've been waiting for is going to fall right on day 1 of your period!
Well, this here little blog post is going to be about your period, your whole cycle and what is going on (if nothing else it should help you to feel a bit better about everything)
First up a little run down. Basically your cycle is split up into two main phases, the follicular phase and the luteal phase. If you area already familiar with these names then you might already have a soft spot for the follicular phase and dread the onset of the luteal phase!
Also known as the proliferative phase. This is the phase in your cycle from the start of your period until you ovulate. Called as such because its when you're body is maturing all your follicles, getting ready for ovulation!
You can expect to have more energy during this time, feel more satisfied with meals, have less cravings and generally less of an appetite than is typical during the second phase of your cycle. Sounds dreamy, right?! Well it's all true! Oestrogen levels in this phase will begin to rise until their peak at ovulation, oestrogen plays a role in lowering your appetite, increasing gluconeogenesis (fancy way of saying using fat as an energy source) and generally increases the anabolic response to exercise (you build muscle more easily during this phase).
This is the phase from when you ovulate until the start of your period, and generally this phase of our cycle is when we struggle the most. The sudden drop in estrogen levels at ovulation lead to a few undesirable outcomes: increased appetite, decreased satiety (our bodies are literally trying to fatten us up for pregnancy!), less response to strength training, more likely to succumb to emotional eating. In addition to this your progesterone will peak causing a higher temperature. All of this can lead to feeling weaker in the gym, having less endurance and just generally feeling worse!
Now you probably think, cool - so out of my 28 day cycle (approx - every woman is different), 14 of those days my body is trying to sabotage me! So how do we combat this? I have outlines a few simple steps below to ensure your cycle doesn't get the better of you.
1. Try to be consistent, even during that second phase, but understand if you aren't hitting any PBs, why that might be
2. Capitalise on that first phase, if you're feeling strong, push it a little bit! make the most of how you're feeling!
3. Instead of giving in to the cravings in the lead up to your period, be prepared, if you have a sweet tooth have something on hand to satisfy you that also has some nutritional benefit (you can find my recipe to my protein bar here) OR just try not to eat THE WHOLE block of chocolate! For me, its the salty crunchy stuff - so I opt to buy some lower calorie snacks that I know hit the spot but don't blow me over my calories for the day by 1200!
4. Go easy on yourself! You're a miracle maker, your body is literally preparing to MAKE A HUMAN (whether or not you want one is another story). Appreciate that, go with the flow (so to speak lolz) and just do what you can... Go lighter, go slower but just don't stop altogether!
5. And lastly - aim to be strength training 4-5 times per week. Strength training is proven to regulate hormones and obviously to build muscle. The more muscle mass you have, the higher you BMR is and the less affected you will be if you do have a little premenstrual blow out! - See my blog on what that occurs here!