REAL, FRUGAL, HEALTHY, and FUN!!!
From water retention to bloating. From irritability to fatigue. Changes in appetite to changes in pain tolerance. Let’s talk about the female menstrual cycle. Did you know you’re menstrual cycle affects your workout performance? No joke! It really, really does. The effects are more dramatic if you are not on birth control, however, it does still have an impact on you even if you are, though not as significantly.
First off, let’s review the menstrual cycle. The menstrual cycle is a wild ride of hormone highs and lows that can be broken down into 3 parts: the luteal phase, the menstrual period, and the follicular phase. Basically, you have the winding up, the big event, and the winding down.
The Luteal Phase
You probably know this phase best as the premenstrual phase. This is a 2 week long phase, where estrogen levels are going down and progesterone levels are going up. It begins with ovulation and ends when you start to bleed. Some people experience pain, discomfort, irritability, bloating, headaches, changes in bowel movements, and/or fatigue during the latter part of this phase. A woman’s metabolism actually picks up and burns a little stronger. Unfortunately, this is also when most women get strong cravings and an increase in appetite. In fact, even with the stronger metabolism, a lot of women take in more calories than they burn. It can be helpful during this phase to consume more healthy fats. They provide more satiety, and during this phase, the female body is more likely to use fat for fuel. If you are mindful of your eating, and you still put on weight during this phase, don’t panic. More than likely it’s just water weight. Some women gain as much as 10 pounds of water weight during the luteal phase. It varies from person to person. Most women’s bodies run at higher temperatures during this phase making intense workouts uncomfortable, particularly if you are a runner who likes to run outside in the sun. Add that extra water weight that can come during this phase and you can really feel bogged down while working out. Not only is working out more of a drag at this time, but women also tend to be more injury prone during this phase, as well. Don’t give up working out during this phase, but be mindful of what your body is going through. This is not the time to set personal records. Keep your cardio workouts at a low-intensity, your strength training at a low to moderate intensity. Consider doing more yoga during this time. This is a great time to burn fat, but not necessarily to build strength.
The Menstrual Period
This is the part where you bleed, possibly cramp, and may even feel pain in the lower belly, pelvis, back, and thighs. Luckily, these symptoms typically only last a couple of days. Once they subside, you will start to feel better, a little more energetic and alive. At this point, it’s a good idea to work to transition your diet and workout program to achieve your full potential from the luteal phase into the follicular. Focus on a balanced, healthy diet, and keeping up your cardio and strength training. It’s still not record setting time, but it is time to get ready for it.
The Follicular Phase
This is when the egg is prepared for release and you have the highest chance of becoming pregnant. The female metabolism is typically at it’s lowest during this phase, but it’s not a huge deal if you feed your body correctly and give your best effort during your workouts. A really cool thing about this phase is that most women have a higher pain tolerance. They’re able to push themselves harder. They can endure more. Typically, women are more insulin sensitive during this phase which is great because their muscle gains are more likely to be fueled by carbs. So, this is a great time to load up on healthy carbs and blast through those tough workouts. This is the time to challenge yourself. This is the time to see what you are really capable of.
In A Nutshell
Luteal phase: Eat protein with less carbs and more healthy fats; Low intensity cardio, low to moderate intensity strength training, yoga
Menstrual Period: Transition time; Eat protein with a balance of healthy carbs and fats; Begin increasing workout intensity
Follicular Phase: Eat protein with less fats and more healthy carbs; Time to push hard through workouts and give your best
Make Your Hormones Work For You
For all the misery and grief we, as women, experience from our menstrual cycles month after month, why not take advantage of the hormone ups and downs? Let your hormones work for you, not against you.