The menstrual cycle has a key role in the life of a woman having a substantial effect on how a woman doing exercises and eat, the more the amount of weight you lose or she gains strength. Here we look at exercise, diet and how to optimize each cycle.

Hormones and the menstrual cycle: Nuts and bolts

Ask any health professional, the doctor, the coach, the physiologist, and usually everyone can agree on one thing; women are complicated. From a medical point of view, it is, frankly, amazing. Their immune systems are generally more resistant, usually they recover faster than men in the exercise and in terms of nutrition or program design, or even psychology and behavior, where men seem to respond and adapt fairly evenly to exercise or certain nutrients, such as fat or carbohydrates, this is not always the case for women.

In terms of current science about exercise and nutrition, we have seen a number of gender differences in both muscle response to strength training, and the amount of fat the body can store, and how it is stored.

Menstrual Cycle

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But what makes these changes? In a word, hormones. And in general, is that these hormones, which basically act as chemical messengers in the body, which not only help control how we respond to exercise and how we eat, but also how we think, how we look, how we act and quite important in everything around us. Fortunately, these hormones can usually be studied and, therefore, we can begin to understand how our bodies respond to different types of exercise and different foods.

With this in mind, exercise and nutrition for women it should be fairly easy to understand then. If women release different hormones men, all we have to do is understand these hormones and their effects, and the structure of our training programs and diet plans around them, right?

This is where the menstrual cycle comes into play.

See, men, hormones that are important for exercise and nutrition, i.e. those that influence fat loss, hunger, muscle growth, strength, etc., remain relatively constant, and response to different types of exercise and food fats, proteins and carbohydrates, remain fairly constant. But this is not the case of women. The menstrual cycle causes levels of certain hormones to change and make the change. This not only makes the understanding and study them more difficult, but the structuring exercise programs and diet plans are more difficult too. This could be why women seem to be less successful long – term weight loss than men, or why women seem to suffer more injuries in some joints than men, and seem to suffer more from them for half their menstrual cycle than in other days during the month.

This brings us to the question what is the menstrual cycle and how someone could adapt their training and nutritional practices to maximize progress in spite of it?

For readers, the menstrual cycle is self- explanatory, but for the most inexperienced male readers, the menstrual cycle is more commonly known as the “time of the month” and the time surrounding it, which is about four weeks, where the ovaries a woman produce (follicular phase), prepare and release (ovulation phase) and, if not necessary, break down and excrete (luteal phase) eggs to be used for delivery.

But how could this affect the exercise or body shape of a person using nutrients?

Because, as hinted above, hormones can play a key role in how hard you can exercise, how well we recover, the amount of fat we store and how hungry feel, and during each phase of the menstrual cycle, a woman’s hormones can change quite dramatically. So, where men could benefit from a relatively consistent exercise and a nutritional program throughout the month, a woman planning will require a little more care. So, with that in mind, it comes down to one side of exercise and nutrition article.

You may also like to read another article on CarolineJoyBlog: What is interval training and why can you are doing it without realizing it?

Exercising and eating during the menstrual cycle

As stated earlier, the hormones of women go through quite a change from week to week, and this may have some significant effects on the body. On the one hand, during the last two weeks of the menstrual cycle known as the luteal phase, which prepares the body to excrete an egg unfertilized, the body actually tends to store more muscle glycogen in the beginning or middle of the menstrual cycle therefore why women often complain of swelling in the last two weeks of your cycle.

This has important effects on exercise and nutrition because they cannot just have this feeling ‘bloated’ reducing the intensity at which athletes can work, but also because it means that a greater amount of carbohydrates consumed by a person during this phase can be converted to fat. This could indicate that women may be better served to reduce the intake of carbohydrates rather than fat consumption during the last weeks of your cycle if your goal is to maximize fat loss on a diet. A practice that has been shown to be more effective than the conventional diet in a recent study.

Another big difference can be seen in increasing women experience in their resilience during the final phase or luteal, your menstrual cycle when performing cardiovascular exercise. This, again, could be due to higher levels of certain hormones such as estrogen, which is a group of hormones causes preferentially fat cells do decomposing more carbohydrates for fuel, and therefore, could improve aerobic performance distance, long at the expense of high -intensity exercise and the recovery of that year.

But this recovery aggregator regular exercise can cost as muscle protein breakdown and excretion also seems to increase during the luteal phase of the menstrual cycle. So while the recovery of aerobic exercise can be improved during the final phases of the menstrual cycle, this may not be an ideal way to increase strength training, such as muscle protein synthesis will be adversely affected during this period time. This, in turn, could also be a good time to increase protein intake.

Put into practice

So, now we have a very good concept of how the menstrual cycle can affect hormone levels in women, and how this, then it may affect the response of a person to exercise or how we use or store different types of nutrients, we can make some recommendations to help minimize some of the negative effects of the menstrual cycle during certain exercises, ie, increased muscle protein breakdown during certain phases.

We may also use the above information to help maximize the benefits of the menstrual cycle, ie, better resilience and fat utilization. With that in mind, here are some recommendations based on science to help maximize exercise performance, improve weight and fat loss, and help improve exercise recovery:

  1. Keep most strength training the first two weeks of the cycle to maximize strength and lean muscle development.
  2. During the past two weeks, keep the intensity of any cardiovascular exercise low and constant in nature, that is, 30 minutes of cycling at a steady pace rather than interval training or strength training high intensity.
  3. During the last two weeks of the cycle, reduce the intake of carbohydrates about 10%, while increasing protein intake by 10-20%.
  4. Also, if you complete strength training a higher volume (up to 5 days per week) can be well tolerated during the first two weeks of the cycle, it provided that the volume is then reduced in the last two weeks (around one session per week).