Training and Nutrition Around Your Menstrual Cycle

Training around your menstrual cycle

We know that menstruation is a cyclical, physiological change and happens on a 28-40 day cycle. Most women sit around the 35-40 mark and not the typical 28-day cycle. There are two main phases during the menstrual cycle: Follicular and Luteal. The first phase is Follicular and the beginning of your cycle, or the first day of your period. During this your hormones, estrogen and progesterone are at their lowest. Ironically, this is when your physiology is closest in resembling a male. You stay in this stage until ovulation is complete. Luteal phase, when hormones start to rise again getting your body ready for your period.

Follicular Phase: (Low hormones) - you can hit high intensities in your training; your body can cope with the stress and your recovery is better along with your metabolism being much more flexible. This is the perfect time to do your heavy lifting days and or achieve a PB. You can develop lean muscle mass more efficiently in this phase.

When training at high intensity, ideally aim for 2 days on 1 day off. You can manipulate this by timing of workouts each day, you want 24-26 hours to recover (i.e.. Morning, morning then evening.

Luteal Phase: (High hormones) In this phase you won’t respond as well to high intensities. Your hormone estrogen rises and spares carbohydrate during exercise. As does the hormone progesterone which is a natural catabolic hormone so can reduce muscular recovery, less leucine going to the brain

When training in the luteal phase with your endurance you want to do a little bit of a lower intensity. Focus on tempo, steady state (shorter distance or slower pace). If you are training in the gym/ home and doing strength work, then focus more on plyometrics, bounding style exercises. Do descending weight sets; start heavy and then work your way down so that you are not getting undue fatigue but still stressing the muscle to work when it is tired in a proper form. Injury is much more likely to happen in the higher hormone phase, so you want to avoid over straining and opt for technique and skill work.

How to adapt nutrition to optimise performance and recovery.

Women should NOT train fasted or do intermittent fasting.

Women are naturally fat oxidisers (meaning we use fat for fuel predominately) Training fasted will encourage rise in cortisol (stress hormone) which are naturally higher in the morning first thing. Increased stress on the body promotes fat storage. This also includes delaying food intake post exercise. Exercise is catabolic (meaning breakdown of nutrients and muscles), by delaying food intake you are elevating cortisol and this catabolic state. Therefore, your body is going to take longer to recover and repair and can result in low energy availability.

Rest days: 3g/kg
Moderate intensity Training (HIIT, 60-120mins): 3.5g/kg
Heavy Training (2x sessions/day, 2.5hr hard aerobic or 4hr moderate aerobic): 4.5g/kg

Females also spare glycogen in high hormone phase (luteal phase) (ovulation phase/ 13 days before your period) - increase carbohydrate intake if you want to hit the high intensity before training (pre training carb snack around 150kcal with BCAA’s or EAAs

Rest days: 1.8g/kg
Moderate intensity Training (HIIT, 60-120mins): 2g/kg
Heavy Training (2x sessions/day, 2.5hr hard aerobic or 4hr moderate aerobic): 2.3g/kg

Women have a short recovery window – 30-45 mins post exercise your metabolism spike will return to baseline.
women in your 20’s and 30’ or pre-menopausal need 30g to recover properly and shut down catabolic state (breaking down of protein)
women who are peri and post- menopausal need closer to 40g post exercise (this is because you have less estrogen that stimulates the muscle protein synthesis)

* Leucine is a very important amino acid for women. We require a certain amount to reach the brain to allow for the protein synthesis mechanism to kickstart. Men just require it to be available in the muscle. This why women need a higher amount of protein post exercise. When consuming plant-based protein sources, add extra BCAA’s or EAA’s with leucine available either use SUSTAIN with your food or 2 scoops of Vivo Life PERFORM.

Rest days: 1g/kg
Moderate intensity Training (HIIT, 60-120mins): 1.2g/kg
Heavy Training (2x sessions/day, 2.5hr hard aerobic or 4hr moderate aerobic): 1.22g/kg



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Top tips

  1. Track your cycle with a diary or an app eg. FitrWoman, MyFLO, Clue
  2. If you are on Oral contraception or don’t know your cycle you can use a urinary ovulation predictor test which you can purchase easily. Determines if you are ovulating or not and helps you find where you are on the cycle
  3. Track your hormones – manually writing down how you feel over your training and sleep for course of 8 weeks. You will start to see a pattern then.