We have previously done an article on Menstrual Cycle and training when Chelsea Women’s team started designing player’s individual plans around the phases of their menstrual cycle, in an attempt to enhance performance and cut down on injuries. Recently we’ve looked into each phase, what occurs in each phase and how to optimise training and recovery. Everyone is unique and you’ll know your own body but we found the below information so helpful!
The Phases and what you can expect…
Phase 1 – the first to last day of your period (eg. 1-5days)
Oestrogen and progesterone levels are at their lowest during your period.
- Increased symptoms in this phase including inflammatory response carried from phase 4.
- Illness risk increased as white blood cell count is lower.
- Cognitive function is said to be higher so the ability to learn a complex skill where good coordination is involved is increased.
- Optimise sleep and recovery in this phase.
- Maximum training benefit may come from HIIT and strength training.
- Muscle activation and neuromuscular control may be lower so include muscle activation exercises in your warm ups.
- Anti-inflammatory focus in your diet, increase foods rich in Vit D, calcium, fish oils and Vit B and foods rich in antioxidants.
- Iron rich foods to make up for blood loss. Alongside Vitamin C sources to increase absorption.
Phase 2 – From the end of your period until just before ovulation (eg. Days 6-14)
Hormones are rising to a peak (just before ovulation) and progesterone levels are still very low.
- Oestrogen levels are increased are associated with an increased release of feel good hormones so you may feel more positive and alert.
- Decreased appetite as blood sugar levels are more stable.
- An increase in energy levels as you progress through this phase.
- Fluctuation in blood pressure and it may be lowest during this phase.
- Recovery capacity has found to be better allowing recovery from more intense training.
- Antioxidant capacity increased which also helps recovery and adaptation to exercise during this phase.
- Include high intensity and strength training in this phase.
- Aid recovery if you are training more intensely by ensuring protein and carbohydrates are consumed as soon as possible after your session.
- Include Vit C rich foods to aid soft tissue recovery.
Phase 3 – From Ovulation until your hormones start to drop, usually lasts 9 days (eg. Days 15-23)
Oestrogen levels initially drop off as ovulation occurs, then both oestrogen and progesterone increase and remain high.
- You may experience symptoms that are related to the initial decline in oestrogen.
- Increased body temperature usually by around 0.3 degrees. This can disrupt sleep so pay more attention to your sleep strategies.
- Increased HR from higher progesterone levels.
- Cravings! You may notice more cravings as blood sugar levels are unstable.
- Increased feelings of empathy due to higher progesterone levels.
- Immunoprotection with an increase in progesterone, white blood cells and neutrophils.
- Lethargic feelings and mood changes.
- Return of normal blood pressure levels.
- Breathing patterns can be altered if you are sensitive to progesterone levels.
- Flexibility and low level condition focus in this phase.
- Longer recovery times so focus on strategies and adding in more recovery for your body.
- All types of training are beneficial in this phase.
- Ensure you are getting enough protein before and after training.
- Reduce energy dips by choosing snacks that contain complex carbs and protein.
- Prepare for phase 4 by including anti-inflammatory and antioxidant rich foods in your diet.
Phase 4 – The days just before your period (eg. Days 24-28)
Oestrogen and progesterone levels decline to their lowest point.
- Inflammation seen as the start of your PMS symptoms due to a decrease in hormones.
- Reduced ability to recover after a tough session due to an increase in inflammation. Focus on recovery strategies and nutrition to help with this.
- Increase appetite and cravings due to changes in insulin sensitivity and blood sugar levels.
- Disrupted sleep from a decrease in hormones, affecting your ability to fall asleep and you may wake more frequently. Affecting concentration, performance and alertness.
- Psychological stress as PMS symptoms worsen so focus on relaxation strategies such as yoga, light aerobic exercise.
- Mood is disrupted with the changing levels in hormones.
- Breathing patterns can be affected in this phase, especially if you have existing breathing conditions.
- Training in any form of exercise can be beneficial throughout this phase.
- Fuel your training well in this phase, regularly fuelling and focus on fibre, protein and complex carbohydrates.
- Manage your PMS symptoms by getting antioxidant rich/anti-inflammatory foods in your diet.
- Ensure you are eating foods rich in Vit D, Calcium, Magnesium and Vit B.
- Reduce processed foods as diets high in these can increase PMS symptoms.
This was all taken from the Fitrwoman App (it’s free to download) which helps track your menstrual cycle and adapt your training around each phase. More and more women’s football teams and athletes are using it now but we want to keep spreading the awareness so that everyone can cope better with their menstrual cycles. We hope this has been informative and it’s something you now think about if you didn’t already!
If you have any questions please do get in touch.