Most women can see their mood fluctuation around the menstrual cycle, but did you know that training (and eating) around your menstrual cycle could actually help you to achieve fitness and weight loss results quicker?
Understanding your menstrual cycle can help you work with your energy fluctuations, cravings, and moods so you can plan your training and diet around them.
A normal menstrual cycle can be anywhere between 21 and 35 days. The usual 28-day cycle is just a convenient number to break the cycle into four weeks, but the cycle length varies from woman to woman.
The first day of your cycle is the first day of heavy bleeding. This is important to know so you can calculate your menstrual cycle. Many women think that day one is when the spotting starts, which is inaccurate. The length of the cycle is the number of days between day 1 and day 1 of your next cycle.
Most women bleed between three to five days.
Each month, there are two main hormone phases – the low hormonal phase, called the follicular phase, and the high, called the luteal phase.
The follicular phase occurs between day one of your cycle and ovulation. During this time, we are physically most like men and can lift heavy, push ourselves in the gym, and start a new diet. We feel good, strong, have lots of energy, and feel positive (most of the time).
Towards the end of this phase is ovulation. During ovulation many women can hit their strength PRs. However, during this time, we are also more prone to injuries due to high estrogen levels, which affect the ligaments’ laxity, so we need to be careful not to push too hard.
The time between ovulation and menstruation is the luteal phase. Due to high progesterone during this phase, you might notice a decrease in your strength and aerobic capacity. You can start experiencing PMS, changes in your mood and energy, increased cravings, and an increase in your water retention and some bloating.
Energetically PMS is a time to rest, recover and repair. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t train.
That’s when many women would benefit from reducing the load, intensity, and frequency of their sessions to match their energy. You may try more gentle movement like Pilates, yoga, and walking.
Should you train when you have your period?
Every woman is affected by their period differently. There is no hard rule that you should skip your training. Tune in to your body. If a hard session doesn’t seem like a great idea, that’s totally okay. You can go for a walk instead. But if you feel strong, go for it.
Adjusting your training according to which stage of your cycle you are in will not only make you feel better, but you will be more likely to achieve your weight loss goals.