Can Women Perform Better Depending on Where They Are in Their Menstrual Cycles?
It was a typical Saturday of long cycling with a triathlon club back from Beach road when I felt a sudden energy drop and struggle to keep up the pace with everyone else. It wasn’t the nutrition as I had fuelled my body adequately. There was definitely something that felt different in my body.
This was a while back and ever since that episode, I have been paying attention to a possible link between my menstrual cycle and how I perform. I notice that my energy level drops quite low right before my menstrual cycle. To get to know my body further, I started to track my cycle (there are a number of period tracking app, but I use ‘Clue’). Often a ‘cycle’ is based on 28 days however younger girls can have a cycle of 35 - 41 days and mature women can have shorter cycle.
Female reproductive hormones that rise and fall throughout the menstrual cycle are known to affect numerous parameters (cardiovascular, respiratory, thermoregulatory and metabolic*) therefore, may have implication on exercise physiology.
There is under representation of women included in sports and exercise medicine research studies, however the body of research is emerging which is exciting. I will continue to review the new studies coming out.
At this point in time, based on numerous studies following are the general guide when it comes to training during the menstrual cycle.
- Day 1-5 easy training (taper, recovery or technique-based session)
- Day 6 – 12 endurance training (mid-range effort)
- Day 13- 19 strength training (short, harder workouts) estrogen are higher and the body adapts and recovers better **
- Day 20 – 27 speed and endurance training (aerobic and anaerobic intervals)
- Day 28 rest before your menstrual cycle begins again
It is a good idea to play around with the above guideline to see if this works for you, as always we are all individuals and may respond differently.
*PMID 28288203 ** 31678355
Note: this applies to women who are not on oral contraceptive pills as OCP will have a whole different physiological effect.