Training for your menstrual cycle: How to optimise your performance across all 4 phases

Written by Sandra Mikhail, founder and director of Nutrition A-Z

Understanding and adapting your training to the different phases of your menstrual cycle can have a profound impact on your fitness progress and overall well-being. In this month's post, we will explore how to train effectively throughout all four phases of the menstrual cycle: menstruation, follicular phase, ovulation, and luteal phase. By aligning your training with your hormonal fluctuations, you can maximise performance and enhance recovery.

Menstruation Phase:

*Hormonal Changes:
During menstruation, hormone levels are relatively low, which may lead to decreased energy levels and potential discomfort. However, it is essential to stay active to promote blood flow, relieve cramps, and enhance your mood.

Training Recommendations:
  • Focus on low-impact exercises such as yoga, Pilates, or light cardio to reduce strain and discomfort.
  • Incorporate exercises that promote flexibility, such as gentle stretching and mobility work.
  • Listen to your body and adjust the intensity and duration of your workouts as needed.

Follicular Phase:

*Hormonal Changes:
The follicular phase begins after menstruation and lasts until ovulation. Oestrogen levels gradually rise during this phase, leading to increased energy, endurance, and strength.

Training Recommendations:
  • Take advantage of the surge in energy by engaging in high-intensity workouts, strength training, and challenging exercises.
  • Focus on building lean muscle mass and improving overall strength and power.
  • Incorporate interval training, circuit training, and plyometric exercises to maximise results.

Ovulation Phase:

*Hormonal Changes:
Ovulation marks the release of an egg from the ovary. Oestrogen levels peak during this phase, leading to improved energy, focus, and overall performance.

Training Recommendations:
  • Capitalise on the increased energy and endurance by incorporating longer endurance activities such as running, cycling, or swimming.
  • Consider adding high-intensity interval training (HIIT) sessions to further enhance cardiovascular fitness.
  • Focus on maintaining a balanced diet to support optimal performance.

Luteal Phase:

*Hormonal Changes:
The luteal phase occurs after ovulation and lasts until the onset of menstruation. Progesterone levels rise during this phase, which can contribute to bloating, mood changes, and decreased energy levels.

Training Recommendations:
  • Adjust your training to accommodate potential fatigue and discomfort during this phase.
  • Focus on moderate-intensity workouts, incorporating a mix of strength training and cardio.
  • Practice stress-reducing exercises such as yoga, meditation, or deep breathing techniques to support overall well-being.

Training in harmony with your menstrual cycle can optimise your fitness journey, support overall well-being, and enhance your performance. By understanding the hormonal fluctuations that occur during each phase, you can tailor your training approach accordingly. Remember to listen to your body, adapt your workouts, prioritise recovery and self-care, and seek professional advice. We're only a click away so book your appointment today!

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2. Rickenlund A, Carlström K, Ekblom B, et al. Effects of oral contraceptives on body composition and physical performance in female athletes. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2004 Mar;89(3):4364-70.
3. McNulty KL, Elliott-Sale KJ, Dolan E, etal. The Effects of Menstrual Cycle Phase on Exercise Performance in Eumenorrheic Women: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Sports Med. 2021 Feb;51(2):293-308.
4. Naczk M, Nogalska A, Lachowski S, et al. Effect of exercise performed during menstrual phase on physical fitness, body composition, and selected health-related indicators in young women. J Strength Cond Res. 2017 Jun;31(6):1553-1562.
5. Elliott-Sale KJ, McNulty KL, Ansdell P, et al. The effects of menstrual cycle phase on exercise performance in eumenorrheic women: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Sports Med. 2020 Mar;50(3):583-601.
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