Menstrual cycle, nutrition & training

This information is based on an average 28 day cycle. A normal cycle length can be anywhere from 21-35 days. It is the regularity of the cycle length that matters and it being individual to you.

The Follicular phase.

Day 1-14 (Beyonce)

These two weeks are essentially focussed around the development of the follicle and ovulation (releasing of the egg around day 14).

This is where Oestrogen is the dominant sex hormone with Progesterone slowly increasing into the luteal phase.

During these first 2 weeks you may notice the following:

Oestrogen as a hormone decreases appetite; it increases insulin sensitivity (your bodies’ ability to utilise carbohydrates) and helps to some extent to prevent DOMS. (Delayed Onset of Muscle Soreness).

Which means the following:

  1. It is a potentially good time to maximise strength training and reap the adaptive benefits of it.

  2. A peak of testosterone before Ovulation (day 14) can contribute to strength gains.

  3. It is a potentially better time to diet as adherence will be stronger due to oestrogen affecting the brain similarly to Leptin (an appetite regulating hormone).

  4. A potential decrease in Iron stores may lead to changes in energy levels so choosing to ensure plenty of iron rich food would be beneficial. These can be separated into heme and non heme sources (chicken, beef, seafood and spinach, lentils, beans)

It’s important to note that with these 2 weeks a lot of women find a level of increased confidence, self assurance and mental clarity with the increase in Oestrogen.

Luteal Phase

Day 14-28 (Billie Eillish/ Kristen Stewart)

Some females transition into this stage without any noticeable changes so it’s important to consider how you as an individual experience your menstrual cycle. The celebrity profiles are added to demonstrate that with the change of hormones throughout this phase some females feel more introverted and benefit from less intense training.

With the reduction of Oestrogen and the change to progesterone as the dominant sex hormone here we can note a few things:

  1. Strength may be reduced.

  2. Reduced coordination and balance

  3. Increased hunger due to a rise in body temperature. (Which can increase your BMR 2-300 calories/ day)

  4. More insulin resistance so potentially a window in which you may consider swapping some of your carbohydrates for more healthy fats and protein.

  5. Water retention may be evident here leading into Day 1 of your menstrual cycle.

Things to do:

  1. Potentially consider structuring your training around this information: e.g more recovery and less intense training in the Luteal Phase whereas more strength and HIIT in the Follicular.

  2. Having an awareness of how your body is feeling is crucial. Being proactive with this can help keep adherence to body composition goals. E.g increase calories by an extra 200/day in the luteal phase and consider not dieting or going back to maintenance calories if you feel you struggle to maintain a deficit.

  3. Tracking your cycle will be able to guide you in this and allow you to be proactive at communicating to your Coach and structuring your training. Apps to consider would include Flo, Clue and Period Diary.

  4. You may wish to track your weight during your cycle to recognise the water fluctuations. You could then compare this to Week 1 Month 1 ect so that there is consistency in seeing changes long term as opposed to each week where you are a different physiology.


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