So, the topic of periods in every aspect is a hot topic at this time in the fitness industry. These topics range from:
- How to keep your period
- How to get your period back
- How prevalent amenorrhea is among athletes and how that needs to change
- Why it's important for health to have your period
- Why birth control is not the answer to the lack of a period
The topic that I want to cover today is how to maximize your cycle to your potential, and what to know about it to help ease your mind in times where you might not be feeling as good, and to relax into that. I wrote an article about periods back in 2015 and if you want to check that out, you can find that HERE. It's about how important it is to have a period, but also why I think it's important to look at your situation individually, try not to panic and work through it with a reasonable outlook to get your period back and be a healthy vibrant kick butt woman! There was a study done in 2010 on endurance female athletes about the presence of low bone mineral density and osteoporosis and the appearance in over 30% of the patients. That makes it apparent that this is something we NEED to be talking more about, but again, the regaining of your period is not today's topic. A really useful book for this topic is: No Period, now What?
One last word on that topic is that you do NOT have to give up everything to be able to get your period back. Yes, that is the simplest way most likely because the amount of stress on your body is clearly too much, but you can do things in a way to continue doing the sports that you love and staying healthy, BUT I DIGRESS...
In my previous blog post, I did not go over the entire cycle and how much things change throughout the month and what to be aware of. It's important to recognize that even if you are not having a period, your body is still going through these cycles most likely, and most of the time this is in a 28 day window (weeks 1 - 4). This can vary and if you want to make goals in conjunction with your cycle then you can chart your temperature and your cycle to have a better idea of when you are going into the individual stages of hormone variation and performance.
There are two types of women who will read this blog:
- "Oh, this will be fun! Let me track this and see if I can see a difference in my training!"
- "Oh god..something else to worry about and track and IT'S JUST TOO MUCH!!!"
If you are #2-just don't read the blog-seriously-it's not worth it to worry yourself with something else, but it's interesting if you're interested! ;)
I'm going to keep this short, sweet, and TO THE POINT. Y'all, this is so exciting and interesting. Buckle up!
The first two weeks of your cycle is your follicular phase. The first week of your cycle is your actual period. This is when your hormones are both at the lowest coming right after your PMS week and once your menstration occurs, you should start to feel much better, less water retention.
Week 1 Training:
Give yourself grace in that you're bleeding and that's no fun but know that this is a week to start to capitalize on the exertion that you are able to give while your estrogen and progesterone are lower. Aim for maybe some slower tempo runs or solid strength building blocks during this time.
Week 1 Nutrition:
**higher insulin sensitivity but lower metabolic rate (lowest at the end of week 2 going into ovulation)
**Increase carb intake but keeping calories moderate - your body will utilize the carbs for the increase amount of endurance during this first week than your PMS week prior
Week 2 Training:
This should really be the best week of your entire cycle in terms of training. If you are someone who knows your cycle well, then you should let your coach know this in order to push your heaviest weights or your hardest speed drills / tempo workouts during this week.
Week 2 Nutrition:
This is when the egg is going to drop going into ovulation and when you are the most fertile. There will start to be an incline in estrogen and follicle stimulating hormone and is a great time! You should feel your best during this second week nutritionally as well as your metabolism starts to speed up (your core temperature is higher), and you are still insulin sensitive so aim for higher carbs.
Wouldn't it be aperfect world if we could aim for a PR on these days when we are at our peak of wonder womanhood? Be careful though-injury risk is very high during this time ! (Hint: click that link if you wanna see the abstract from the study)
The second two weeks of your cycle is the luteal phase, with the final week of this cycle being your "PMS" week.
Week 3 Training:
Things are not going to feel as good as they did. You probably can even notice that workouts the week prior that seemed easy now seem hard, and the efforts of your workouts should decrease due to potential for injury with your estrogen decreasing and your progesterone increasing. Every article on this topic will tell you to do yoga during this time, but if you aren't a yogi and you're a runner or a strength athlete, it's just important to know that these two weeks are when you should be relaxing more, just getting in base mileage
Week 3 Nutrition:
Core temperature starts to rise (higher metabolism) but with reduced insulin sensitivity and more insulin resistance. You'll be able to eat more, and burn more calories, but you'll be better off if those calories come from fat and protein and reduce your carb intake during this time. If you are doing less stringent endurance type efforts, then this actually can be a really great time to lose fat (specifically this third week).
Week 4 Training:
It's just going to suck and that's okay. haha! Your heart rate is going to be higher during your workouts, your breathing is going to be more labored. You will benefit most from easy runs, low impact strength training and preparing your body to be able to utilize the following 2 weeks.
Week 4 Nutrition:
The trickiest part of this week in terms of nutrition is that your serotonin is going to lower, therefore your cravings for carbs will be higher. Your mood swings are cray cray, and you are holding water like a mother trucker. It's important during this phase to at least try to aim towards higher calorie foods that are mostly higher in fat. You should always have carbs, so don't mistake this for saying to go keto, but simply just to recognize what is going on in your body and moderate your carb intake with the increase in cravings.
I could say so much more on this topic and it's so so interesting. Women have it ROUGH is all I have to say about that, but you CAN do things to benefit from this cycle. So, I know that the hot topic has been GETTING that period, but once you get it, let's make it to our advantage! #GIRLPOWER