Did you know that there can be benefits to adapting training based on where you are in your menstrual cycle? We've probably all experienced the feeling that exercise can feel different depending on where we are in our menstrual cycle. That training can feel as easy as possible in certain parts of the month, while in other parts it feels heavy to go up the stairs. Today we thought we would dive deep into the connection between training and the menstrual cycle. Come along!
How does the menstrual cycle affect exercise?
The most important thing about synchronizing training to your menstrual cycle is about creating an awareness of how the menstrual cycle can have an impact on how you feel , how your body feels and how motivated you feel in the different phases. This in turn can have an impact on performance , recovery and your experience of training .
Training first half of menstrual cycle (phase 1 and 2)
Estrogen is the hormone that dominates from the end of phase 1 (the days we have our period) and phase 2 of the menstrual cycle (the first day after the last day of the period until ovulation). Estrogen is considered to have a building (anabolic) effect, which means that it can be easier, for example, to build muscle in the first part of the menstrual cycle. During phase two, testosterone also reaches its peak, which can also have a positive impact on training effect and performance. This in the form of the body feeling lighter, you feel stronger and it is easier to build muscles.
Fact sheet for you with a missed period due to overtraining:
What is important to remember is that phase two is the phase leading up to ovulation, which means the body can be extra sensitive to stress. For example, if you have missed your period due to hard training, it may be beneficial to reduce the amount and intensity of training in phase two. In this way, you can help the body feel safe enough to ovulate (of course in combination with proper nutrition and recovery).
Training second half of menstrual cycle (phase 3)
Progesterone is the hormone that dominates during phase three (the day after ovulation until menstruation). Progesterone, unlike estrogen, can be considered to have a degrading effect.
There is still not much research when it comes to endurance training and the female body. What has been seen in some connections is that it is possible that endurance training could work best in phase 3 when progesterone is at its highest. When progesterone is high, it means that fatty acids can be used more easily as fuel.
So why should you train based on the menstrual cycle?
Well, the advantages of adapting training to the menstrual cycle is that when the hormones shift during the course of the menstrual cycle, it will have an impact on the training effect you get as a woman. What research shows is that women who strength trained during the first half of the menstrual cycle ( phase 1 and phase 2 ) got a better effect and experienced the training as more positive than those who strength trained during the last half of the menstrual cycle ( phase 3 ). So for those who want to increase muscle strength, muscle mass and muscle power, there can be benefits in synchronizing their training with their menstrual cycle. This is regardless of whether it is about optimizing training , reducing the risk of injuries or simply experiencing the training more positively .
Can you exercise during all phases of the menstrual cycle?
Yes, you can train throughout the menstrual cycle and you will be able to perform regardless of which part of the menstrual cycle you are in. Taking the menstrual cycle into account is primarily about gaining an awareness of how the body can feel in different ways. Your energy level can vary during the cycle, which can, for example, affect the experience of training, the need for recovery and motivation.
Based on the existing research , it is more beneficial to train more sessions, heavier training and more intensively during the first part of the menstrual cycle (phase 1 and phase 2) in order to focus more on recovery in phase 3. So for those of you who practice some kind of team sport, it could be beneficial to plan personal training during the first half of the menstrual cycle to increase muscle strength, muscle volume and flexibility. In order to create more space for recovery in phase 3 to reduce the risk of injury and optimize your training results.
So, are there benefits to exercising based on the menstrual cycle?
Research is limited in this area, but what can be seen is that there can be several benefits to syncing exercise to your menstrual cycle. Syncing training to your menstrual cycle is simply about listening to your body and adapting the training based on which phase you are in depending on how you feel and how your body feels. Sometimes it can be more beneficial to train more slowly in order to train harder in another phase. Working with your biological conditions instead of against them can provide long-term health gains regardless of whether you are an elite athlete or a "regular" exerciser.
Remember, there is no one way to exercise any more than there is a one-size-fits-all job. You are unique .
For those who want to read more research in the field: