This one is for the ladies. For the guys reading this, go ahead and skip this one or forward this to the active women in your life.
I’ve been getting a few questions from some of my female clients on training and nutrition during their cycle. Their energy levels feel off and food cravings start to kick in. This of course affects their training and nutrition.
Because of these hormonal changes, there definitely needs to be some things to consider during your workouts and for your diet. If you’ve been wondering what to do during the three phases, I got you covered:
1. Follicular Phase
This is on days 1-11 including your menstruation. During this phase, your insulin sensitivity is higher and so is your ability to generate force (strength and power).
In the follicular phase, your body will be primed for muscle building so now is the time to train hard. Eat plenty of carbs within your calorie/macro range to build muscle and to fuel any other physical activity you’ll be doing. Get after it!
2. Ovulation Phase
This phase happens during days 12-17. In the ovulation phase, your estrogen levels will rise, so will your metabolic rate and ability to generate power. This means your strength and workout performance may be better than the follicular phase so heavier weight training can happen during this time.
However, if you’re performing heavier strength training, make sure your technique is spot on. The higher estrogen levels increase your joint laxity and changes your collagen structure, so your chances of injury can increase.
Go through a longer warmup and perform extra core, shoulder, and hip stability exercises before you lift. If you’re feeling fatigued and your form starts to break down, stop the set and reset before performing the exercise again.
Nutritionally, your food cravings might kick in during this phase. If you’re training hard, continue with your carb intake but if you’re trying to lose fat, you’ll have to be more mindful.
3. Luteal Phase
Finally, we have the luteal phase, which begins on the ovulation day. In this phase, your body isn’t primed to use carbs or do intense workouts. The body will prefer using fat and you may retain more water and feel bloated at this time. You might feel low energy and not as motivated to work out as well
So during this final phase, focus more on low impact cardio and endurance work. With your lifting, train with less weight for higher reps (4 to 5 sets of 12-20). This would also be a good time to do other lower impact activities such as yoga.
In the luteal phase, your metabolism will be higher but I recommend eating healthy fats and higher protein foods instead of giving in to your cravings.
Some Other Recommendations
During your cycle, no matter how you may feel, you’ll want to continue exercising. Begin tracking your performance during each phase of your cycle (sleep, workout intensity, energy levels).
Because of the hormonal changes, minimize your dependence on caffeine and avoid eating any foods containing soy. Eliminating soy products can help some women avoid estrogen dominance, which can lead to irregularities with their cycle.
Use these diet and training recommendations to navigate through the cycle and you’ll be able to have an easier time reaching your fitness goals.