Working Out During Your Menstrual Cycle

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Tips for Training During Your Period

Just because its that time of the month is no excuse to skip the gym, I used to, I wanted to avoid the hassle but found out that I did not have to miss those days, on the contrary, I found that working out during your menstrual cycle s not the end of the world.

Some women will skip the gym because during their period you may feel less motivated, you train with less intensity, and recovery time takes longer.

During your period your hormones are all over the place and they can affect the way your train, but there are things you can do to train strong and use your menstrual cycle to your advantage.

During your period your metabolic rate and strength levels may be affected.

Understanding How the Menstrual Cycle Works

In order to make sure your training is effective during your period, it’s important that you understand the three phases of the menstrual cycle.

The Follicular Phase

This is the phase that begins on the first day your period starts and ends when you ovulate. During this time the follicles in the ovaries have matured.

The first few days of your period are considered the menstrual period, this tends to last around five days, this is the phase your body discharges blood and tissue from the inside lining of the uterus, the first day is when your estrogen is at its lowest levels,

After day one estrogen levels begin to increase in order to stimulate new follicular growth.

During this time the pituitary gland releases follicle-stimulating and luteinizing hormones.

FSH promotes follicular growth and luteinizing hormone for ovulation and the secretion of progesterone. The follicular phases last about 14 days.

Menstrual Cycle Graph

Ovulating Phase

This is when a mature egg is released and the ovaries are ready to allow the egg to be fertilized by sperm.

This is also a time when estrogen and LH are at their highest levels.

During ovulation progesterone and body temperature increases.

The Luteal Phase

This phase begins the day after you ovulate and until you start your period. During this time the lining of the uterus begins to thicken to prepare for a possible pregnancy.

Estrogen, progesterone, and body temperature begin to increase and then decrease if the egg is not fertilized, the luteal phase lasts around 14 days.

Training during the three phases can affect your mood, energy levels, and how you feel.

I used to think that it would be best to avoid training during menstruation, what I found out is that during menstruation you can train normally because insulin levels, body temperature, and metabolic rates are normal.

Some women may feel uncomfortable during this time and may choose to hold back on training intensity but you don’t have to unless you feel uncomfortable.

Train With Intensity During the Follicular Phase

During the follicular phase, testosterone levels are at an all-time high, this is when you should take advantage and train hard, this is when you will have more strength and will be able to gain muscle.

Some women may want to take advantage of this phase and train major muscle groups where more strength and energy are required.

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The downside to the follicular phases is that your metabolic rate tends to slow down so you may burn fewer calories while resting.

During the follicular phase you may be more prone to injury, this is due to having more strength because of hormone fluctuations, so, make sure you warm up properly before working out.

Rest During the Luteal Phase

In theory, during the luteal phase, the time for you to reach fatigue may be shorter and this could be due to increased body temperature.

The luteal phase may lead to decreased athletic performance, so, this is the time to make the workouts shorter with less intensity.

Some women may feel depressed during the luteal phase because they tire easily but the positive benefit may be that your metabolic rate can increase so you may be burning more calories during this phase.

During the luteal phase, there may be an issue with higher insulin sensitivity so you should lower your carb intake and consume foods higher in quality proteins and healthy fats. Your body will tend to use fat better during this phase.

How to Identify What Phase You Are In

A normal cycle is 28 days, women who have regular periods should not have a hard time tracking what part of the cycle they are in, if not you could always measure your basal body temperature, this should be lower during the follicular phase.

Your body temperature should peak after ovulation and remain high during the luteal phase.

If you still have an issue there are many apps you can download to your smartphone that can help with tracking.

Birth Control Can Interfere with Tracking

Women taking oral birth control pills or patches that have hormones like progestin and estrogen may not experience all of the hormonal changes and fluctuations mentioned here, this could include dips in estrogen that cause menstruation.

Birth Control Pills

Birth control pills may contribute to steady hormone production and may prevent you from having the hormonal highs and lows which may make fat loss more difficult or cause weight gain.

Final thoughts

Not all women will experience noticeable changes during their menstrual cycles, every woman is different, the important thing is not to be hard on yourself when you are feeling less energetic or feel weak.

On days when you feel you have more energy and can train hard go with it, the days you don’t are the days you want to take it easy.

Like my doctor always tells me  “listen to your body”, I find that consistency is your best friend so regardless of how I feel I try to train at least 4 days a week and go by feel.

Solomon SJ, Kurzer MS, Calloway DH. Menstrual cycle and basal metabolic rate in women. Am J Clin Nutr. 1982;36(4):611-616. doi:10.1093/ajcn/36.4.611
Yeung EH, Zhang C, Mumford SL, et al. Longitudinal study of insulin resistance and sex hormones over the menstrual cycle: the BioCycle Study. J Clin Endocrinol Metab.
Ekenros L, Hirschberg AL, Heijne A, Fridén C. Oral contraceptives do not affect muscle strength and hop performance in active women. Clin J Sport Med. 2013;23(3):202-207.

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