There is no medical reason to avoid working out during menstruation or any other phase of your cycle, in fact exercise may be beneficial for easing some common symptoms like cramps. However, there are hormonal changes occurring within the body that may make it easier to do certain types of exercise within different stages of the month.
Under the influence of oestrogen and testosterone, although testosterone is known as the male hormone, women have more testosterone in their bodies than they have oestrogen. So testosterone is a very important sex hormone for women. It’s really famous for its libido. From a gynaecological sexual health perspective when our testosterone is higher, the orgasms are stronger and the sensitivity of the clitoris is higher. Testosterone has a lot of positive roles in the body from our brain to our reproductive system, but specifically, when we are talking about fitness, the more muscle mass you have, the more testosterone you will have in order to maintain that muscle.
Here’s how to MOVE from phase to phase to Master your Menstruation.
When we think of this over the course of the menstrual cycle, testosterone is almost at the same level all the way through it except for week two. Week one is our bleed week that’s when we are on our period. Week two is pre-ovulatory week, which is when testosterone levels go up and that, for women is usually when orgasms are stronger and their receptivity to having sex with a partner is higher.
For week two, when talking about fitness, now’s a good time for weight resistance training and lifting as heavy as you possibly can, from three to seven reps. The reason behind this is that you are actually trying to break down the muscle and as it grows back when it’s repairing, it grows back bigger. During this pre-ovulatory week, you can make the most of strength training. Over the cycle, you are still active all the way through but the modulation changes.
Your menstrual phase is a time to rest and replenish. Rest is key. Pamper yourself. Focus on yoga and opt for meditative walks through nature rather than pushing yourself. Your body is undergoing a controlled inflammatory response to shed your uterine lining, so nourishing yourself with nutrient-dense, anti-inflammatory foods will help support you at this time. Due to blood loss, iron-containing or iron absorption supporting foods are the most important. Do lighter forms of exercise, variety in your body’s movements is key, so imagine going from natural ‘playing’ to cycling to swimming and gardening. These ways of exercising are less intense and will ensure a diverse active lifestyle. Don’t apply pressure on yourself to keep up with a strenuous routine, On the first day of your period go for a long walk instead – Toward the end of the week, in step with estrogen rising, you might consider increasing your workout load, generally Any type of cardio this week is fine
Once in the Follicular phase, there are a lot of things happening from a hormonal perspective. With Estrogen reaching the highest peak of the entire menstrual cycle, Look forward to enjoying the natural confidence boost. Testosterone also reaches a peak this week – improving your confidence and libido. This is a critical week to maximize heavy-lift sessions and muscle gains. Make sure to hit your glutes, legs, and back – these big muscle groups help drive muscle growth. According to the research on muscle growth, a minimum of 10 sets of any given exercise per week is required.
Cardio in this week is a little different because of the surge of estrogen in and around day 10. Estrogen has the effect of increasing ligamentous laxity setting us up for injury during the explosive type of movements. So HIIT training (high-intensity interval training) that has a lot of burst-type movements (sprinting, jumping squats, burpees, etc) can do more harm than good this week. Lay off the HIIT and swap it for LISS: low-intensity steady-state cardio.
Moving into the Luteal phase – At this point, we move into an entirely different hormonal landscape – the luteal phase. Assuming ovulation has happened – meaning the egg has burst forth from the follicle, you’ll feel the arrival of progesterone this week. Progesterone is warming, and if you are tracking your cycle with a basal body temperature, you will see your temperature rise with progesterone’s arrival. Towards the end of this week (around Day 19-22) progesterone is reaching a peak. This means that your core appetite and possibly cravings will be notably higher, and your bowel movements slower.
During your luteal phase, you want to start supporting your detoxification pathways to make it easy to metabolize and eliminate the used hormones from your follicular phase. During this time, progesterone is on the rise as testosterone and estrogen deplete. Opt for strength training, Pilates, and more intense versions of yoga. Adding in collagen peptides should supply you with the amino acids necessary to support great sleep.
Keep exercises to hiking, light runs, or more flow-based yoga that works up a sweat. A sample meal for your follicular phase could include nutrient-dense foods like eggs, broccoli, fruit, and nuts. Some women find themselves prone to dehydration during their follicular phase due to the high levels of hormones, so incorporate more mineral-rich sea salt and water during this time. You can do this by adding Himalayan salt to your cooking and by snacking on cucumber, celery, and watermelon.
For more on mastering your menstrual cycle take a look at Part 1 – A nutritional guide to master your menstrual cycle HERE