WOMENS HEALTH – The menstrual cycle and training

WOMENS HEALTH – The menstrual cycle and training

Women’s hormonal health plays a vital role in the overall health of our bodies.

With every woman comes a different dietary history, a different lifestyle and different problems/ struggles to work around all which contribute to our hormones/menstrual cycles getting out of whack. Whether its females who are training to look/feel good or females who are training to become an athlete within their chosen sport, it is vital to understand what is happening under the hood. Our hormones are key players in how we feel and perform both inside and outside the training environment.


While many are aware of the common menstrual cycle symptoms such as cramps, pain, breakouts, water retention and cravings, not many are aware of the effects that it can have on our strength and metabolism when understood. Lets get this period party started.


Every 24 -32 days the female body goes through 4 distinct events better known as the menstrual cycle. For clarity on these distinct events we have;


* Menstruation (1-5)

* Follicular Phase (1-14)

* Ovulation (14)

* Luteal Phase (14-28)


The menstruation cycle

This starts at day 1 when the unfertilised egg causes the uterus lining to breakdown. A menstrual cycle will last around 28 days but can vary depending on various factors which I will discuss in the follow up blog. To simplify things I am going to use a 28 day cycle as an example to cover the different phase variances and since body wide fluctuations occur I will be paying particular attention to the roles of estrogen and progesterone (those key hormones).  


The follicular phase

This phase is estrogen dominated. The developing follicles release an important estrogen called estradiol (your Queen estrogen). Estradiol is your happy hormone or “yang hormone”. It stimulates mood and libido because it boosts the neurotransmitters serotonin (which promotes feelings of well being and happiness) and dopamine (which is associated with motivation and pleasure). Estradiol does tend to get a bad rap but it is responsible for a variety of training implications such as:


*Enhanced insulin sensitivity and carbohydrate tolerance

*Strong muscles because estrogen is anabolic

*Healthy mitochondria because estrogen stimulates mitochondrial biogenesis

*Long-term health because estrogen protects the brain, bones and cardiovascular system


To align this with training, research shows that the body is stronger in this phase as it is primed to hit workouts that are more anaerobic in nature (short exertion/ high intensity).

It seems that with estrogen increased and progesterone normalised in this phase, the body can recover quicker and more efficiently from more working sets and heavier reps and this creates an ideal environment for muscle growth.


In the next blog I will discuss the key hormone progesterone and how training during this phase can also be adjusted for optimal performance. For anyone seeking further information on this topic feel free to contact coach LC here at Liftoff Crossfit.







Lift Off CrossFit is based in Bishops Stortford, Herts. Our experienced team of coaches have made Lift Off the regions premier CrossFit box.

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