For years, women have had to adapt their menstrual cycle to their training, not only during the hemorrhagic phase, but during their follicular phase (FP) (before ovulation) or during the luteal phase (LP) (after ovulation). In the first phase (FP) they could be feeling more energetic and enjoy a better overall mood. During the LP phase, some women experience less energy and lower mood (premenstrual symptoms).
Some women have problems performing high intensity workouts just before menses and frequently quit or perform the workouts below the intensity their coach prescribed. These situations can lead to discouragement, training issues with their coaches, and questions (or fear) about whether the athlete will reach their training goals to be ready for competition.
Recent investigations have revealed the physiologic changes that occur during the menstrual phase and how those changes impact the way muscles use fuel during exercise.
In the pre-ovulation follicular phase there is an increase in the use of carbohydrates in the muscle. This means a woman is more likely to burn a lot of carbohydrates during exercise.
Estrogen, a sex hormone that increases in concentration during follicular phase and peaks during ovulation. Estrogen has mood-boosting properties, helping women to perform more activities, including workouts.
During the luteal phase after ovulation, the use of carbohydrates as fuel is lower than the follicular phase. Insead, muscles tend to burn more fats as a fuel source. Progesterone, another sex hormone, increases in concentration after ovulation and peaks a few days before menses.
Knowing this information, coaches can modify, select intensity, and adapt workouts to the different phases of the menstrual cycle to help their female athletes reach peak training and racing potential.
High intensity interval workouts that rely on carbohydrates as fuel source could be prescribed during follicular phase and up to 4-5 days after ovulation. The better mental disposition to physical activity that occurs in this phase will help athletes perform these types of intense workouts. Two weeks of increasing strength training can be prescribed in this phase with better results.
During the luteal phase, lower intensity (up to 65% of max intensity) endurance workouts that use fats as fuel source, should be prescribed. The body will naturally utilize more fat as fuel during this phase. Long aerobic endurance training and maintenance as well as non-progressive strength training should be prescribed during this phase.
Contact a certified coach to talk about how to adapt your training plan to your menstrual cycle so you can take advantage of these phases and see better results from your training!