When you want all the chocolate and none of the fitness! Let’s talk about getting your monthly hormonal cycles to work for your goal, and not against them.
There are some women who are incredibly sensitive to their hormonal fluctuations and PMS is an all-out nightmare. But then there are some who can just breeze through the month with hardly a blip on the radar. But every healthy woman in her reproductive years should be having a regular monthly (if not near monthly) cycle. And it’s more than just having your body be ready to conceive a child. Your entire system is altered by the changes these waves of estrogen and progesterone each month. And some of these changes directly impact your energy levels, metabolism, and your likelihood of injury.
So we’ll use a month for basic understanding, even though some cycles are more like 18 days and some are more like 40. The week prior and the week of your period is when most women feel their worst in the month. Your progesterone is coming off a big high and your serotonin is low. This is when your body is actually primed to burn more body fat and use it for fuel, primarily in the PMS week. And your body really wants to counter that by causing an increase in sugar cravings. But hold out and stick to your metaphorical macro-guns! Yes, that drop in progesterone that happens right before you start PMSing is what’s causing you to hold on to more water and electrolytes, so the scale shoots up 3-5lbs and you just feel like skipping the gym entirely. Understand that’s just your body being low on serotonin that’s making you feel extra crummy. So get in a great workout and you’ll feel better.
Many women say that the week prior and the earlier part of menses is when they feel the weakest in the gym. If you’re among that crowd, I advise you to make your workouts a little more cardio-based by dropping rest times lower and aiming for a really great burn in your muscles. Once that time passes, strength levels return and potentially in a big way!
Now, the two weeks or so after your finish your period, your body starts ramping back up again and this is the time you’re primed to kill it in the gym! Your body makes a huge surge of estrogen right before the halfway mark in your month as it prepares for ovulation. Estrogen has been shown to actually boost endurance and performance. And you get two of these hormonal bumps. Right before day 14 of your cycle and a smaller bump right around day 21. So, as much as your body is set on beast mode, one thing to consider is that joint laxity is negatively affected by estrogen, you’re actually at a higher likelihood of injury. So make sure you spend extra time priming your joints with proper warm up exercises and sets before going hard on your plyos and lifts.
And lastly, our body is more sensitive to these hormonal fluctuations when we are less consistent with exercise and when we are carrying more body fat. But to be so over-trained and/or lean that you don’t have a cycle isn’t good either. Balance is key for a healthy hormonal system.
The Female Body Breakthrough by Rachel Cosgrove