It’s perfectly normal to feel energized for exercise one day and distracted another day. For women, this has a physiological explanation. Male hormone levels fluctuate throughout life but are fairly stable in everyday life. However, women experience fluctuating levels of sex hormones on a daily basis.
Scientists still don’t have a complete picture of how the menstrual cycle affects exercise. However, we know that different stages of the menstrual cycle can affect metabolism and post-exercise recovery due to hormonal fluctuations, especially in women who participate in endurance sports. Understanding the rise and fall of hormones can help women adjust their exercise routines to maximize their chances of reaching their exercise and weight loss goals.
Follicular Phase: Hormonal Deficiency
A woman’s cycle, which generally lasts 28 days, can be divided into two main phases, the follicular phase, and the luteal phase.
The follicular phase (day 1 to her 14th) begins on the first day of a woman’s period. During this phase, levels of estrogen (the main female hormone) gradually rise and progesterone (another female hormone released by the ovaries to stimulate the uterus to prepare for pregnancy remains stable. At this point, women are physiologically similar to men in metabolism and recovery. The workout feels lighter and recovers faster than the quickly reached luteal phase.
This ease of training and speed of recovery is more pronounced in the late follicular phase. Around the 12th, estrogen and another type of hormone, luteinizing hormone, rise, causing ovulation. You’re likely to experience an increase in energy and strength at this point, allowing you to put more effort into your workout.
Therefore, the follicular phase, especially the terminal phase, is a time of hard training. Introduce new exercises and train at higher intensities. This is especially important for women trying to lose weight.
Luteal Phase: High Hormone Levels
The luteal phase represents the second half of the female cycle. During this phase, progesterone levels peak, resting heart rate increases, and aerobic capacity and ability to tolerate heat decrease. Exercise can feel like an uphill battle, and you will get tired faster.
Your body burns fat faster during the luteal phase because estrogen and progesterone suppress gluconeogenesis (the production of sugar from protein and fat).While this increased fat burning may seem like good news from a weight loss standpoint, it makes sugar less accessible to the body. This means that exercise will feel harder.
Therefore, this phase should focus on incorporating low-intensity cardio and strength training, as well as active recovery sessions such as walking, yoga, and stretching.
Progesterone also breaks down your muscles, preventing you from getting the benefits you get from your workout and slowing your recovery.
Finally, hormonal changes during this phase cause a shift of fluid from the plasma to the cells, resulting in bloating and fluid retention. Combined with premenstrual symptoms such as headaches and fatigue, you’re probably feeling like you’re exercising more vigorously than usual, so this is not the time to exceed your goals. Appetite also peaks. The best way to deal with all this is to exercise.
Eating carbohydrates and protein within a few hours after exercise can also help. This will improve your energy levels and help you recover faster.
And try to eat plenty of foods that are naturally high in sugar and fat, such as fruits, avocados, nuts, and seeds. These foods trigger the same hedonic response in your brain as processed and packaged foods you may be craving. When your period starts, your hormone levels return to baseline, so you feel normal again.
A well-planned diet and exercise program allows you to work with your cycle, not against it. Even if you don’t normally experience cramps, it’s worth considering. These hormonal changes occur independently in the body.
Start tracking your menstrual cycle. Determine cycle length by circling the first and last days of your period and counting the number of days between the first days of two consecutive periods. Or you can choose an app. By being aware of these phases of the menstrual cycle, women can better manage common premenstrual symptoms and
achieve health, exercise, and weight loss goals.