Ladies, do you know how your training and nutrition is effected by your menstrual cycle?
This ones for the ladies; do you get cravings? Struggle sticking to a diet? Feel weaker or struggle to hit the gym at certain times of the month? There is so much to this but I will try to keep it as simple and basic as possible.
There are essentially two different phases women go through in a 28 day period (pun not intended!). We have the Follicular Phase (“good”) and the Luteal Phase (“bad”) and bang in the middle we have Ovulation.
During the two weeks of Follicular phase this is where we see a gradual increase in oestrogen, this is essentially when women feel at their best in terms of training and dieting. This is the best time for women to hit the gym hard and when the most progress is made with lifts and sticking to a diet plan or calorie target.
In the middle of the two phases we come to ovulation. Just before this stage women see the greatest peaks in testosterone, when most women will be able to beat personal bests and generally feel at their strongest.
Then lastly we come to the two week Luteal phase, this is where unfortunately training tends to suffer for the majority of women, cravings kick in, binging can be a high possibility and falling off the wagon is not un-common. Do not beat your self up! This is completely natural.
During the follicular phase, women’s metabolic rate will increase and roughly speak you'll need 200-300 calories a day more than usual. Which will explain away the cravings you may feel at this time of the month.
It’s important to know when to attack and when to back off slightly, even more important is to understand why this is happening and what the solution is.
If you struggle to stick to your calories or plan then up your calorie intake during the luteal phase or if you are a type to really struggle and tend to binge you may be better opting not to diet at all during those two weeks. Go back to maintenance calories for the 2 weeks. Over a month if you hit the first 2 weeks hard in a calorie deficit you will still be losing weight over the month.
This is a topic not a lot of people talk about, perhaps more likely is that most (male) coaches don't know about it, but if you’re a women or PT then it’s definitely something to keep in mind and spend some time to understand better.