A guide to the menstrual cycle and training

There are certain topics of which not clear enough even out of fear and/or embarrassment.

Women and men have many similarities but also differences.. Women's periods are just one of them and understanding how hormones fluctuate and our bodies change depending on the timing of a woman's cycle helps to better understand how we feel.

What is the menstrual cycle?

It is a repeating hormonal patternfrom the first day of menstruation until the day before the next bleeding or menstruation.

How long does a menstrual cycle last?

A menstrual cycle lasts 28 days average, although it is considered normal within the range 21-37. Although the number may not be exact for all women, if must be regular. For example, a woman who has cycles of 25 days should always repeat approximately that periodicity.

Our cycles can change over time. To give you an example, in my younger days my cycles were 35 days long (besides being very painful and with more than 10 days of menstruation) and with age they have been reduced to 28 days and have eliminated the exaggerated peaks of pain that I suffered.

Use of hormonal contraceptives

At present, we are very disconnected from women's health with false rules of hormonal contraceptives. These provide constant external hormones that the body stops making, overriding the changes and the menstrual cycle.

Phases of the cycle

If you are a woman, I don't need to explain that every period is a hormonal party.

These hormonal ups and downs do not seem so obvious to understand for those who do not experience them first hand, although information always helps to improve empathy. 

crossfit and rule

First phase: follicular

Menstrual cycle begins with the first day of menstruation and up to the first day of ovulation.

After menstruation, a new egg begins to mature in the ovaries, and the whole mechanism for a possible pregnancy begins. There is an increase of estrogen in the body and the uterus grows.

The duration of this phase can be variable. If the period is earlier or later, it will be because this phase varies in duration.

Second phase: luteal

The egg is being released and leaves the ovary to travel to the uterus. This is precisely the moment of a woman's greatest fertility.

After a few days pregnancy does not occur, all the preparation is dismantled. Progesterone and estrogen levels plummet and the endometrium breaks down, which is precisely what we know as a period. New space is left to start the whole process all over again. 

During this process the level of hormones has been clearly altered to favor each of the naturally programmed functions.

Symptoms during the cycle

During the two phases, we can go from depression to euphoria or from sexual inappetence to an increase in libido. And all this is due to the different levels of hormones, estrogens and progesterone that aim to fulfill each cycle.

During bleeding

The rule may be:
- Intense: if during all the days of bleeding it exceeds 80 ml.
- Light: we did not reach 25 ml.

Although it is common, it does not mean that it is normal. should not cause severe pain or discomfort also during the previous days.

Tips to alleviate the discomfort of menstrual periods

As in most cases the best solution to a problem is good prevention.

It is advisable to following an active lifestyle and a healthy diet to make these episodes as bearable as possible.

The inflammatory diets cause very painful periods. Even if you think you eat healthy, it is very likely that you are confused because the marketing of food brands has led us to believe that what is healthy is actually not.

If you want a before and after in your ruleslearn how to eat paleo with this free guide.

Before the rule

In the days leading up to the menstrual period, the progesterone increases and we experience premenstrual depression. Metabolism gradually rises, as does appetite, and in turn, insulin sensitivity is lost.

As a reminder, it is not that progesterone is bad, it only fulfills its function. It is also thanks to progesterone that we can get pregnant.

Tips to relieve premenstrual depression

To control food intake in this hormonal craze and try to cope with cravings, incorporates foods high in magnesium like almonds, nuts, dark chocolate.

Fruit and chocolate are healthy options to relieve cravings and maintain blood glucose levels. 

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Being entertained a lot of the time is a great tool. When you are at home tempted to overeat, go for a walk. At the very least, you'll see how it helps with your stress levels and also keeps you away from temptation.

Training and nutrition according to the monthly cycle

With all the hormonal movements that happen during the menstrual cycle, it is normal that how we feel and, therefore, our approach to exercise and nutrition also varies.

After the menstrual period (follicular phase)

During menstruation

Blood loss occurs, may decrease performance, as it decreases oxygen-carrying capacity to the muscles..

The goal here is to stay active, you can afford to lower the intensity as much as you need to. 

After the period

irregular menstruation and sports

These are the days when the woman is at her best.

Optimal time to work on high-intensity workouts and this is when the best results can be seen.

  • Easier utilization of glycogen as fuel, and you can slightly increase carbohydrates.
  • The best moment of strengthas the level of testosterone increases.

Before the menstrual period (luteal phase)

It is time to reduce high intensity workouts and make more emphasis on cardiovascular work at a moderate intensity, without the need to abandon strength training.

  • metabolism and appetite are gradually elevated.
  • insulin sensitivity is lost, it is advisable to reduce carbohydrates slightly but that's just when we have the most cravings.
  • you start to use more fat as fuel.
  • the last days of this phase and the first days of menstruation, the body tends to retain more fluids. 

Conclusion: How to adjust nutrition and training according to menstrual phase

With all the information we have reviewed about the rule, the best thing to do is to handle it always listening to your body. We are not exact machines, there is no perfect formulation but always the general guidelines that will help you:

  • Prioritize your high-intensity workouts, such as CrossFit right after the period.
  • Better aerobic sessions in your luteal phase.
  • While you are on your period, reduce the intensity of your workouts if you need to.

Try to keep your diet balanced in all phases, accepting that you may have more hunger and cravings in the premenstrual phase, and using the tools explained to manage it in the best way.

Don't complicate everything. If you don't need to modify your training and nutrition, don't!

But always with the information in your hand it will be easier for you to make a good decision for your health and sports performance. Nature is wise, listening to your body is always the smartest choice.