Sometimes it’s hard to be a woman! Especially when you’re trying to lose weight, gain muscle and generally feel awesome, but every month your hormones get right in the way.
You’ve probably noticed that throughout the month you can go from feeling on top of the world, smashing every class, resisting all the cake and sleeping like a baby to suddenly feeling down in the dumps and completely losing your health and fitness mojo!
Fluctuating hormones throughout the month can really affect, not only how you feel, but how your body performs.
Learning about the stages of the female cycle, then tracking your own, could make a huge difference to your results. You will start to notice patterns in your moods, energy levels, strength and cravings and, instead of being surprised by them every month, you can learn to get prepped and alter your training and nutrition to continue maximising your results.
Understanding the stages of your cycle.
Day 1 is the first day of your period. Oestrogen levels start low and gradually increase.
Once the first couple of days are out the way, your energy will be high, you’ll be feeling strong and sleeping well.
Replenish iron and vitamin c by eating plenty of dark green leafy vegetables, fruit and lean red meat.
Once your period has stopped, oestrogen is high. This hormone helps the body build muscle, so make the most of this phase. Your energy and strength are at their peak, you can smash out your HIIT session, up your weights, squat lower and practice those press ups!
This is the time when your body is most efficient at utilising carbs and likely to build muscle and store less fat. So don’t be afraid to include sweet potatoes, rice, oats etc in your post workout meals.
Oestrogen hits its peak around ovulation (usually day 14) so this is the time to push your muscles to their max. Your pain threshold is also high so no excuses not to wack the weights on, you can take it!
Your metabolism is soaring, so if you can’t stop thinking about your next meal, blame your hormones! But on the plus side, you’re still using carbs efficiently for energy, so don’t beat yourself up if you give in to your cravings now and again.
It’s worth remembering that during these days you are a little more vulnerable to injury, so don’t neglect your warm up, cool down and take time to stretch. Make mastering technique a priority.
Oestrogen and progesterone levels start to fall, ready to start the cycle again.
Your body becomes more insulin resistant meaning that it wants to hold on to fat. So if fat loss is your goal, be careful of your carb intake. Make lean protein and healthy fats the star of your plate.
The 5-7 days leading up to your period are when you’re most likely to feel run down. You might feel irritable and moody and it’s usually this time when your workouts can feel a bit crap. There’s a reason for this:
▪️Your body temperature rises (hello night sweats!)
▪️Your sleep is often disrupted
▪️Muscle breakdown increases (affecting post exercise recovery)
▪️Your hormones affect your fitness mojo – so it’s perfectly normal that you don’t feel like pulling on your leggings and busting it out on the front row of class!
The change in hormones at this time can also make you more sensitive to alcohol and more likely to get carb cravings. Sweet cravings are also common during these days, so have some healthy sweet treats prepped just in case.
Be mindful of keeping blood sugar levels stable and stick to slow release carbs like beans, pulses and root vegetables (after training) together with good fats like nuts, seeds and avocado and quality sources of protein like chicken, oily fish and tofu.
Magnesium and omega 3 can help with symptoms of PMS, cramps, skin breakouts, headaches and tiredness (did we mention how hard it is to be a woman?!) So add oily fish like salmon and mackerel, nuts and seeds and dark leafy greens to your plate.
Start by tracking your cycle – you can use an app or simply mark it in your diary
Days 1 to 14 – smash your workouts, up your weights and include carbs in your meals
Days 15 to 28 – listen to your body, take it slower if you need to and base your meals around healthy fats and protein with some slow release carbs.