How frustrating is it when you can’t gain momentum in your training program? One week you have loads of energy, training hard, eating right, and it’s like the next BAMM! You are getting food cravings, feeling lethargic, no energy and struggling to get to the gym. It is so hard to see results when you are constantly yoyoing between feeling good and feeling ‘off’.
There are two things you need to know about your body before you get discouraged.
1) Every woman is in the same boat, so you aren’t alone.
2) The reason you are feeling like this is because of your monthly menstrual cycle and you can adapt your nutrition and training around your cycle to maximise your results each month.
Every month your body goes through 4 different phases of your cycle. These phases require a different focus of nutrition, training and recovery.
During each of the 4 phases our hormonal profile changes which will dictate our bodies preferred fuel source, energy levels and recovery.
Phase 1 and 2 (known as the follicular phase):
Your Oestrogen hormones are rising. Through this rise you will notice an increase in energy and strength levels.
Take advantage of this by increasing your training. Do more maximal strength training sessions. Blood sugar levels are more stable and you won’t have those ‘cravings’.
You can be stricter with your diet and include fasting and restricted time eating. Pain threshold is likely to be higher, and therefore you can push yourself harder. This will help you to build intensity and increase your sets and reps. Recovery is better during this phase, helping you to get back to training sooner. Schedule in your hardest two weeks of training during these first two weeks.
Phases 3 and 4 (known as the luteal phase):
Your Oestrogen hormones will drop to allow for ovulation and Progesterone will become the dominate hormone.
During this phase your energy levels will be lower and your body won’t be able to recover from training as well. Inflammation increases in the body and sleep can be disturbed.
You should focus on training smarter rather than harder and schedule a recovery week. I recommend yoga, Pilates and other forms of low-intensity exercise. Blood sugar levels are unstable, leading to those unwanted food cravings. Nutrition needs to be focused on supporting recovery, reducing inflammation and controlling blood sugar levels. This can be achieved through protein, anti-oxidants and complex carbohydrates.
The key is to work with your body not against it. This will ensure your training and nutrition remain consistent and allow you to see results faster. By understanding why you have changes in your energy levels, strength and cravings throughout the month will help you to acknowledge and respect your body.