How to periodise training and nutrition for the female hormone cycle.

To mark International Women’s Day, our Performance team are exploring how women can get the most out of their training and the impact of the menstrual cycle on women’s sport and fitness performance.

How can I identify and adapt to the phases of a menstrual cycle?

There are two distinct phases to a menstrual cycle, the Follicular phase and the Luteal phase. The levels of Oestrogen and Progesterone fluctuate between the two phases; impacting mood, energy levels, appetite, strength and more. Identifying and understanding these changes can help women adapt their training and nutrition to maximise their recovery and progress.

What nutrition do I need, based on my cycle?

The right nutrition at the right time is important for everyone but for women, nutritional needs change through the phases of the menstrual cycle and adapting to these changes can help improve your energy levels and recovery rate whilst you train. Understanding these changes can also help you better understand why you may be craving certain foods at different times.

During the Follicular phase, your energy system is glucose dominant, so you should be fuelling up with carbohydrates and make sure you have a good source of protein to aid your iron intake and recovery rate. During the Luteal cycle your bodies energy system switches to fat dominant, so make sure you are adding good fats to your diet including avocado, salmon, nuts and eggs! Always try to include a good source of Iron, Vitamin D, Calcium and Vitamin C to support your overall health, particularly for bone and muscle structure.

Any other top tips or tools to help me?

It’s always important to listen to your body and adapt to your own individual cycle. Tracking your cycle and your symptoms regularly can help build a better picture of what type of training and nutrition will work best for you and when. You can use a variety of health or tracker apps (Flo, Clue, Wild), keep a note on your computer or good old pen & paper works too. Find a system that works for you.

When you are training it is always important that you feel comfortable and supported. A good sports bra can have a real impact on your training performance from improving your running economy to reducing risk of injury and improving your rate of oxygen consumption.

If you would like support in creating a training program that works for you, talk to one of our Fitness team about a Personal Training taster session and they can help you find a routine that suits you.