OhIn the last two years, I’ve heard many monthly people talk about hacking their period, aka tracking it to get the most out of their workout. At first, I thought it was just another meaningless recovery trend and kept it going.
But when I noticed my hoop device – a fitness tracker that gives you insights into your recovery, strain, sleep and health – had a new menstrual cycle coaching feature, which offers recommendations on how to train at different stages of the menstrual cycle (yes, Your cycle is not only when you are bleeding!), I decided to pay more attention. So, for a month I tracked my cycle and “hacked” to see if it would improve my athletic performance and make me feel better overall.
The stages of your menstrual cycle
Within the 28-day cycle, there are hormonal fluctuations that can affect things like exercise tolerance, recovery, heart rate and mood, says Amy West, MD, EDM, sports physician, assistant professor of orthopedics and physical medicine at the Hofstern School of Medicine.
“The body sends certain hormones to the uterus to prepare it essentially for the birth of a baby, and then ovulation occurs and then if that egg is not fertilized, the body is getting rid of everything there is to support it.” Kathleen L. Davenport, MD, is a sports medicine physiotherapist at Florida Hospital Special Surgery.
At each stage of your cycle, your hormones are changing and, consequently, affecting your body as it prepares for a period or pregnancy. It can “affect our exercise and other things in our body because our hormones are not only transferred to the uterus, or the ovaries, or the eggs,” says Dr. Davenport.
The length of most menstrual cycles is between 25 and 30 days, but it is different for each menstrual period and it can vary from cycle to cycle. According to Dr. Davenport, the follicular phase technically begins on the first day of your period. It takes approximately 14 days, is considered a “low hormone condition” when you have low levels of estrogen and progesterone, and follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) – which stimulates ovarian follicles to grow and mature eggs – and luteinizing hormones. Triggers the release of an ovum from – occurs at low concentrations, Dr. West explains.
Early in this phase, you are able to build more muscle than at any other time of the month because, according to Dr. West, your body can handle the most stress. It’s time to take advantage of high-intensity and resistance workouts. You may also notice that your recovery is better and see that your heart rate is more variable, which means your body can perform at a higher level.
When you reach the stage of ovulation, when the eggs are released, your estrogen levels rise to their highest levels and progesterone also rises slightly, Dr. West said. This episode usually occurs from the 11th to the 21st day of your cycle.
As your body prepares for a possible pregnancy, an increase in estrogen allows you to build muscle more efficiently because your body is in an anabolic state, your immune system is “slightly increased” because your body is optimizing itself for pregnancy, and your testosterone According to West, levels increase slightly, which makes you feel more energetic and more willing to exercise.
However, as your estrogen levels rise, research has shown that ligament relaxation increases, and so you may be at risk for ACL injury and tendinopathy, where your tendons begin to swell and begin to swell.
The luteal phase occurs between the time the egg hatches and the start of your period, and lasts from 15 days to 28 days of your cycle, says Dr. Davenport. When it starts, “when we see progesterone levels really do rise,” adds Dr. West. This level will decrease just before menstruation as the lining of the uterus is forming.
At the luteal stage, your body may not be able to handle that much stress, so you may want to focus on taking recovery days in between training sessions. At the moment, your body does not use carbohydrates to store energy effectively, so Dr. West recommends increasing your carbohydrate intake.
In addition to higher body temperature you may experience traditional PMS symptoms such as water retention and fatigue (note this if you do endurance activities outside). Dr. West recommends spending more time on low-intensity workouts and choosing more rehabilitative exercises, such as yoga, and focusing on rest, especially in the late Lutal period.
As your progesterone levels drop, your body begins to prepare for your period if the ovum is not fertilized. Dr. West explains when your uterine lining begins to leak. Your progesterone and estrogen levels are at a minimum, signaling the brain to increase your FSH levels and then the cycle is repeated.
As far as activity is concerned, “during menstruation, what is really important is to keep going. Some activities are better than others, “said Dr. West. This movement can help fight symptoms such as cramping.
How menstrual periods affect physical activity and performance
Experts agree that more research is needed to focus on the effects of menstruation on athletic performance. According to Dr. Davenport, the little research that has been done there is not conclusive because each menstrual cycle is different, and they are secreting different levels of hormones. Still, Dr. West is a champion to better understand how it affects your cycle performance, tracks it, and how it can help athletes and non-athletes alike.
Dr. Davenport says so far the data is one thing that your body listens to and responds to its needs. For example, if you feel tired, skip the five-mile race you planned and go for a long walk instead.
What I learned from my own cycle biohacking
I’m lucky enough to have never really experienced severe PMS. Usually, I have a very light and easy period, a little more sensitive and irritable during the week or so on.
During the Lutel episode, I met a track and competed in pentathlon, so I didn’t follow Hoop App’s advice, which was a good time to focus on strength training and focus more on my recovery. During my competition week, I used to feel tired because I was not getting enough sleep. But I was reducing my training (aka volume reduction), so it must have been nice.
On the day of my appointment, Hoop Coaching said that my stress tolerance was low, but not competing was not an option. I pushed my body to the maximum – and I felt great. I had a lot of strength, and I felt what you wanted to feel during the competition: strong, strong and confident. This is of course due to feeling good about my trainer and training program, feeling well prepared, resting and focusing on nutrition with a registered dietitian to help me fuel and recover.
I will say, I heeded Hoop’s recommendation of heating more time to prevent injury. Ironically, I overcame an obstacle the day before my competition, but I was not injured — it only comes with territory and is bound to happen sooner or later.
After the competition, I took a week off to rest my body and mentally process everything, which was consistent with the menstrual cycle. I didn’t train, but I tried to go out for a walk every day and concentrate on recovery work like hip mobility and stretching.
During the follicular episode, I felt better and got back to my normal sprinting and strength routine. I must have felt more energized during the ovulation episode (except for the days when I was awake until 3am). But I didn’t really change my training because it often involves high-intensity speed and energy work.
Overall, I found it a bit adventurous to focus on different stages of my cycle, and even though it’s an episode, I didn’t feel any better or my performance improved or decreased from tracking my period. But it was helpful to have insight into my body, especially the physiological changes that occur at different stages. I understand better why, on some days, my workouts feel extremely difficult and on other days I feel amazing, instead of just thinking about sucking or having to work harder. Overall, the biggest benefit is being more aware of my body.
I’m not sure if I’ll ever be a person who has their training habits perfectly matched to their duration, because it seems very strict (I know it’s really about building habits) but also as an athlete, I don’t change my training There is always flexibility for — I have to compete when I have competition, no matter what stage of my cycle I am.
Yet, we all deserve to understand how our bodies work without feeling embarrassed, embarrassed, or just going through something. The more research this area has, the more information we will be able to use.
Looking for more to optimize your period? Here are some tips on how to eat for your menstrual cycle:
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