Everyday, new information circulates online about which diets are the best for losing weight and which training methods will help you reach your fitness goals faster. However, this research typically only looks at the effects of exercise and diet on men. It can be difficult to find reliable information about health and wellness geared towards women, which is why we were fascinated by the 28ish Days Later podcast. In episode “Day Twenty Three: Exercycle,” host India Rakusen and performance physiologist Dr. Stacy Sims discuss how best to tailor your eating and exercise routine to certain points of your cycle. We learned that if it’s day 23 of your cycle and progesterone is at its peak, you feel extra unmotivated to exercise. Instead of beating yourself up for a lack of motivation, try to rest and recover instead. 

Women have an entirely different hormone cycle than men – 28ish days as opposed to 24 hours – and the female hormone cycle has a great effect on metabolism and how the body responds to training stimulus. Studies focusing on male data have dominated the exercise physiology space for decades, yet women have entirely different exercise needs. In this blog, we’re breaking down India and Dr. Stacy’s insights into the menstrual cycle’s impact on the female body’s response to diet and exercise, giving you a better understanding of how to treat your body throughout the month.

How Does the Menstrual Cycle Affect Exercise?

Since certain modes of exercise may be counterproductive for women depending on what phase of their cycle they are in, it may be beneficial to tailor your exercise regimen to your menstrual cycle. Instead of beating yourself up for not going on a run, take some time to dive deeper into how the menstrual cycle affects exercise. Then, you can better determine which type of exercise supports your body’s needs for that specific day. 

The Follicular Phase – Day 1 of Your Period to Ovulation

During the follicular phase, estrogen starts to rise and progesterone is low. This is a good time to do any high-stress exercise, such as heavy weight bearing activities, because estrogen helps build muscle. This is also a great opportunity to eat a high protein diet full of lentils, chickpeas, eggs, nuts, seeds, and other foods rich in protein!

The Luteal Phase – Post-Ovulation to the Start of Your Period

During the luteal phase, estrogen takes a dip and progesterone becomes the predominant hormone. This is not a good time to build lean mass, since you are going to have to work harder to build new mass and eat extra protein to counteract the catabolic properties of progesterone. As estrogen starts to drop, you may feel a drop in energy, signaling it’s time to ease up on the training. During the luteal phase, try light to moderate cardio or strength training. By doing phase-based training, you can get more out of your workout by working with your hormones, instead of against them. In the long run, you’ll see better fitness gains and be less likely to get injured!

What About Diet?

Similar to exercise trends, many diet trends have only been studied on men. Intermittent fasting is a popular diet that may do more harm than good for women. For men, fasting helps them relax, but for women, it can raise anxiety levels. For women, fasted training mutes the signals to burn fat and causes women to burn less fat at rest after exercise; however, it does the opposite for men. As a result of this, women gain body fat, feel more tired, get worse sleep, and experience more health detriments! These low energy levels can lead to menstrual cycle dysfunction, which will ultimately cause an even worse relationship with diet and exercise.

Get Informed with OvuSense!

While training in phases can help women reach their fitness goals more effortlessly, it’s important to remember that many women have irregular cycles, and few women have a 28-day cycle. Try cycle-tracking with OvuSense to know exactly when you are in each phase of your cycle, so that you can better accommodate our body during exercise and when eating. 

Everyone’s personal fitness journey is different. Next time you beat yourself up for not being able to train at maximum intensity everyday, track your cycle with OvuSense and adjust your training accordingly!