How to Exercise and Eat in Alignment with Your Menstrual Cycle

hello and welcome its Jessica Drummond here from the integrative Women's Health Institute and I'm here to answer a specific question today about exercise and nutrition and the menstrual cycle so this is for the female athletes in our community and it doesn't matter if you're a teenage female athlete or a perimenopausal teenage athlete or a teenage veteran that's not premenopausal teenage athlete but a perimenopausal female athlete or a woman trying to work out hard and during or after pregnancy so we've got to consider not during pregnancy but after pregnancy all through our childbearing years from puberty to menopause except those times when we are pregnant or nursing we have to consider the menstrual cycle as a partner in our athletic training and this this is effective whether you're pushing for a personal record whether you're trying to make a high school or collegiate athletic team or you're a woman in perimenopause trying to maintain your exercise gains or push your training records as well so in training and competition records as well so let's talk about how to fit in the right kind of training depending on where you are in your menstrual cycle so let's just start at the beginning day one of the menstrual cycle is the first day of bleeding this is the first day of your period and I noted with this little red squiggly line here those are the first few days of your menstrual cycle where women will generally have their periods now if you don't have your period and you're very athletic or your periods are irregular so if you either have amenorrhea no periods or you've lost your periods or your periods are irregular or your periods are painful that's a red flag so you want to have that assessed because it means that you are overtraining you're undernourished or you have other some other hormonal issues so problems with period irregularity or losing your cycle especially in athletes is a big red flag there's my elementary coloring beautiful red flag if your periods are not regular and strong you want them to last about four to five days at least so then I have three lines here on this graph the black is estrogen the purple is testosterone and the pink are red here is progesterone so these are the three dominant female reproductive hormones that make a difference to your athletic training believe it or not so what happens is these first few days of the menstrual cycle when you have your period up until about day three all of these hormones are at pretty low levels so they're not supporting you very well so this is a recovery time we'll get back to that in a minute but then starting roughly around a four five all the way to day fourteen fifteen when you ovulate so this orange line is ovulation you're in what some clinicians and researchers have called the Venus week this is awesome because this is when you can push your performance you can workout harder you can you know eat more carbs we'll get into that in a minute so this is the week where you naturally because of hormonal support you feel stronger more powerful more brain focused more creative more agile more productive so tune in to this week as you're thinking about your athletic training and competition because certainly it doesn't mean that women can't compete and win and do great things during you know recovery time either them at the period or at the end of the menstrual cycle which we'll get back to but this time the push perform Venus week days roughly four to fourteen of your menstrual cycle or when you have natural boost from your reproductive hormones so you want to take advantage of that and I've detailed a little bit of that here you this is a time when we can push performance gains you can increase intensity you can increase the weight you can increase how long your distance training is your estrogen because estrogen is much higher it's not – it sounds absolute highest right before our relation estrogen supports fat burning so we want to fuel our training at this time with more fat you also can tolerate generally speaking more carbs because you need to burn off that that energy which can come from carbohydrates most of them most of the carbohydrates you're consuming during this time should come from vegetables which is our best source of carbohydrates but assuming you don't have any yeast issues fruit Whole Grains this is the time when you can add more of that in beans so fruit whole grains and beans will really be supportive of these pushed performance and training times when you're lifting more weight running further you know more distance more endurance and higher intensity if you're doing a sport that's you know intensity intervals or your training intensity intervals so this is the time the V this week is when we want to exercise harder and it's easier for fat burning so if you are trying to exercise as a part of a weight loss program this is when you really support it now of course your estrogen levels have to be good and normal and if they're not you know we can talk about that on another day if your estrogen levels are low which is another reason why you want to watch out for the red flag of not strong robust four to five day periods that are regular because if not it's a sign that your estrogen may not be high enough to really be supporting this Venus week same problem if you're on the birth control pill because the birth control pill actually uses a protein called sex hormone-binding globulin to tie up much of your sex hormones and gives you back just a little enough you know for survival but not enough for reproduction also not enough for this performance boost so be mindful if you're on the birth control pill that you know the benefits of the birth control pill and you know the risks and the downsides of the birth control and then you make a very informed decision about being on the birth control pill or not because be not being on it could potentially help your athletic performance and many other things like your sex drive for example so then let's talk about testosterone so the other thing that happens during this venus week not only is estrogen ances highest level but so is testosterone which again is a hormone that can help support even in women strength gains it's not going to necessarily you know bulk you up all of a sudden you're not going to be like getting testosterone or you know steroid shots we're not going to be looking like you know over built in the gym that's don't worry about that you but you'll have good levels of testosterone for women to gain strength and women of all ages girls in puberty teenage girls girls in high school girls in college women in their 20s women throughout the childbearing years and women and perimenopause for sure need adequate testosterone for many physiological functions but one of the ones most important to this conversation is testosterone is essential for strength building oh look at that right okay how's my muscle right alright so let's move on to the loo yo face so that's all the first half of the cycle the menstrual cycle that happens before ovulation after ovulation things shift and you go from a time where you're going to be pushing and harder intervals and heavier weights and longer distances to maintenance okay and maintenance is really important because in maintenance we solidify the gains and we gain confidence and we can utilize the luteal phase for two really important performance boosters yeah connection to her intuition which can help you read your opponent's it can help you tune into you know where our air the gaps in your training is this really the sport that you actually want to do or kind of have you been pushed into it right this is a time to tune into your own intuition about what athletic endeavors you want to be doing at this time and then take advantage of some of the benefits of intuition for things like reading your opponent's if you're playing a team sport or you're running a race you've gotten better intuitive read on your opponent's which can also help with your records and winning games and things like that your performance so intuition and plateau and gain confidence so let's say you push your training now you want to stick with that level of performance and training through roughly days 15 through 25 so about a week and a half where you're solidifying and gaining confidence in your athletic games then you also want to shift from higher carbs and fats to more protein more protein and gangees going to feed that new muscle that you've been you've been building over here and it's going to allow you to solidify those games have some recovery in in some of your systems and sleep now sleep is important everywhere I mean I can't really overemphasize sleep sleep is as essential for training is working out but sleep during this space helps you again solidify gain confidence in those improved gains that you got earlier in the cycle then we move on to roughly day 2526 where it's very natural and normal to feel a little more a little less energy a little bit more fatigued now another sign of red flag here is if you have intense fatigue if you have serious mental pain if you know you have headaches or pelvic pain that take you out of the game take you out of practice take you out of school or work if you're stuck in bed exhausted and in pain that is not normal you may need to be screened for endometriosis you may need to be seen by a pelvic health expert you know we have to take a look at your hormone levels because we don't totally crashed out for days you know intense PMS all of that is not normal so that's a red flag but it is normal as you can see all of these hormones are coming to their lowest levels again where they'll stay for a few days early in the next cycle as we circle around this continues on right month after month these lower levels of hormones you know again it's a time for now we want to shift into recovery mode so this is when sleep is king hydration and eating a nice balanced nutrient dense tons of vitamins and minerals at least eight to ten servings of vegetables a day plenty of food plenty of calories about 30% fat per day and that's also through the cycle with maybe even a little more in the in the follicular phase and this is when women really need to be fueling up and and resting and recovering it doesn't maybe don't work out at all but maybe we add in more restorative practice maybe two or three times a week you're hitting a yoga class or doing a mindfulness practice you're trading you know outside in nature and a slower pace again hydration sleep and just valuing that we have this cycle to remind us that there are times when we mean when we need more recovery now there's two things that I see all the time in my practice and that are you know flashing lights in the literature and the scientific literature that women who are if even elite or collegiate level athletes are not getting enough nutrients so we need to eat far more vegetables healthy fats and clean protein don't worry about calories so much we've got to get the nutrition in and if you're not getting enough you're gonna have red flag issues with your period the second thing that's a huge common problem that I want you to start tuning into and then we'll talk about these things more in coming videos is shifting into more times during your day during your week all through all of these phases where you're in deep calm we need more restorative and recovery time even during the Venus week even during the follicular phase where there's just deep relaxation where you're slowing your breathing to about 10 sorry six breaths from it per minute one every ten seconds right slow it way down yoga classes nature bathing simply means just walk outside be outside in nature without your phone right shutting off electronic devices at least four hours a week you know all together and ideally a half day or a full day per week we need to have times when our nervous system shifts into deep calm because we need that for recovery for our muscles for our cardiovascular systems for our nervous systems and women you know in perimenopause are not getting this enough of women who even if they're not athletes and women who are athletic three or perimenopause or if you're a teenager if you're a collegiate athlete if you're an athlete in the childbearing years you're probably doing a lot of things other than your sport and so it's like you're just fitting it in you're really busy push push push and that causes over time a lot of stress on the nervous and cardiovascular system so we need to balance that with shifts into deep relaxation alright I hope you enjoyed this get out there and work out but don't forget we're cover and start tracking your menstrual cycles so that you know when to exercise and when when to exercise harder when to solidify your gains and when to focus on recovery and I use different tracking apps we can talk about those in the future one of my favorites is just hormone horoscope which is kind of a cute one it doesn't have as much bells and whistles but it's sort of a cute daily reminder of where you are on your cycle and keep doing this all the way through perimenopause and start as early as possible in puberty so you get to understand your cycle and how you feel during the various phases all right thanks so much have a great day bye bye

2 Replies to “How to Exercise and Eat in Alignment with Your Menstrual Cycle”

  1. Thank you, Jessica! Awesome talk. Could you clarify, does the birth control pill contain SHBG or is it that the pill promotes synthesis of SHBG? Either way, would you recommend a supplement strategy to offset the negative effects of SHBG on active testosterone. Thank you for the work you do! Dan

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