Today I want to talk about what can be a taboo subject but what is vital information for all menstruating women out there!
Training and fasting are two important ways to maintain fitness and health, but how do we do this around our cycles?
Many women wonder whether it is OK to work out during their period. The answer is easy: Yes!
There is no medical reason to avoid working out during menstruation or any other phase of your cycle, in fact exercise may be beneficial for easing some common symptoms like cramps.
You may find that you can be more physically active and at a greater intensity at certain times of the month than at other times due to hormonal changes occurring within the body that may make it easier to do certain types of exercise within different stages of the month.
It is common to have low energy during menstruating and lack energy for exercise, however it is important to remember our menstrual cycle is not just the time of our period, it is for the full 28-35 days. To make the most of your cycle and understanding your body, tracking your cycle is a must, there are many apps that can help with this.
Evidence also suggests that around menstruation, our ability to recover from training is improved, as oestrogen is thought to have a protective function against muscle damage.
It also reduces the inflammatory response, so it could reduce muscle soreness meaning we recover more quickly and therefore adapt to training more readily!
Oestrogen is also cortisol forgiving, which means that the body can handle more intense training around the times that oestrogen is high which is during menstruation, therefore this is a great time to endure cardiovascular exercise.
During ovulation, oestrogen and testosterone levels are at their highest in the cycle at this phase, even progesterone creeps in, so this is usually a time for motivation, a hormonal super power time! Therefore this is a great time to focus on strength training, resistance work and weight lifting.
Do you know that there are more than 150 symptoms, like breast pain, headaches and nausea associated with a woman’s monthly cycle?
Menstrual symptoms can be a reason to decrease training if you’re not feeling it, however, it has been shown that moderate exercise such as yoga is beneficial for premenstrual symptoms and can help distract you from feelings of pain and discomfort.
Furthermore, exercise releases endorphins, which reduce the perception of pain, and moving your body increases blood circulation, which helps alleviate menstrual cramps.
Exercising has also been shown to reduce tension and anxiety, which can help alleviate the severity of menstrual cramps.
For women fasting is more complicated than men, primarily because of our body’s ever-changing hormones.
A woman’s body has three cycle hormones fluctuating throughout the month oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone, therefore it’s helpful to guide your nutrition along with your cycle.
Many doctors believe that hormonal imbalances are frequently triggered by bad eating habits that can be fixed by having a balanced diet and can also be helped along with conscious fasting.
Recently a new term “cycle syncing” has been introduced in the wellness circuit that means modifying your diet in accordance with your menstrual cycle.
For example managing glucose spikes during menstruation is key for helping manage oestrogen.
When it comes to fasting, there are different lengths of fasts – up to 16 hours, 17 hours plus and 24 hours to 72 hours. Each fasting period has it’s own benefits, for example a 24 hour fast has been proven that a reboot of intestinal stem cells can happen promoting gut healing during a 24 hour fast.
When to fast:
The week before your period is when your body is most susceptible to stress, therefore it is not advised to practice intermittent fasting the week before your period begins. This is a time to nurture the body and go easy on yourself.
Although your period may make you feel sluggish, practicing intermittent fasting during your period is actually encouraged to regulate hormones and is a good time to fast.
During ovulation as we mentioned before oestrogen and testosterone levels are at their highest in the cycle at this phase, however is not a great time to fast for longer than 15 hours as this is another time the body carries more stress during the cycle.
So the ideal fasting times on a 28 day cycle are:
Day 16 – 19 (or after ovulation)
These are the times where hormones are the lowest, so these are a great time to fast.
If you have a longer cycle than 28 days these times will vary, this is why it’s best to track your cycle as you’ll become more aware of when the best times are for optimising your nutrition and your training around your cycle.
If this is a topic of interest to you or you’d like to know more, I can highly recommend reading Fast Like a Girl by Dr. Mindy Pelz.
I hope you will be encouraged to track your cycle and listen to your body to make the most of exercise and nutrition to help a better hormonal balance and create more harmonious cycle.