Unfortunately for female athletes, the menstrual cycle and it’s associated hormonal changes can significantly impact on performance during training, body composition and levels of fatigue. Carefully planned diet strategies can assist in reducing the effects of these changes, and therefore reduce negative impacts on training.
The first phase of the menstrual cycle is called the follicular phase, and begins on the first day of your period. It is characterised by low levels of progesterone, and estrogen levels that slowly rise until ovulation occurs on day 14.
During this time, performance during training is at its best, muscle building is optimised and energy levels are at their highest. This is because testosterone levels are raised slightly, and there is an increase in your ability to break down and use carbohydrates as a fuel.
On the 14th day, ovulation stimulates a change in levels of estrogen and progesterone, and the luteal phase begins. Progesterone levels rise and this can cause a decline in performance during training, an increase in break down of muscle tissue, reduced ability to use carbohydrate as a fuel and a reduction in energy levels. This is also accompanied by the dreaded pre-menstrual symptoms such as cramping (due to losses in sodium), food cravings, water retention and mood swings.
With this information in mind, periodising nutrition, training intensities and recovery times can assist with optimising your performance and reducing your risk of injury. Along with your coach, it is important to strategically consider:
- Increasing training intensities and volumes when performance is at its highest, and decreasing training intensities and volumes when hormone levels change
- Taking advantage of times when your body can effectively use carbohydrates to fuel performance and muscle growth
- Altering carbohydrate intake as hormone levels change and carbohydrate oxidation levels decrease
- Altering protein intake to prevent muscle losses as hormones change and muscle breakdown increases
- Managing electrolyte and fluid intake to prevent muscle cramping and reduce water retention
- Focusing on recovery and increased sleep when energy levels are lower
The team at Precision Athletica can assist you in optimising your nutrition and training to achieve your performance goals as a female athlete. Whats more, book between now and October 21st, 2017 and all female athletes will receive 50% off an initial diet consultation with our performance dietitian, Steph Hage.
To take advantage of this great opportunity, email Steph Hage or call us on 9764 5787 and quote this article when asking to book with Steph.