When planning training for a woman, it is very important to consider the implications of the menstrual cycle and what type of hormones are produced in each phase to select the most appropriate objectives, methods, and exercises.
Throughout the menstrual cycle, there are a series of changes that directly affect the metabolism so that the body processes nutrients differently and sensitivity to different types of training varies. In addition, mood and energy are also affected. We explain how.
1. Follicular phase. It occurs, more or less, during the first 14 days of the cycle and its main characteristic is the increase in estrogen production and the decrease in progesterone levels. As a consequence of this hormonal oscillation, energy and mood are at their highest point. In addition, insulin sensitivity is increased in this phase, so the body can use carbohydrates more efficiently. For the exercise, it is the most appropriate time to prioritize the most intense workouts, such as HIIT, since the body will offer greater performance and increase the intensity in strength training.
2. Ovulatory phase. It lasts approximately 36 hours and includes the period of time in which the egg is released from the follicle waiting to be fertilized. In this phase, the highest levels of testosterone in women are produced and therefore the metabolism begins to rise. Likewise, as a result of this testosterone, the body assimilates strength training much better .
3. Luteal phase . It occurs in the 10 or 12 days prior to bleeding and has as characteristics an increase in progesterone production, a decrease in insulin sensitivity and an increase in metabolism. These changes cause the body to have a greater facility to use the fat that we store as an energy source. For this reason, we must take advantage of these days to prioritize prolonged cardiovascular exerciseand of moderate intensity. At the end of this period, many women experience worse mood, increased appetite and increased fluid retention. If we consider all this, it can be a good time to schedule low intensity workouts that are more focused on recovery.
Intensity for each menstrual phase
-Follicular phase: Ideally, HIIT sessions (high intensity cardiovascular training) a couple of times a week and strength training in circuits with progressive intensity twice a week.
-Ovulatory phase: We must prioritize strength training with loads, doing it three days a week, and reduce HIIT sessions to a weekly session.
– Luteal phase: Long-term cardio training (two days a week) + strength with loads (one day) + strength in circuits (one day).
-Last week of the cycle: We must reduce strength and cardio sessions to three weekly.