The Effects of Menstrual Cycle on Sports Performance
Working harder doesn't necessarily result in better performance, be it at work or in school. Female athletes, in particular, not only have to apply diligence but also need to work smart while training and competing. Some include mindfulness in their daily routine. Others engage in a weekend activity to spice up their life and increase their motivation. If you compete or participate in sports, working with your menstrual cycle is one of the more effective ways to improve your scores. In this post, we'll talk about how your period can affect your exercise performance and how you can use it to reach your full potential in sports.
How does your menstrual cycle impact your exercise performance?
Many sports professionals see menstruation as a liability. They perceive it as holding down female athletes from delivering their personal best. This belief continues to drive athletes and coaches to find ways to "contain the "red menace." But is menstruation really the enemy of excellence in sports?
Perception of the effects of menstruation on athletic achievement
Because they think that menstruation hinders exercise performance, many sportswomen and coaches use contraceptives. Various studies link the reduced capabilities of female athletes to their periods. The rationale is that PMS symptoms, such as lower energy, mood swings, and menstrual cramps, can diminish health and wellbeing. Also, the high estrogen levels during the first half of the menstrual cycle may make tendons looser, increasing injuries.
It isn't just contraceptives that can disturb one's menstrual cycle. Over-exercising can also result in athletic amenorrhea or the absence of menstruation. The reduced body fat from excessive training can make sex hormones go awry. This causes menstrual irregularities that supposedly "help" female athletes perform better.
However, there are conflicting studies on the advantages of controlling the menstrual cycle. Some studies say that the effect of the menstrual cycle may also be based on perception. The same research shows that muscle and tendon stiffness does not vary between the early follicular and ovulatory phases. Besides, manipulating menstruation with birth control pills or intrauterine devices can produce side effects. These include high blood pressure, liver disease, blood clots, and a heightened risk for cervical and breast cancer.
The benefits of a regular menstrual cycle
And this brings us to the positive impact of a regular menstrual cycle on exercise performance. Here are a few of the advantages:
1. Sufficient estrogen
Regardless of the conflicting studies, our bodies need enough estrogen to protect our bones. Menstrual abnormalities result in decreased estrogen and make us more vulnerable to bone stress and injuries.
2. More training consistency
One study of female runners showed that having a regular period decreased their injuries. This enabled them to be more consistent with their drills. In turn, this helped increase running time, which boosted their exercise performance.
3. Stable schedule
A regular menstrual pattern can also help you sync your training with your reproductive cycle. From studies that show the impact of the menstrual cycle on exercise performance, you can see its potential to optimize results.
Cycle syncing means letting your body dictate your physical activities. Here's a rundown of what you can (or should do!) to make your menstrual cycle work for you.
1. The menstrual phase: Days 1 to 7
Auntie Flo comes knocking during this phase with her PMS entourage of abdominal cramps, fatigue, mood swings, and so on. This is when progesterone and estrogen are at their lowest, which means low energy. So this may be a perfect time for low-impact activities, such as restorative yoga.
2. The follicular phase: Days 6 to 14
This phase slightly overlaps with the secretion of blood and menstrual fluid. At this point, your body releases FSH or follicle-stimulating hormones. These trigger your ovaries to produce follicles or sacs with immature eggs. The created follicles will duke it out until the "strongest" emerges. Then, the "winning" follicle will house and nurture its egg into maturity. Although the hormonal levels are low at the onset, the follicle produces estrogen. This steady rise in estrogen in the later follicular phase can help you execute routines that need more muscle strength and power. High-intensity sports you can do include weightlifting, sprinting, and long-distance running.
3. The ovulatory phase (ovulation): Day 14
The egg matures and eventually gets released. This signals the start of ovulation, which lasts for around 12 to 24 hours. Now, both your estrogen and testosterone levels are at their peak. With the energy from the follicular phase, you can continue to perform demanding routines. But, the surge in estrogen may make you more prone to fractures and other injuries. You may want to ditch plyometric moves, like jump squats and clap push-ups, to protect your knees. Also, warm-ups and cool-downs may be more critical during or around ovulation.
4. The luteal phase: Days 15 to 28
This last phase begins shortly after ovulation when the ruptured follicle becomes the corpus luteum. This is a temporary gland structure that secretes progesterone and some estrogen. In the middle of the luteal phase, progesterone and estrogen peak to prepare the uterine lining for the anticipated fetus. If the pregnancy doesn't materialize, the hormone levels drop. The corpus luteum degrades, the uterine lining detaches, and the menstruation cycle starts all over again.
The slight increase in body temperature in the luteal phase may enhance short-term performance. But, prolonged training can further strain your body's cooling and heart-regulating mechanisms. This may prevent optimal performance in endurance training.
It's time to switch to low-intensity exercises and activities, such as Pilates, water workouts, and stretching. You may also opt for strength training with low to moderate weight but more reps.
Boosting your exercise performance on your period
Monitoring the menstrual cycle in elite sports is becoming more popular. Top sporting organizations, like the Chelsea Football Club and the United States Women's National Soccer and Swimming Teams, now use period tracking apps. This helps them make the necessary modifications to sleep habits, training, diet, etc. Such interventions guide and help female athletes and coaches achieve their performance goals.
One sure-fire way to reach next-level sports performance results is wearing Ruby Love period apparel. Get off to a running start, hit the grand slam in tennis, or fight gravity with gymnastics—whatever sport you choose, we've got you covered.
For instance, our Ruby Love Athletic Leggings feature a patented gusset that allows maximum movement while being 100% leak-proof and discreet. Depending on your flow, you can wear it on its own or with a pad, tampon, or menstrual cup. Our double-sided reusable pads even fit perfectly in the gusset for added protection. Or you can train or swim in perfect confidence with Ruby Love Tennis Skorts and Period Running Shorts, with built-in absorbent layers and leak-resistant barriers to wick away moisture. In addition, our period underwear, activewear, and athletic wear boast of smart, intuitive, and patent-pending technology. Dri-Tech Mesh offers maximum absorption, protection against leaks and stains, peace of mind, and complete discretion.
With Ruby Love, whether you're sweating during training or competing your heart out, you can treat your period just like any other day! So boost your confidence and take your performance to the next level with Ruby Lovel. Shop our cool and competitive period apparel today!