Bloating, aching, mood swings and fatigue! These are all symptoms of our dear friend “aunt flow”. Perhaps you’ve been on your fitness regime a while, yet when your time of the month rears its ugly head you seem to relapse into habits of binge eating and little to no exercise.
When it’s that time of the month, how do you try to stay on track?
Here is some advice based on science:
Changes in temperature will affect your cardio:
When it comes to your period, do you ever notice that sometimes you may have all of the energy in the world, and other times you feel like death? Has this ever affected your cardio? Well, guess what! Cardiovascular performance during menstruation is highly dependent on the weather! The University of Newcastle Australia explains that cardiovascular changes do not occur in temperate conditions, however, increased fatigue just before your period was evident in conditions of 32 degrees Celsius and during humidity of 60% or greater (Jonge de Janse, 2012). Perhaps decreasing your level of cardio or sticking to a strength program in hot and humid conditions, especially one week before your period, may be more beneficial to your overall performance.
Changes in strength may occur:
Sakamai and Yasuda, researchers at the University of Tokyo, demonstrate that isometric strength decreases during your period. However one week before your period your isometric strength increases. Isometric exercises are activities where the joints and muscles do not move. Such exercises include the plank, isolated lunges (holding a lunge for an extended period of time with the front leg in a 90 degree angle) and isolated squats. Movement exercises such as the chest press, squats, and the row may be performed with greater effectiveness during your period. Sakamai and Yasuda also demonstrate that muscle growth (hypertrophy) and strength gains are increased one week prior to your menstrual cycle. Perhaps a lower repetition range and harder exercises should be explored during this premenstrual time.
Changes in metabolic process: is it easier to gain weight?
We have all experienced excessive cravings and overeating during that time of the month. We usually crave carbohydrates such as chocolate, chips, or dare I even say it…POUTINE! This is explained by a shift from fat oxidation to carbohydrate oxidation both before and during your period. In other words, you are using more carbohydrates to fuel your metabolism (D. Campbell, 2001). The glucose we use is the kind that is directly in our blood (plasma glucose) and not in stored muscle glycogen. This means we need to consume carbohydrates immediately to obtain energy from them! Taking a carbohydrate supplementation or drink during exercise one week prior to and during your period can potentially take away fatigue caused by lack of plasma glucose stores!
The best part is you don’t really gain weight! Sure, you may feel bloated, but this is mainly water retention. There are such drastic metabolic changes occurring in a woman’s body during her menstrual cycle that the metabolism actually speeds up by approximately 500 extra calories! (Clark, 2008). So if you find yourself feeling famished during your monthly visitor, add an extra 500 calories to your day!
This advice comes purely from a scientific perspective and, like most science, results are generalized and may vary. The only person that can really judge how you feel is yourself. Personally one week before my period, my blood pressure drops, my strength levels decrease and I feel exhausted. I don’t care what the studies say! During that time of the month you may not see me in the gym!
Clark, N. (2008). Sports Nutrition Guidbook. Chestnut Hill: Human Kinetics.
D. Campbell, A. a. (2001). Glucose kinetics and exercise performance during phases of the menstrual cycle: Effect of glucose ingestion. American Journal of Physiology, Endrocrinology and Metabolism.
Jonge de Janse, T. C. (2012). Exerciise performance over the menstrual cycle in temperate and hot, humid conditions. Medicine and science in sports exercise.
M.Sakamaki, Y. A. (2012). Comparison of low intensity blood flow restricted training induced muscular hypertohpy in the follicular phase and luteal phase and age-matched men. Clinical physiology and functional imaging, 185-191.