How to Use Your Monthly Cycle to Increase Performance

Published: 8/22/2021

By Brooke Springer

What if I told you that you have a super power? You would want to know what it is right?

Well, the fun fact of today is, if you’re a person that has a period, then your menstrual cycle IS your SUPER POWER.

I know some of you are going to read this and say – “tell me something, I don’t know”, but I bet you didn’t know that you could be leaving a ton of potential on the table when your training is not catered to your menstrual cycle.

So, what do I mean by training around your period? I mean being able to optimize your time in the gym and knowing when to take a rest day.  The difference between the best times to go hard in the paint or take a rest day from the gym could be your missing key to actually reaching your potential.

It didn’t occur to me until 1.5 years ago that all along I was performing under my potential. As a former collegiate softball player and CrossFit athlete/coach, I wish I had known and learned more about what I am about to uncover to you all.

I often wonder just how far I really could have gone in both my softball career and a CrossFit career?

Cycle Mapping

The term Cycle Mapping isn’t a new concept but it is starting to make waves in the fitness/health industry and even in athletics.

So, what exactly is it? Well, it is simply matching training & nutrition (even lifestyle) to your monthly flow… Aunt Flo…your period.

The two primary hormones we are pinpointing here are Estrogen & Progesterone.

It is important to understand that Estrogen & Progesterone are like sisters, each with their own respective roles. They are like Ying and Yang, and need to be harmonious in order to prepare to make a baby. Sorry if this is a news flash to any of you, but the only thing our body functionally cares about is being prepared for a baby.

Therefore, in order to reach our body composition goals and/or performance goals we have to work with it, not against it.

Think of Estrogen like the outgoing, fun, spunky, energetic, powerful sister, whereas Progesterone is like the introverted, chill, relaxed, reserved, I-want-to-rest-all-day sister.

Estrogen is linked to:

  • increases of serotonin (feel good brain chemical) & dopamine (reward brain chemical)
  • decreases in systemic inflammation
  • decrease in body temperature
  • increased energy
  • increased stamina/power (due to relationship with testosterone- yes ladies we make testosterone too!)
  • increases in satiety
  • And better blood sugar regulation due to Estrogen’s relationship with insulin sensitivity (our bodies ability to use carbs as fuel vs storage)

Progesterone is linked to:

  • increases of gaba (brain chemical that makes us more “calm”)
  • increases in inflammation
  • decrease in insulin sensitivity (unstable blood sugars)
  • increase in fat burning (not body fat but more so using dietary fat as fuel)
  • increases in hunger (our bodies required 6-18% in calories during this time)
  • decrease in energy due to the decrease in serotonin & dopamine
  • increase in body temperature
  • decrease in immune function (we are more susceptible to getting sick during this time)

How to Align With Your Superpower

There are 4 distinct phases of our menstrual cycle. Each of us are different and therefore have different cycle lengths. A “normal” healthy cycle can last anywhere from 22-45 days according to Dr. Lara Briden, author of the Period Repair Manual. The first step in determining where you are is tracking your cycle. Day 1 is always the first day of a flow.

Phase 1- Menstrual Phase; Day 0-7 of your cycle

During this phase we are relatively low in Estrogen and Progesterone. Typically, in this phase we will be low on energy, motivation, and overall “gas” so it is okay to opt for more rest days or low intensity/gentle activities such as walking, hiking, yoga, sauna, etc

Phase 2- Follicular Phase; Day 7-14 of your cycle

During this phase we are relatively high in Estrogen and lower in Progesterone. Here we will see an uptick in energy, a boost in power/stamina, and a decrease in inflammation. This is the phase for giving ourselves the GREEN light GO for engaging in higher intensity workouts, going after PRs, and going LONGER! It’s why many of us find the weights “lighter”, a second lung, and we just feel overall like a BADASS.

Phase 3- Ovulation Phase; Days 14-16 of your cycle

Estrogen and Progesterone will be low again but only for a 2–3-day window. What this means for training is very similar to what we would strive for during Phase 1; scheduling rest days, or opting for lower intensity activities.

Phase 4- Luteal Phase; Days 17-45 of your cycle

During this phase Progesterone will be relatively high and Estrogen lower; although Estrogen has a slight bump in the beginning. We will primarily want to start to dial back the high intensity workouts due to the rise in overall internal inflammation & decrease in immune function.

What many don’t want to hear is that exercise is a stress on the body. Our body doesn’t know the difference between our exercise routine and running from a bear; it has the same stress response. When our brain/body go into its stress response, it ends up making just about every other system in the body overwork & underperform. Two things we do not want when we are chasing excellence.

During this phase we will want to focus on recovery methods such as yoga, hiking, or walking.

Many of us dread the idea of taking time away from the gym- but if we push the pace when our body internally is designed to be in a slower pace, we end of doing more damage than good. If you want to still get in some gym time, it is best to use slow tempo work with compound movements, free weights, bodyweight movements, steady state/low intensity cardio such as biking, etc. are all great ideas for keeping up the exercise routine during this phase without adding more inflammation.

All She Wrote

Overall, the overarching goal with matching your cycle with your training is to optimize performance, muscle building, and simultaneously decreasing stress.

Yes of course, any person can train tough during the menstruation and luteal phase- many people still tend to push the envelope.

However, when it comes to truly reaching our potential, optimizing our time is the key ingredient.

The “go hard or go home”, “no rest days”, mentality was a huge downfall of mine. It is now not a shocker of why I got burned out, had hormonal dysregulation, painful periods, irregular periods, and the inability to lose weight.

For the case of maximizing your time, you perform optimally on all levels when you train and also eat according to your cycle.

If you are interested in learning more on how to leverage your cycle in a way for you, or gathering more information on anything related to hormones, metabolism, performance, and all things health, please feel free to email me any questions at platforminw@gmail.com or join my private Facebook community where I do weekly trainings, giveaways, bring on special guests, and giveaway exclusive discounts on health/fitness products.

Disclaimer: People who are using birth control methods will have disrupted levels of Estrogen & Progesterone which makes it difficult to know when you are in a specific phase. It also should be noted that birth control methods will unfortunately slow down our body’s natural production of Estrogen and Progesterone which has its unique effects on the body during current use and transitioning off.

Do you think you will try Cycle Syncing?

If you have any questions or you would like to be a guest blogger, please email us at hello@liftingthedream

Bee Tee Dubs (BTW). 

CROSSFIT, INC DOES NOT ENDORSE, SANCTION, APPROVE OF, OR SUPPORT THIS WORK OR ANY OPINION EXPRESSED HEREIN.

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