Active females often ask how the menstrual cycle and the differing levels of hormones involved affect exercise and performance.
According to prior research, the menstrual cycle has been suggested to have potential detrimental effects on sports performance and training. In a recent study, 51%of elite athletes felt that their symptoms associated with the menstrual cycle adversely affected their performance with another study reporting 67% of athletes had symptoms perceived to affect their performance. Additionally, 36.7% of elite athletes have reported heavy menstrual bleeding affects their performance.
Studies have also reported a variety of performance alterations during the menstrual cycle, some of which are: muscular performance changes throughout the cycle, an increased injury risk associated with hormonal fluctuations across the cycle, increased laxity of the knee joint in the follicular stage of the cycle and reduced communication between the muscles and nerves in those that are classified as amenorrhoeic (an absence of cycles). While others suggest that adaptation to training may be altered.
Although a recent study, whereby all the current evidence available was evaluated, revealed very few differences within exercise performance across the menstrual cycle, with only a possible slight marginal decline in performance during menstruation (early follicular phase), which may be more relevant for athletes at the elite end of the scale looking for marginal gains where feasible.
Currently we do not have a one size fits all answer when it comes to the menstrual cycle and exercise performance, we may never do. What we do know is that the menstrual cycle and its associated symptoms and effects will vary greatly from one individual to another, so what we can do is use this to our advantage and prepare for such inevitable events.
At FitrWoman we always advocate for an individualised approach to the menstrual cycle as each person will have their own unique experience and go through their own set of symptoms. Our goal is to educate people to learn about their own bodies, understand what is happening at different times of their cycle and manage their symptoms in the best way possible.
The FitrWoman app is designed for you to track your cycle and train smarter by providing personalised training and nutritional suggestions tailored to the changing hormone levels throughout your cycle.
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