Do you find that training is harder at certain times of the month? Or perhaps you feel your performance is greatly affected by your period?
Chances are this is not a conversation you've had openly, and have probably accepted that this is just "what happens". I have personally suffered from the historic information void, and had several qualification races fall at the "wrong time". With not knowing how to mitigate the effects of my period I was left feeling frustrated and upset, and crucially, not on the team!
It does, however, feel that there has been a shift and a demand for more research. It feels like the sports industry has finally woken up and realized we are different.
I'm going to share some tips I've learned along the way to help you iron out those performance fluctuations, and hopefully give you the confidence to talk about PERIODS!
- Periods are not the problem, so fear not if you're "due" on an important date. As soon as your period starts your hormones dissipate, and vital energy systems can be used for performance instead of keeping those hormones high. It's the premenstrual phase that needs the attention!
- Protein is key in the 14 days leading up to your period, this is because estrogen reduces the anabolic (growing capacity) of muscle, whilst progesterone increases the catabolism (breakdown) of muscle tissue. Put simply in the high-hormone phase it's harder to build and maintain muscle. Try adding more protein to your post-workout meal to offset this effect.
- Consume more carbohydrates during exercise in the premenstrual phase. This is because estrogen reduces your ability to access and burn carbohydrates during high-intensity activity; the body decides to hold onto glycogen stores in the event of pregnancy. It, therefore, becomes super important to fuel your exertions by physically eating more instead of relying on your reserves.
- Be prepared for your workouts to feel harder than they normally do. Your blood plasma volume will decrease up to 8%, which essentially means your blood is thicker. Thicker blood means less is pumped out every heartbeat, making an effort FEEL harder than it normally does!
- Add a pinch of salt to pre-workout meals. Progesterone makes you excrete more sodium, which inhibits the amount of fluid your body can absorb, and makes keeping hydrated even harder. As a result replacing lost sodium becomes even more important.
In reality, most of us will feel pants at some point in the run-up to our period, and unfortunately, the above tips won't completely eradicate the effects of high hormones. They will, however, reduce some of the dips in performance, and hopefully make you feel more confident when heading out on the bike, whatever the time of the month.
I'm super passionate about this subject and encourage my female athletes to talk about periods (if they are comfortable in doing so). I feel that effective training on the bike is about taking a holistic view and looking at all contributing factors. If you are interested in how we could work with you in a similar way please contact CINCH today.
This article was written by CINCH coach Sophie Johnson