Making it work for you
 
In the case of training for a goal event, sometimes it can be impossible to line up your cycle with the event in follicular phase for ‘peak performance’, however by using a tracker and understanding what your body does you can account for and mitigate some of the issues that can arise in the luteal phase.

For example, in the case of a warm weather event in the luteal phase you could;
 
• Ingest ice slushy prior to the event (there is some evidence this helps reduce core temperature).
• Take iced bottles for feed zones.
• Use an ice vest to pre-cool during warm up.
• Your body is relying heavily on exogenous carbohydrate: set a timer to eat more frequently than usual.
• Understand that you may not feel as good, but performance can be very similar to the luteal phase despite this [1].
 
The Big Change
 
If there’s one things that’s studied less athletic performance in women with a normal menstrual cycle, it’s athletic performance in menopausal, and post-menopausal women.
 
We know that keeping active counteracts some of the disadvantages arising from hormonal changes and muscle mass loss[2]. As mentioned in the last edition, loss of muscle mass during menopause can be mitigated by incorporating strength training and also assists in maintaining bone density, which also normally begins to dive around this time.[3]

Thermoregulation can be impaired due to hormonal imbalances, resulting in what’s known as ‘hot flashes’. Some women will be severely impacted by these, others will fly through menopause barely noticing them, but some tips for managing these with training including increasing electrolyte and water intake, and once again pre-cooling when required.[4]
 
The takeaway
 
It’s important to note that some people experience quite severe menstrual cycle symptoms and others may simply breeze through with minimal problems. So it’s a great idea to track your cycle to find patterns in symptoms, feeling and performance, and for the coached athlete, speaking to your coach can really help with programming and understanding your own performance limiters.
 
We may not know everything about the menstrual cycle and performance but we do know that there are times where the body is primed for performance. Olympic medals have been won at every stage of the menstrual cycle, so it’s important to understand where you’re at and what that can mean to have the best chance of success month-round.


[1] Lebrun, C. M. (1993). Effect of the Different Phases of the Menstrual Cycle and Oral Contraceptives on Athletic Performance. Sports Medicine, 16(6), 400–430. doi: 10.2165/00007256-199316060-00005

[2] Bondarev, D., Laakkonen, E. K., Finni, T., Kokko, K., Kujala, U. M., Aukee, P., … Sipilä, S. (2018). Physical performance in relation to menopause status and physical activity. Menopause, 25(12), 1432–1441. doi: 10.1097/gme.0000000000001137

[3] Muir, J. M., Ye, C., Bhandari, M., Adachi, J. D., & Thabane, L. (2013). The effect of regular physical activity on bone mineral density in post-menopausal women aged 75 and over: a retrospective analysis from the Canadian multicentre osteoporosis study. BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders, 14(1). doi: 10.1186/1471-2474-14-253

[4] (2019, June 3). Female Endurance Athletes: Staying Healthy During Menopause and Beyond. Retrieved from https://www.endurancesportsnutritionist.co.uk/female-endurance-athletes-staying-healthy-menopause-beyond/