Making the most of your menstrual cycle.

Making the most of your menstrual cycle.

Being a woman absolutely sucks.

I’m so glad I’m not one. Recently I’ve learnt a huge amount about female physiology and how you differ to men in your response to exercise and diet. Specifically, how your menstrual cycle effects the type of exercise you should do in each phase of the cycle. Including:

How often you should exercise in each phase.

What rep ranges you should focus on.

How many sets you should do.

What types of exercises you should select.

How to select an appropriate exercise

What rest periods you should use.

Also, because of fluctuations in oestrogen and progesterone (the main female sex hormones) your ability to use carbohydrate and fat changes throughout the month. So you should actually change up your diet during the different phases of your cycle.

During the follicular phase of your cycle (Week 1 and 2) your oestrogen levels are increased.

Oestrogen basically turns a normal woman into superwoman for a few weeks by doing the


Increases fat burning.

Increases your ability to deal with metabolic stress.

Increases endurance

Increases strength.

Increases co-ordination.

You recover faster exercise.

You recover faster between sets.

Your appetite is decreased.

Increases pain tolerance.

Improves your mood.

Increases insulin sensitivity.

And has an anti-inflammatory effect.

During the luteal phase of your cycle (Week 3 and 4) progesterone becomes more dominant.

Progesterone, on the other hand, is a bitch of a hormone which turns women into witches, especially during the 4th week of the cycle where you get PMT. Progesterone does the following:

Increases hunger and cravings.

Turns you into moody witches.

Decreases insulin sensitivity.

Blocks androgen receptors.

Decreases muscle protein synthesis.

Makes training adaptations difficult.

Decreases co-ordination.

Ovulation obviously dissects these two phases and during this day (or two) testosterone increases somewhat.

So what does this all mean for you with regards to exercise and dieting? Well, here’s a few tables to show you what you should do to make the most of the effects of each phase:

Follicular Phase Week 1 and 2

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Luteal Phase Week 3 and 4

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At this point of the blog I was thinking of giving a template training programme, but because exercise preferences, goals, target areas etc will be different for every woman then it wouldn’t make sense to do so. Also, I’m already over my allocated word count. (My website blog page will soon contain an extended version of this blog).

I wouldn’t have learnt any of this without the expert knowledge of the amazing Lyle McDonald.

Indeed most of what I have written above is based on his findings researching his next book which will be available soon.

To quote Lyle:

‘Men have one 65 year long cycle of being A*******. Women have a monthly cycle which changes

every week.’

Nathaniel Brown
Top Local Trainer Author
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