• How the menstrual cycle can effect a females training & weight loss

    21st March 2019

    How the menstrual cycle can effect a females training & weight loss 

    Before we go ahead a dive into this subject we want to make a few things clear, this blog is going to cover a lot of bases and merely skim the surface of the above mentioned subject. A Personal Trainer has written this, not a doctor, not a gynaecologist and certainly not someone with a PhD. The information within this blog is factually correct to the best of our knowledge however if we are out on a couple of things then remember we are only human and like you still learning; The purpose of this blog is to educate both males and females along with talking about a subject which we think is often overlooked within the industry. 

    Now there are a number of factors that can effect a male or females level of training, you will hear us refer to RPE throughout this blog, RPE stands for "Rate of Perceived Exertion" this is essentially a scale to help gauge the intensity of how hard you are working throughout your training. As we said many factors can effect this such as stress, lack of sleep, motivation, nutrition etc but from a physiological stance females have to factor in their menstrual cycle as well.

    Inexperienced Personal Trainers can sometimes view everyone on the same scale, for example they may think that throughout the timescale of a month a female should be able to train at the same intensity as a male would consistently whereas in reality this is not the case. Before we dip into the physiological side of things there are a few points that we need to address to make the second half of this blog make sense.

    Generally females store more fat as opposed to males, this is the product of about 200,000 years of evolution since the Middle Palaeolithic times... this basically is to do with reproduction and storing enough bodyfat consistently to be able to child bare, a lot of women who participate in physique competitions suffer from amenorrhea which is the halting of their menstruation. This is essentially their body telling them their bodyfat is too low to be efficient at reproducing. It's worth mentioning that males experience low sex drive and struggle to maintain an erection when having extremely low body fat, this is the male equivalents body telling them they are not going to be efficient at reproducing.

    So to break the cycle down. The menstrual cycle lasts 25-35 days, it varies from female to female. For the purpose of making it easier to explain we will assume that a females cycle lasts for 30 days on average, we will split the 30 days into 4 stages. At day 15 the females are most fertile, this is called ovulation, on day 14/15 the female has the highest peak of testosterone in her body, this equals a high RPE, PB lifts and a general high intensity to the workout. It's also the time in the cycle that females experience a high sex drive which again links back to the evolution side of things as it's also when they are most fertile.

    In the first two stages of the cycle from 1-15 days oestrogen is released, this is known as the follicular phase, essentially when the follicles in a women's ovaries are preparing for ovulation. The second two stages from 15-30 days are when progesterone is released, this is known as the luteal phase. This is when women can feel cravings, depression, increased stress and joint pain. In the luteal phase studies suggest that females need more calories as opposed to the follicular phase, often females neglect this and end up binging which contributes to weight gain.

    As a PT it is important to have an open relationship with your female client. Ask them what point in their cycle they are. Particulary in the last stage of the cycle 22-30 days which is known as PMS, this is when females feel at their worst. In some cases it's reported that when lifting in the PMS stage it is reported that the client was lifting 50% more in the follicular phase. This can be very demotivating time but a good PT will identify this and take the client onto more basic exercises such as bodyweight exercise's rather than weight lifting. Make sure as a PT when training females you compare their progress from each week in each month rather than each week to the next. For example compare their weight in month one, week one to week one in month two NOT week one in month one to week three in month one. This will both give you the most accurate results and give the female client a realistic goal rather than demotivating them. In a nutshell a female should generally find thinghs easier in the gym throughout the follicular phase (Stage 1&2) but then will start to struggle through the luteal phase (Stage 3&4 after ovulation)

    In summary it's important to remember that females will always resist harder to diet than a male. This is because their levels of Leptin (Hormone responsible for Satiety) drop lower then a males would. Males on average burn more calories on a diet as they have a higher muscles mass and generally bigger so physiologically they are more efficient at burning calories in a shorter amount of time. The only way for females to manipulate their training around their menstrual cycle is to use anabolics which is never ever advisable. However it's important to know as this is how top level female athletes are able to compete all month round without facing the effects of their cycle. 

    If you are a personal trainer reading this you have a responsibility to research further into this topic, you also have a responsibility to take the above factors into account when training a female client. As we said be open with your client, the topic shouldn't be taboo, it shouldn't be swept under the carpet or overlooked. As PT's it's our goal to deliver the best possible service to our client, we do this by helping them obtain the best possible results. Understanding the menstrual cycle in correlation to weight loss in females will aid us achieve the best possible results.

    A few resources to mention/credit that helped us gain the knowledge to write this blog, "James Smith PT" Podcasts' we 100% recommend you check these out, they are a wealth of knowledge and were our first port of call when writing this. Another great resource is the "Hormone Health Network" , the site gives you a simple breakdown and explanation of most if not all of the hormones that are present in human physiology. 

    Thanks for reading!

    Blog photo creds- AZsportsmedicine.com


    The author of this article/blog/ is a qualified Level 3 Personal Trainer. 

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