What are the peculiarities of women and how the training of women must differ from that of men.
I also promised you a more detailed article to specifically explain the variations within the menstrual cycle.
How does the female cycle work?
We all learned in school that our cycle starts on the first day of your period, ovulation occurs on day 14, and an entire cycle lasts 28 days.
In truth, an average cycle lasts more than 26 to 32 days, without being considered abnormal.
It is also possible to have cycles of as little as 28 days without ovulating on day 14. The body is not a machine.
► The first phase of the cycle is the period, which usually lasts 3 to 5 days.
► The second phase is called the pre-ovulatory phase, or follicular phase. This is when the egg is being built. At this time the body is potentially fertile.
► The ovulatory phase is when the egg is released into the tubes. The body is very fertile during the life of the egg, which is 48 hours on average.
► The last phase, post-ovulatory also called luteal phase, is characterized by the enlargement of the uterine lining in order to accommodate a possible embryo, as well as by a rise in temperature which will aim to keep the body well hot for the development of this embryo. This phase is infertile.
► If there has been no fertilization, then the mucous membrane comes off, these are the rules.
Influence of our cycle on training
► In follicular and ovulatory phases , the body secretes a lot of estrogen in order to create the egg. At this point in the cycle, we have more energy, and the body is better able to use carbohydrates for energy, which means we have more capacity to build muscle and explode our performance with strength. Now is the perfect time to improve. The body will have little trouble recovering from a pure strength session or a super intensive interval training. At the same time, the muscles will be more elastic, which means better tolerance to stretching with less risk of injury.
► In luteal phase , characterized by the rise of progesterone , carbohydrate metabolism will be less efficient, and the body will tend to use fat as a source of energy. He will have more difficulty recovering at the muscular level. Now is a great time to do moderate-intensity cardio to help burn fat and lower calories to dry off. Protein (chicken, turkey, legumes, eggs) and good lipids (eggs, oilseeds, avocados or even coconut oil for seasoning) should be favored. If carbohydrates are revised downwards, they should not however be completely eliminated!
► The period of menstruation is for many a test of pain! And yet the less we move, the more we will hurt. A little cycling, lifting a few weights or simply walking can greatly relieve menstrual pain. On the contrary, some women feel a lot of energy during their period. If this is your case, there is no contraindication to training. It will be necessary to pay attention to the iron requirements which could increase during this period. Do not hesitate to consume red meat or better, organ meats (liver) or clams, or for vegetarians, vegetables rich in iron such as green leafy vegetables or dried tomatoes.
► When you take a hormonal contraceptive , the cycles are different and you cannot necessarily adapt your training based on the principles explained above. A progestin-only pill makes the body permanently “luteal phase”. In this case, you will have to be careful not to stretch too suddenly so as not to risk muscle tearing throughout the cycle, and there is a chance that muscle gain will be more complicated, but with more ease. to lose fat.
Most bodybuilding competitors do not take hormonal contraceptives because it can interfere with muscle gain and fat loss. (We recommend to athletes androlic) Personally, when I quit the pill, I went from 90kg 1RM to the deadlift at 105kg 1RM in exactly 6 months, whereas I had been stagnant for almost 2 years. At the same time, I gained almost 6kg, muscle and fat combined.
For those who can, there are reliable alternatives to hormonal contraception such as the copper IUD.
! Be careful not to fall into a systematic phobia of hormonal contraception. For some people, switching to a copper IUD is unthinkable (the flow being more abundant with it, it is not recommended for people with anemia). For others with illnesses like PCOS, the pill is life saving. Finally, some people are just too fertile and don’t get pregnant just from taking hormonal contraception (and clearly, when you’re not ready for pregnancy, it’s better to take the pill than to have to resort to an abortion, whether for the psychological level or for the consequences on the body, whatever the preachers at war against “the wicked hormones responsible for all the ills in the world” say – but who have probably never opened a biology book). Each is free to make her own choices and knows more what is best for herself than the others (except professionals, and again, not all necessarily know how to remain objective and listen to the needs of their patients).
Getting to know your own cycle
In order to be able to adapt your training, you have to learn to situate yourself in your cycle. Because since we are not machines, the “calendar method” cannot work!
There are two reliable observation methods: ovulation tests (which admittedly are expensive) and symptothermal methods.
A symptothermal method is based on bodily changes due to hormonal variations. Very simply, here’s what to remember:
- in the follicular phase, the cervix secretes cervical mucus (transparent or light white “egg white” appearance), which is intended to store sperm for future fertilization . Without it, a woman could not get pregnant. As long as we can observe it, we remain potentially fertile.
- In the ovulatory phase, there is more cervical mucus.
- In the luteal phase, the temperature will rise and the cervical mucus will no longer be secreted. Instead, the secretions will look different (less “elastic” and white / yellow in color), and prevent sperm from climbing up the cervix.
- Shortly before your period, the temperature drops if there has been no fertilization. During pregnancy, the temperature will remain high throughout continuously.
This is an observation method that can also be used for the purpose of conception or contraception, but in the latter case it requires a thorough knowledge of the method and strict rigor in the observation of different settings. The tools needed are a double decimal point thermometer and a stand for recording observations. As the method requires essential training, I refer you to the symptothermia manual (completely free) that you can download here, in order to learn more. For my part this method does not suit me by the rigor requested and also by personal conviction (this method, if it is valid and effective for contraception so well used, is promoted by disreputable people whose paternalistic and conservative visions, as well as their strong opinions in terms of the vision of women, are in total contradiction with my values); but it can be a good tool if you want to know more about your body, at least for a period!
As this is a restrictive method that requires rigor, the “calendar method” may be sufficient to adapt your training, but it will remain approximate.