Menstrual cycle periodization: Training

Sports periodization becomes necessary when we talk about improving athletic performance. Both nutrition and training can be planned systematically in accordance with the desired goal. Training periodization involves division of a training program into different phases of training that is, hypertrophy, strength and power. This means it becomes essential for an individual to periodize his/her workout in order to maximize results. In this paper, we will specifically discuss training periodization.
Are the training needs of men and women same? No, they aren’t. Women are not just the scaled down versions of men. Women have different physiological functions than men. This is primarily because of the difference in the reproductive hormone levels. Women have higher levels of estrogen and progesterone and men have higher testosterone level. Both have different fat patterns [1], different metabolism [2] and the substrate utilization is also different [3]. Moreover, athletic performance of women is also affected by their menstrual cycle [4, 5, 6]. It does not remain same throughout the month, it varies along with the different phases of menstrual cycle that is, menstrual phase, follicular phase, ovarian phase, luteal phase and late luteal phase. This signifies that women should train differently than men.
The study that we are going to discuss in this paper was conducted in a research institute of coastal Karnataka, Research laboratory, Department of Physiology, KVG Medical College and Research Institute, Karnataka, India. It assessed the muscle strength and levels of fatigue during the different phases of menstrual cycle in young women. The findings of this study are the increment in the muscle strength in follicular phase of the menstrual cycle as a result of variation of endogenous reproductive hormones.
This study was conducted on 100 healthy female volunteers aged between 18-24. The selection criterion for the volunteers was having a normal regular menstrual cycles lasting between 26 to 32 days (mean 28 days), for at least last 6 months. Similar dietary patterns were included among the volunteers. The females were either untrained or moderately trained. They used to perform at least 1-2 hours of regular physical training a week, before. Medical history of all the volunteers was recorded through a questionnaire. Volunteers with the history of irregular menstrual cycle, on oral contraceptive pills, history of musculoskeletal disorders, any psychiatric illness or chronic drug intake were barred from participating in the study. The menstrual cycle was divided into three phases: Phase 1- Menstrual phase, Phase 2- Follicular phase and Phase 3- Luteal phase. All the subjects were examined for 2 consecutive cycles in the 3 phases.
Mosso’s Ergograph and Handgrip dynamometer was used test the musculoskeletal strength. There was a verbal encouragement throughout the duration of the study, so as to maintain a high motivation level among the subjects. Intake any kind of energy drink was prohibited during the study. The subjects were not allowed to perform any sort of physical activity a day before or on the day of the tests.
Statistical Analysis was done using Statistical software SPSS 20 version.
Results and Discussion
This study demonstrated the increment of the mean of work done during the follicular phase compared to the other two phases. The level of fatigue was highest during the menstrual phase followed by the luteal phase and the follicular phase.
The dynamic strength was highest during the follicular phase and lowest during menstrual phase. It was measured by a handgrip dynamometer.
These variations in the exercise performance are linked to the variation in the level of estrogen and progesterone during the different phases of the menstrual cycle in some studies [7, 8, 9]. High level of estrogen is correlated with the increased strength during the follicular phase. While increased level of progesterone during the luteal phase is believed to be responsible for negatively impacting the sports performance.
There were certain limitations of this study. It was done on a very small population. More studies are needed on a larger population to confirm the findings. Moreover, the variation in the levels of different hormones was not assessed in this study.
Practical Application
Women can periodize their workout in accordance with the different phases of the menstrual cycle. They are strongest during the follicular phase. They have the capability to lift heaviest during this phase. It is the best time to increase load and gain maximum strength. High level of fatigue and decrease in strength during luteal and menstrual phase can be associated with decrement in load and increment in repetitions during the training session.
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[2] Ferraro, R., Lillioja, S., Fontvieille, A. M., Rising, R., Bogardus, C., & Ravussin, E. (1992). Lower sedentary metabolic rate in women compared with men. Journal of Clinical Investigation, 90(3), 780–784.
[3] Williams CM. (2004). Lipid metabolism in women. Proc Nutr Soc, 63(1):153-60.
[4] Janse De Jonge X. (2003). Effects of the menstrual cycle on exercise performance. Sports Medicine, 33(11), 833-51.

[5] Elliott, KJ., Cable, NT., Reilly, T., & Diver, MJ. (2003). Effect of menstrual cycle phase on the concentration of bioavailable 17-β oestradiol and testosterone and muscle strength. Clinical Science 2003, 105(6), 663-69.

[6] Constantini, NW., Dubnov, G., & Lebrun, CM. (2005). The menstrual cycle and sport performance. Clinics in Sports Medicine, 24(2), e51-e82.

[7] Johnson, TR. (2008) Knowledge and Attitudes Regarding the Menstrual Cycle, Oral Contraceptives, and Sport Performance: The Conceptualization and Development of a Questionnaire for Athletic Coaches (Dissertation). Ann Arbor, FloridaProQuest, The Florida State University, 52.

[8] Giacomoni, M., Bernard, T., Gavarry, O., Altare, S., & Falgairette, G. (2000). Influence of the menstrual cycle phase and menstrual symptoms on maximal anaerobic performance. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 32(2), 486.
[9] Oosthuyse, T., & Bosch, AN. (2010). The Effect of the menstrual cycle on exercise metabolism. Sports Medicine, 40(3), 207-27.
Study in Discussion: Assessment of Musculoskeletal Strength and Levels of Fatigue during Different Phases of Menstrual Cycle in Young Adults.

Author: Akshita Arora  , faculty INFS


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