Your period (and when you begin bleeding) marks day one of your 28-30 day menstrual cycle.
Progesterone levels have begun to decrease causing your uterine lining to shed. Prostaglandins trigger uterine muscle contractions to facilitate this shedding. Prostaglandins are a component of the inflammation pathway and they contribute to your digestive issues on the first few days of your period (diarrhea, nausea, decreased appetite, cramps).
You may also notice increased levels of fatigue, irritability, and temperature fluctuations. These are all related to hormone shifts as your body returns to “baseline” (your follicular phase- which we reference as your “low hormone phase”).
As your period progresses your hormones will settle and you will begin feeling more yourself. In the meantime, here are the suggestions we provide to our athletes to help them manage training and diet during their periods.
Eat your carbs. All of them. Especially if you’re someone who tends to eat low carb. Your body is using more calories during this time and tends to have decreased insulin sensitivity, which means it’s struggling to fully use the carbs you’ve been giving it. This can contribute to your fatigue and emotional state. So if you’re craving something, let yourself have it- just eat it in moderation.
We tell our athletes to listen to their bodies- if you feel like crap, decide what you want to do with your fitness. While we want you to have confidence if you get your period on Competition Day you can still crush your training, the reality is sometimes you have no desire to do 300 double unders while your uterus is aching.
Decide what you have in the tank. Want to push? Go for it! Need to spend a day on the couch with a heating pad- that’s okay too. That being said, know that a low to moderate state cardio session may improve symptoms- so rather than a full day of training maybe doing a 20 Min EMOM of Rowing and Slam Balls is more up your alley!
Magnesium has been shown to be effective on PMS and period headaches as well as menstrual cramps. Holy Basil and Evening Primrose are purported to be beneficial for cramps and emotional swings (we still need more studies to confirm!). Ensure you are getting enough iron in your diet to minimize the effects of blood loss during your period (and make sure if you take a multivitamin you are getting your iron separately, as calcium affects iron absorption).
Having your period is unarguably one of the most challenging components of being a female athlete. But if you can learn how your body operates, understand what it needs to perform, and be patient when it’s in the throws of hormone ups and downs, then you’ll be ready to handle anything!
Questions? Comments? Let us know!
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