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Cycle Syncing Your Way to Athletic Excellence: A Guide for Every Woman

Updated: May 12

What you should know about

The Female Body!

We, women have a long history of being shamed into silence about our periods, especially when it comes to sports matters. Menstruation have been largely sidestepped, ignored and reduces to silence and this has to stop!

Unfortunately, there are not many coaches, trainers or instructors that posses any kind of knowledge when it comes to physical training and menstrual cycles. As a young athlete/ ballerina you learn that your period is a sign of weakness and you are followed by the guilt and shame of the weak.

Ladies, listen carefully! We owe it to ourselves to stop being blind to the impact of our menstrual cycle so let's have a closer look on it! I have some good news!

You can manage—even master— your period, through nutrition and smart training so that migraines, nausea, bloating, and cramps won’t derail you from your performance and goals.

Let's take it from the beginning!

The average menstrual cycle is 28 days long (though it can range between 21 and 35 days) which is broken down in two 14 days phases.

Your cycle starts with the first day of your period. The first 14 days represent the follicular phase. Day 15 through 28 is the time between ovulation and the start of menstruation, when progesterone is produced - luteal phase.

Your ovulation occurs between these two. During this period you have more or less intense hormonal fluctuations that will impact your energy levels, mood, power and the quality of your performance.

The cycle begins with the first day of menstruation when levels of estrogen and progesterone are low. After your period, in the next 5,6 days - follicular phase - marked by the beginning of estrogen rise. Around day 12 ovulation happens when your estrogen levels will fall but soon they will rise again as the body naturally goes into nesting mode. Now we are past those 14 days - luteal phase - which means that that all your hormones will kick into high gear.

Your progestogen levels will exponentially rise, surpassing estrogen, to prepare the lining of the uterus for egg implantation. Both progestogen and estrogen will reach peak levels 5 days before your next menstruation. Say hello to PMS!

Right: FP - Follicular phase (first 14 days) / Left: LP - Luteal phase (15-28 days)

Studies have shown that your hormones are favorable for performance once your period starts (follicular phase)*!

Sports performance may be affected by the menstrual rhythm including cardiovascular, respiratory, brain function, response to ergogenic aids, orthopedics, and metabolic parameters, with subsequent implications for strength and aerobic and anaerobic performance. These parameters modulate training responses, adaptability, and performance. The MC (Menstrual Cycle) effects are highly dependent on athletes’ physiology, training level, and on the type of hormonal contraception when used.

While some female athletes feel a decrease in their physical capacity over the course of their menstrual cycle, Olympic medal-winning performances have nevertheless taken place during all phases of the menstrual cycle (Fox and Mathews, 1981; Fleck and Kraemer, 2004). Various studies have shown the influence of MC on performance in trained or untrained (Janse de Jonge, 2003) athletes but not in elite performers (McNulty et al., 2020). Elite athletes compete at international levels or in professional leagues; therefore, they are probably more sensitive to individualization of training.

However, studies show that their physical performance was not affected by their menstrual period.

Once you’re in the clear of the possibility of pregnancy, the body goes into a more relaxed mode and all those energy systems used in the high-hormonal phase are now at your disposal for exertion. Same goes for the low-hormone phase that follows your period.

Women are stronger and produce more force when they strength train during their low-hormone phases (follicular phase) compared to training in the high-hormone phase (luteal phase). Your performance increases during and after your period. So whether you’re working out, training, dancing or preparing for athletic competitions, it will all feel and come easier when you’re in the low-hormone phase of your cycle, which starts the first day of menstrual bleeding.


PMS (Premenstrual Syndrome) refers to the emotional and physical symptoms that women experience in the week before their period beings. PMS is a side effect of a woman’s changing hormones and can be heightened by stress.

Emotional symptoms may include:

• Irritability

• Anxiety

• Nervous tension

• Reduced ability to cope

• Difficulty concentrating

• Lower libido

• Mood swings

• Depression

• Aggression

Physical symptoms may include:

• Fluid retention

• Abdominal bloating

• Breast swelling and tenderness

• Skin problems, such as acne

• Headaches

• Lethargy

• Weight increase

• Food cravings

• Aches and pains

We all know that exercise feels harder during those high hormone days before your period... although, research shows that key performance indicators such as max VO2 (maximal oxygen consumption) and lactate threshold (the point at which your muscles start to burn) remain constant throughout your cycle, so you can win a competition or score a personal best even with PMS.

Truthfully speaking, guidelines on how to cope with the effects of the menstrual cycle in training, the supporting research is incomplete. There is no research supporting that working out a specific way during the different phases of the menstrual cycle will have a different effect on your training.

This lack of a clear answer is likely related to the multitude of other factors that can contribute to this question, including age, genetics, stress, training level, and nutrition.

PMS, still can increase your body temperature, so it may play a part in getting tired faster when working out in hot or humid conditions. Blood sugar levels, breathing rates, and thermoregulation will also be affected during this time of the month, which may be the reason for a slight decreases in aerobic capacity and strength.


You can actually decrease PMS symptoms with moderate intensity aerobic exercise. Overall, the findings showed that 8 weeks of aerobic exercise is effective in reducing the symptoms of PMS and can be used as a treatment. Aerobic exercise can help improve PMS symptoms such as depression and fatigue. One study found that women who did 60-minute aerobic sessions three times a week for 8 weeks felt much improved physically, mentally, and emotionally.

Consider adding Proteins!

(check the article about Proteins on our blog)

Our hormonal fluctuations have a profound effect on muscle-cell turnover and protein synthesis. What I mean by this is that oestrogen turns down the anabolic or growing capacity of the muscle and progesterone turns up the catabolism or breakdown of muscle tissue, which makes it more difficult to access amino acids. As a result, you have higher rates of muscle breakdown during hard efforts. It’s simply harder for us to make and maintain muscle when these hormones are high.

That’s why it’s particularly important for women to take in protein that’s high in leucine (the muscle-building amino acid) or branched-chain amino acids (leucine, isoleucine, and valine) that compose approximately 1/3 of your muscle tissue, before exercise and within 30 minutes after exercise.

You can consider a handful of almonds with your protein shake to get what you need.


A biological change women do not have control over.

Chocolate or Popcorn?

Your eating patters will change during PMS. The goal isn't to restrict energy intake, the goal is to understand these changes and find the best tools to manage them, according to your personal goals.

If you experience a disconnect to these changes, it's important to understand that if you choose to satisfy your sweet or salty cravings, it doesn't mean you're weak or that you lack willpower. The reality is that your hormones have a very real impact on how your body feels, what it craves and how many calories you consume in this period. PMS changes our point of satiety, making us more or less likely to eat big meals during this part of our cycle.

Make kind choices for your body without restrictions and guilt!

Important to KNOW!

Careful with excessive sugar intake! It can cause inflammation, cramping and heavy flow. This is because the inflammation will be contracting all the muscles and increasing the blood flow thus leading to heavier bleeding.

Let me explain why you crave more of these foods during the high-hormone PMS phase of your cycle, when your estrogen levels rise above:

When blood sugar levels drop the brain sends signals to replenish sugar, and therefore cravings occur. There can also be a change in serotonin – ‘the happy hormone’. Women who suffer from PMS often have lower serotonin than is optimal. These low levels can cause sugar and carbohydrate cravings because insulin is needed to ‘shunt’ serotonin from the gut (where it’s made) to the brain. If you suffer from PMS, it can be positive to eat carbohydrates before your periods so that your body makes enough insulin to transport serotonin (London Gynaecology).

When your estrogen levels rise above progestogen, they reduces your carb-burning ability while it increases fat burning and fatty acid availability. This is great for endurance activities, but you’ll need to focus on more carbs for high intensity activities.


You need to put more carbs into your system during the premenstrual part of your cycle. Try to aim for a combination of 10 to 15 grams of protein and 40 grams of carbohydrates (about 200 to 220 calories) before any workout longer than 90 minutes, and 40 to 50 grams of carbohydrates combined with protein and fat (real food) per hour while you’re out there.

During your premenstrual period, you burn more carbs.

Studies show a 5 to 10 percent uptick in metabolism in the days before you start bleeding. That translates into about 100 to 200 additional calories. That’s one small chocolate bar or a snack bag of chips. Coincidence?

  • Eat slowly to help increase the feeling of fullness and avoid overeating.

  • Try to get 7-9 hours of sleep a night.

  • Plan ahead for your cravings with nutritious food, don't just grab whatever! Preparation is everything!

  • Track morning temperature regularly. A jump in temperature signals the phase in which women tend to eat more carbs, because we need that extra energy.

  • To manage blood sugar: eat protein rich foods, such as meat, fish, eggs, nuts, seeds, beans, legumes, avocado, season with extra-virgin olive oil and for the sugar cravings pick a dark chocolate of over 80% cacao! :)

  • Bloated?

High estrogen and progesterone affect other hormones that regulate the fluid in your body. You retain more water, progestogen lowers your blood-sodium levels and your blood pressure will slightly increase. Heat will feel hotter.

Quick fix: preload on sodium with a high-sodium broth such as chicken soup!

  • Cramps?

5 to 7 days before your period starts, you can reduce the effect of cramp-causing chemicals by taking magnesium, omega-3 fatty acids, and low-dose 80-milligram aspirin.

  • Head aches?

STAY HYDRATED and eat more nitric oxide (NO)–rich foods, such as beets, pomegranate, watermelon, and spinach in the days leading up to the start of your period.

  • Mood Swings?

Estrogen and progesterone affect the hypothalamus and anything that affects the hypothalamus can have a direct effect on the limbic system and autonomous nervous system. This can increase fatigue, lethargy, and low mood.

Quick fix: getting more branched-chain amino acids (especially leucine) can help mitigate some of these unpleasant effects. Also, don't be hard on yourself! Accept it how it is, don't fight it and be kind to yourself! :)

Watch out for heavy bleeding!

If you have heavy periods, you’re at higher risk of becoming anemic because your body may not be able to pump up your blood-iron stores fast enough to keep pace with your blood loss. Your risk is even greater if you are an athletic woman, since you have

more muscle stress, damage, and inflammation from high levels of cortisol following hard efforts. Anemia can cause fatigue as well as shortness of breath, lightheadedness, and heart palpitations during exercise. If you have heavy periods—get checked out by your doctor and consider taking an iron supplement.

Important Reminder: Consult Healthcare Professionals

While the insights and advice provided in this blog post are based on thorough research and best practices, it's crucial to remember that individual experiences with menstrual cycles and athletic performance can vary significantly. Therefore, I strongly recommend that readers ensure they consult with healthcare professionals for personalized advice. This is especially important for tailored nutritional plans, managing specific symptoms, and addressing any concerns related to the menstrual cycle and physical training. Professional guidance can greatly enhance your understanding and approach, making your athletic journey both healthier and more effective.

External sources also include:

"ROAR" by Stacy T. Sims, PhD

"Strong Women Lift Each Other Up" - GGS - by Molly Galbraith

"Period Power" by Maisie Hill

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