Your menstrual cycle and training … is it all in your head?
Maybe — not all — but a part of it maybe! This has been suggested by other studies but this new one tested just that!
Here in 30 women with a normal cycle and 10 on oral contraceptives they assessed performance, hormone levels & perception across 7-9 time points during the cycle.
This study is cool for a few reasons:
1) They assessed MULTIPLE time points not just 2-3. This will help make studies stronger due to multiple even day to day changes in hormones not just 2-3 shifts.
2) They looked at the relationship of hormone concentrations NOT just phase (which is OK too) to assess relationships. Keep in mind individual variability is still wide.
3) They looked at perception AND performance vs these hormones.
Overall what they found weren’t any meaningful changes in performance related to hormones, but rather to perception. With some slightly lower performance or increase negative perceptions in the late luteal or early follicular phases. This is actually starting to become a trend in the literature, which this data here suggest is possibly due to perception as much as our cycles. (Which again — is OK and valid!).
It’s also worth noting here the differences seen were often between mid and late luteal — be weary of current trends that often lump the luteal phase together as “one” and/or ignore that the menstrual phase is also part of the follicular phase. This together is a 3-5 day window of perception/performance impacts, not the 10-14 days suggested by many.
Coaches, trainers & practitioners should continue to have open conversations on these perceptions. As well as use evidence based approaches to reduce these burdens (pain, discomfort, mood changes) around training. Often, food / supplement driven approaches (increased carbohydrate, omega 3’s, tart cheery juice or other sleep aids, etc) as well as auto regulated training + open discussion that individual day to day performance ≠ absolute performance on “game/race/meet” day. And for those worried about their performance on those days Caffeine supplementation may aid.