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"Girl Things" PT 2

How the rise and fall of hormones each month affect your body and

training performance and how best to control them...

Welcome back to the 2nd part of the two-piece blog talking all things hormones & how high hormone days affect your training and performance. I hope you found the first part of this blog somewhat interesting and useful as we dive into a couple more “Girl Things” including rise in temperature, mood swings, headaches & cravings.

Body temperature tends to rise in those high hormone (PMS) days just before your period starts and this is because of progesterone. Progesterone raises your core temperature so before you have even hit the dumbbells or treadmill you will already feel much hotter. It is much harder also for your body to cool down and sweat during these days due to the lower blood volume. Progesterone also makes you lose more sodium during this time so if taking part in long endurance sport such as cycling, running or even longer workouts it is very important to plan ahead and stay extra hydrated.

Do you ever feel like burning the house down or going on an unnecessary rampage once a month, well, you’re not alone! Mood swings are another delightful side effect of hormone change that us women have to deal with once every month.

Estrogen & progesterone are to blame here again. Estrogen affects mood on many levels with one being its ability to increase serotonin and other feel-good chemicals in the brain. So why the insane mood swings I hear you ask?

Well, it all comes down to the part of the brain, the Hypothalamus which regulates fatigue, hormones, emotions among many more. Anything that affects the central nervous system (brain & spinal cord) can then impact the limbic system (the system responsible for emotion & emotional control) & the autonomous nervous system (responsible for heart rate, breathing rate & digestion). This disruption can also play havoc with lethargy, low mood and an increase in fatigue!

Increasing BCAA’s (Branch-Chain-Amino-Acids), in particular leucine may help ease some of these nasty side effects. The reason being, leucine has the ability to slow down the effect of serotonin and fight off central nervous system fatigue.

Move over menstrual cramps and hello menstrual headaches. One very common side effect of heightening hormones is indeed headaches and migraines. This is down to the shift in estrogen. Unlike many other PMS symptoms that tend to be due to a rise in this hormone, onset headaches and migraines right before your period is due to a drop in estrogen. This is believed to be down to change in blood pressure and the sudden stretching and narrowing of blood vessels.

The best way to try avoid/ease these headaches is to increase water intake an stay as hydrated as possible. Foods high in nitric oxide (beetroot, garlic, pomegranate, watermelon, spinach, meat) should be included a couple of days before the start of menstruating as they will promote dilation and help reduce the harshness of the shift.

Those couple of days before your period starts where the large bar of Cadbury’s Dairymilk will not even suffice comes down once again to those pesky hormones. Estrogen reduces the bodies ability to burn carbs while it increases the fat burning process and the availability of fatty acid stores.

This plays in the favor of endurance athletes to use fat stores for fuel but if taking part in high intensity training, you will need to increase carbs around this time. This is why we tend to crave foods high in carbs around this high hormone time. The body’s metabolism is higher during the days pre-menstrual and you will tend to burn more calories. I would recommend increasing calories by about 1-200 in these pre-menstrual days. If taking part in strenuous exercise around these days try to use these calories for complex carbs in particular and some lean protein.

I would definitely recommend tracking your cycle for a couple of Month’s so you can really get to understand your own specific symptoms. Monitor how your body performs during the different phases of your own cycle. Everybody’s cycle is very unique to them but understanding it better will allow you to identify when you’re at your strongest & weakest. This then allows you to program your training around your cycle and know when is a good time to try and hit some PR’s in the gym and when is not.

So that just about brings me to the end of this 2-part blog. Again, I understand there is quite a lot of info to digest but take it bit by bit and always refer back to it if needed.



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