It is important for a female athlete to have a better understanding of her body’s function when she is aiming to reach at the peak of her performance. This can be achieved through the understanding of the menstrual cycle.
Every woman of a specific age has the experience of a 28 days circle, which leads to various changes in the internal parts of her body, especially as far as the hormones are concerned. In order to explain this change and how it might affect the performance of the female athletes, the cycle is broken into two phases, follicular and luteal.
Menstruation Cycles: Hormones and Metabolism
In order of convenience of understanding the whole menstruation cycle, of 28 days could be split into two different phases of 14 days each, the first the follicular phase from the first day of the bleeding to the 14th day, and the second the luteal phase, from the 15th to 28th day.
In the cycle of menstruation, several hormones may work, but we will concentrate on the two female sex hormones, estrogen and progesterone, for the sake of convenience. At the 5th day of the cycle or so, the estrogen increases only a bit, but by the 12th day it peaks to a large extent. Thereafter ovulation happens. This is the low hormone phase.
After ovulation, the level of progesterone rises, and this is called the high hormone phase. However, the highest hormone level where both estrogen and progesterone level is at their peaks, is 5 days or so before the periods start. If egg is not implanted the progesterone level drops. This is also the time when women typically experience pre menstrual disorders.
Hormones have a large effect on the metabolism, plasma volume levels, and how a person deals with heat stress. When the estrogen levels are at the peak, a woman’s body uses more fat as fuels, and keeps the stored glycogen conserved. This means, at an event of longer endurance this could be helpful. However, this conservation of glycogen could also make it difficult to reach the highest level of intensity.
Research and Expert’s Opinion
It is still pretty difficult to identify what exactly happens to the level of performance, during the menstruation circle. Dr. Andrew Bosch, researching at the University of Cape Town states that the link between performance and menstruation circle depends on each individual, for it does not affect their performance at all while for some others, on a specific phase of the cycle, the performance can drop. Bosch, along with his colleague, Dr. Tanja Oosthuyse has seen that for some loading of carbohydrates just before a day of performance is necessary. And there could be a sweet spot for a few, will be two days before ovulation. But on the other hand there could be other bodily discomfort that can affect their performance.
In conclusion, it can be said, that though there are fluctuations of bodily hormones during the cycle, not everyone’s performance is affected by these changes at the same way.