Getting to Know Your Menstrual Cycle
... and why it matters!
My Friends! Welcome to Performance Edge! This post begins the first in a series of posts that will help you get to know our unique female physiology! We will then build on this knowledge and learn how to train, fuel and live taking full advantage of the amazing gifts nature has given us! Enjoy! -Carla DiGirolamo, MD
As we begin our journey together, we will first lay the groundwork for understanding our unique female physiology, what it means when problems arise, and how we can best train and fuel WITH our bodies and not against them!
Historically, what we know about training and fueling athletes comes from studies of male athletes. But as Dr. Stacy Sims so eloquently states, “Women are not small men…”… and the reason we are “not small men” is because our physiology is driven by our monthly hormone cycles.
There are many hormones involved in the menstrual cycle as we will soon discuss. However, the main player is Estrogen. Cellular receptors are the “antennae” that live on the surface of cells and bind with the hormone and transmit a functional signal to the cells and tissues.
Estrogen receptors are present in nearly every tissue of the body - which suggests that cycling estrogen impacts nearly every bodily system. When women enter the menopause transition, estrogen levels decline. During this transition and ultimately when menstrual cycles cease, there are dramatic changes to mood, muscles, bones, tendons, ligaments blood vessels among other tissues, further underscoring the central role that estrogen and the menstrual cycle play in a female’s collective physical existence.
Now that we know how important the menstrual cycle is, let’s begin to understand it! The 8-minute video below gives a basic overview of the hormone players involved in the menstrual cycle and how they work together throughout our reproductive lives to affect our physical performance and overall health.
**Short on time? View just the slides HERE. If you wish to see the written narration, click on “notes” in the lower right corner of the slide presentation screen.
Why this matters and what you will see in later posts:
The menstrual cycle is a “vital sign” that tells us when our bodies are primed to perform or when something may be wrong that requires further evaluation.
The female body’s response to training and the ability to recover changes during the phases of the menstrual cycle.
Understanding your own menstrual cycle will help you optimize your training by taking advantage of the changes occurring throughout the cycle.
**Next month we will discuss what is happening when menstrual cycles become abnormal or lost completely. Stay tuned!