Your hormonal cycle affects your ability to exercise, here’s how to convert it from a hindrance to a help
Matt Lovell is a nutritional medicine practitioner with over 20 years’ experience in elite sports. He is founder and director of www.aminoman.com
Your menstrual cycle is always going to be controlled by hormones. In each cycle, rising levels of the hormone estrogen cause the ovary to develop and release an egg (ovulation). Levels of estrogen and progesterone fall, and the womb lining comes away and leaves the body as a period (the menstrual flow). Here’s a diagram of how to manipulate training for best effect.
[Art: Image for post is below but don’t use it, rather recreate it]
CHO = Carbohydrate.
PRO = Protein.
Feeling Your Best
There are four types of pre-menstrual tension although these can overlap and manifest themselves with different degrees of severity. To make sure you’re optimizing your ability to train, try using these tactics to feel better.
- Balance your blood glucose and insulin by eating slow-digesting foods.
- B-vitamins are essential, so load up on green leafy vegetables and nutritional yeast.
- Essential fatty acids help regulate inflammation and keep pain and swelling down.
- Krill oil may have particular anti-depressive effects for pre-menstrual tension.
- Plant based diet is particularly effective in nearly all cases and this is supplemented if you add fish to it.
- Do everything you can to lower inflammation.
- Water retention can be helped with sauna and natural fluid balancers.
- Serotonin support is always beneficial so lower stress and increase foods with this in it such as Brazil nuts.
- The following nutrients can help you feel more upbeat and energetic: magnesium, GLA, strong multi vitamin, fish oils, krill oil, 5HTP – R5 Aminos.
How to implement it
Always keep a chart that grades your symptoms because this will allow you to track any improvements once you change your foods and nutrition to support your goals. These should be classified into either none, mild, moderate or severe. Once you know how you’re feeling, then use the following to diagnose yourself and take the corrective action.
TYPE A: Blood sugar and calmness protocol (serotonin)
You might suffer from: anxiety, irritability, mood swings, tension
This is often associated with high estrogen and low progesterone levels and occurs in 75% of cases. It may be associated with a deficiency of B vitamins especially B6 and B12, vitamin C, E, selenium and magnesium. These are all needed by the liver to break down excess estrogen. A plant-rich diet and one which includes complex carbohydrate lignin, pectin, and other soluble fibers is recommended. What’s more, you might also benefit from a reduction in stimulants and alcohol and high GI carbs i.e. coffee, tea, and sugar. Restrict yourself to two coffees or four teas each day.
TYPE B: Fluid balance and detox protocol
You might suffer from: water retention, breast tenderness, weight gain, abdominal bloating
This is often associated with normal or high estrogen level and a raised adrenal hormone aldosterone level. To balance yourself out, your salt intake needs to be limited to a maximum of 3g daily and you should increase your potassium from all-natural sources. A deficiency of vitamin E and magnesium is often seen, so try to correct this with supplement. This is a situation in which extra B6 as part of a b-complex or multi vitamin can help reduce excess aldosterone levels. You might also benefit from exercise, saunas, detoxing and natural diuretics.
TYPE C: blood glucose balancing protocol (dopamine support)
You might suffer from: food and sweet cravings, increased appetite, heart pounding, fatigue, dizziness, fainting and headaches.
This is often associated with high estrogen and low progesterone levels. In combination with excess insulin, a reactive hypoglycemic tendency is often seen and needs to be normalized with both dietary control and appropriate supplements. The deficiencies most often seen are with low magnesium, vitamin B6, the essential fatty acids and chromium levels.
TYPE D: sleep and calmness protocol
You might suffer from: depression, crying, forgetfulness, confusion, insomnia.
This is often associated with high progesterone and low estrogen levels or a high testosterone/androgen state. Even heavy metal toxicity may be a contributory factor.
The nutrient deficiencies in this state may include low vitamin B6, vitamin C or magnesium so get plenty of these in your diet.
Your Supplement Suggestions
Krill oil + high strength fish oils
GLA (as borage oil)
High strength b-complex or multi vitamin
Additional magnesium or ZMA formula e.g. R5 aminos..
Consult with your nutritionist on the ideal dosages
Additional serotonin support + mood state support
Change Your Diet
- Try to follow a high fish and plant-based diet for a period of one month to see if it makes a difference to how you feel because this will work on inflammation.
- Cut down on high-fat dairy and excess red meat intake (unless low in ferritin) and increase intake of lean white meat, fish and vegetarian protein (fermented tofu, soya yogurts, etc.)
- Increase your oily fish intake to get enough fats and try krill oil supplementation.
- Reduce or avoid all excess stimulants. These include things with caffeine, tea, coffee (especially with breast tenderness and moodiness), milk chocolate, sweets; keep on dark chocolate.
- Increase all vegetables (especially green leafy ones), nuts and seeds (try sprouting), fruit, and pulses and use whole grains if you need extra energy
- Drink plenty of hot water with lemon. Dilute your juices with two parts of water and try herbal teas or dandelion coffee.