An article that came into my inbox recently was this one.
It’s a bit of an older blog and this article was based on a meta analysis done in 2018, that reviewed all the available studies and came to the conclusion that adapting training around the menstrual cycle was not an evidence based approach.
I have a few comments that I would like to share on this.
The meta analysis looked at a handful of studies that have been done on female athletes, so there were a lot of inconsistencies, and not enough data to give a definitive answer.
But I agree with this statement:
“The influence of the menstrual cycle could be a factor to consider in program design, but it is only one thing in a longer list of other factors like short term and long term goals, fatigue, sleep quality, stress, injury, motivation, program enjoyment and logistics.”
I would say it “should” be a factor, not that it “could” Working with female athletes, for over 10 years, and being one myself, I can definitely say that my menstrual cycle affects my training.
It doesn’t always affect my performance, that is because I know how to mitigate my symptoms, and prepare if a race falls on a day when I may not be feeling at my best. It can certainly affect my motivation, and enthusiasm. So we must acknowledge that, and not fall into dismissing it as irrelevant because the research isn’t there yet.
Remember that Hydrogels had no evidence to support their use (Maurten etc) but athletes have been using them with great success.
Also there IS solid research that strength gains are affected by your menstrual cycle , and it’s something that I will be trialling with my one to one athletes over the coming months.
You can find out more about this in The Female Body Bible along with a lot of other information about being an active woman. I am enjoying reading it so far.
The problem is that this post has been written based off a meta analysis, which combines all of the studies that they find, many of which were low quality, and presents the combined evidence, I would question whether it is premature to do a meta analysis when the research that we have is so lacking. It is better to look at studies, their quality, and think about your experience. What has worked for you?
The question below showed up a lack of understanding of the menstrual cycle. There are huge differences in hormone profiles for women who are taking oral contraception, and it is pretty obvious that women who are taking an oral contraceptive will experience different symptoms, and have different needs as athletes.
“Are these recommendations different for women who use oral contraceptives? (Hint: it is likely that it will, given that oral contraceptive users have different hormonal profiles to women with menstrual cycles”
This is an interesting question,
“Are the tracking devices accurate enough in the first place? (Hint: it is likely that most of them are not)”
I’m not sure what tracking devices they are referencing. If we’re talking about a tracking app, then the data and information that we get from tracking is only as good as the information that is put in to the app. Sometimes we’re better off listening to our body and being more self aware rather than relying on an app to tell us how tired or ready for training we are.
I will continue to use tracking myself and with my athletes, because I find it empowering and useful to understand my body and emotions. The danger with following the advice in this article is that we overlook a significant area where women can educate themselves and learn to thrive and embody being a women in sport, rather than brush off our differences and pretend they aren’t there.
You can check out an old post I wrote on how hormones affect you here
Which would you choose?