In this article, we will talk about the best supplements for the menstrual cycle depending on the phase of the cycle we find ourselves in.
To make it easier to understand, we will briefly explain what happens in each of the phases both at an hormonal and metabolic level.
Hormone Changes during the Menstrual Cycle
Evidently, a woman’s body experiences and goes through different stages throughout the menstrual cycle.
All the systems are affected: the physiological, hormonal, cardiovascular, organic and metabolic systems. Above all, this is due to the hormonal alterations that regulate each one of the phases.
This is one of the main reasons why we will need to take the menstrual cycle into account when it comes to planning a workout for a woman.
Likewise, nutrition and supplementation become extremely important for our health and performance. This will also be due to the alterations that affect both the hormone-endocrine system as well as the metabolic system.
Understanding the Menstrual Cycle
The menstrual cycle lasts approximately 28 days, although this can change from one woman to another.
Throughout those days, the Hypothalamus-Hypophysis axis and the Target organs (ovaries) will release different types of hormones.
During this cycle, the body releases different hormones that will perform different tasks in each phase of this cycle.
There is a constant feedback between the target organs and the brain in order to keep this cycle going as well as the hormone release.
This is the phase that begins after the bleeding, from the 1st day to the 14th day of the cycle.
In this first phase, the glycolysis becomes the main metabolism. Therefore, the best type of activities are those with a sub-maximal and maximal intensity: race series, interval workouts…
In other words, we need to perform activities that involved the glycolysis metabolic pathway: high intensity exercise!
- Increasing the insulin sensitivity, which means more tolerance to Carbohydrates.
- Slowing down our metabolism by increasing the physical activity.
- Using more glucose as energy.
- Burning the fat deposits.
- Higher Metabolism.
- Strength Peak (due to the Testosterone increase): key moment for maximal Strength-Potency workouts.
- Less Appetite.
The insulin levels drop progressively in this phase. Consequently, we will feel like eating sugar and carbohydrates to maintain the blood glucose levels (which are unstable).
Therefore, we will have to eat less Carbohydrates and more healthy fats.
That is why it is advisable to do low intensity exercise whose main energy pathway relies on fat oxidation.
- The estrogen levels fall and the progesterone increases: catabolic effect (more muscle breakdown – keep this in mind for the type of activity and the intensity).
- It increases the metabolism up to an 8%, which will make us feel hungry and eat more.
- Red cells and platelets have a shorter lifespan. Therefore, women tend to not recover properly during this phase, apart from suffering infections, etc.
- Higher respiratory volume per minute, higher basal heart rate.
- Worse insulin sensitivity, less use of carbohydrates as metabolic pathway and more fat oxidation pathway.
- Lower hormone concentration.
- Lower glycogen reserves and less ability to recover immediately.
- Less Hemoglobin and worse oxygen transport in the blood.
Supplements and the Menstrual Cycle
After reviewing the changes in the body of a woman, it would be interesting to mention what type of supplements for the menstrual cycle best suit each phase.
We will try to take this ergogenic products at right time in order to obtain more benefits.
Supplements for the Follicular Phase
In this phase, there are high estrogen and testosterone levels which produce an anabolic effect, improving the muscle growth.
There are some supplements that can improve the functioning of the metabolic hormones. For example, Arginine, Ornithine and Branched Chain Amino Acids stimulate the growth hormone.
In addition, there is more sensitivity to insulin, which means that we can eat more carbohydrates or use them for the post-workout supplementation. In fact, this will be specially useful after an intense workout and it will also avoid an excessive fat intake.
Supplements for the Ovulation
During this phase, the estrogen levels reach their peak and the supplementation would follow the same pattern as the follicular phase.
Supplements for the Luteal Phase
The insulin levels drop progressively and women experiencing a constant craving for sugar.
However, due to the prevalence of the fat metabolism in this phase, we need to lower the sugar intake (worse Carbohydrate absorption) and eat more healthy fat.
During this phase, it is advisable to take less Arginine and Branched Chain Amino Acids and more creatine.
Supplements for the Pre-Menstrual and Menstrual Phase
In the last phases of the cycle, there is an edema that triggers more fluid retention. Therefore, it would be advisable to restrict or reduce the salt supply.
We should increase the Glutamine intake (since this phase hinders our ability to recover). Moreover, it would be useful to take an extra supply that will strengthen the immune system (propolis, zinc, echinacea, selenium).
Nutrition and supplementation during the bleeding should focus on supporting the organism to prevent an iron deficiency. For example, iron, vitamin C and folic acid.
- Do anabolic-androgenic steroids have performance-enhancing effects in female athletes?, Grace Huang, Shehzad Basaria Molecular and Cellular Endocrinology, Volume 464, 15 March 2018, Pages 56-64.
- Estradiol reference intervals in women during the menstrual cycle, postmenopausal women and men using an LC-MS/MS method, Sara J.E Verdonk et al. 2019.
- Female Athlete Triad: Low Energy Availability, Menstrual Dysfunction, Altered Bone Mineral Density, Natalie Richard, Caroline Palmer, Heather P. AdamsPhysician Assistant Clinics, Volume 3, Issue 3, July 2018, Pages 313-324.
- Within- and between-person variation in morning testosterone is associated with economic risk-related decisions in athletic women across the menstrual cycle. Christian J. Cook, Blair T. Crewther, Volume 112, June 2019, Pages 77-80.
- The Menstrual Cycle and Sport Performance. Naama W. Constantini, Gal Dubnov, Constance M. Lebrun Clinics in Sports Medicine, Volume 24, Issue 2, April 2005, Pages e51-e82.
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