Women And The Sport Saturdays: How Menstruation Affects Training

Menstruation is a monthly biological process that has been a hindrance in many professions likewise. Menstruation is dubbed as the taboo and is indeed proven to be the blight of many women’s lives with the hormonal flux of the monthly menstrual cycle being responsible for everything from mood swings to excuses for overeating.

There are distinct phases of a 28-day menstrual cycle: the first is menstruation, which lasts 4-5 days and in which levels of the hormones estrogen and progesterone levels are both low.

At the distinct phases of human menstrual cycle, it affects the body differently.

Athletes when train, get an added weight and movement in the joints. Women athletes suffer knee problems about 800% more than men partly because of the wider angle of their hips which puts supplementary stress on the knees while training but also because hormones such as estrogen which weaken the ligaments at different phases of the menstrual cycle making them more prone to twisting or bending. Researchers at the University of Calgary have revealed that the timing of hormone induced laxity and suppleness of joints differs among women. Some of them experiencing some light pain or discomfort around ovulation but others feel a greater degree of knee and joint problems at the very start or end of their cycle.

The number one leading complaint, painful menstrual cramps also called as dysmenorrhea are among the most common premenstrual symptoms and it is due to the pain from the cramps that most women do not train or do lesser than normal training. During the menstrual cycle, the lining of the uterus produces a hormone called prostaglandin which instigates the uterus to contract painfully. Women with severely painful cramps may secrete larger than normal amounts of prostaglandins.

 Researchers at the University of California have found that 67% of the menstruating women have changed sleeping patterns. They have difficulty in sleeping for two or three days during every cycle. There are chances of premenstrual insomnia which seem to be linked with a fast decline in the hormone progesterone. Dr Kathryn Lee, a sleep researcher who carried out the Californian study says, “Progesterone is a soporific, a sedative-type drug that your body gives you every month when you ovulate.”

According to Pamela Peeke, assistant professor of medicine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore who is associated with the research of the effects of menstrual cycle on appetite, many women go for sweetened, high carbohydrate diets because simple sugars are metabolized more quickly, giving them a swift serotonin fix. A drop in serotonin levels usually occurs just prior to menstruation. Since the body uses carbohydrates to make serotonin, it can trigger an urge to eat more carbohydrate foods.

It is hugely important to understand the sequence and the effect of menstruation on the bodily functions and train accordingly. Training when the body is recovering from an already important process can put some added stress. Though body gets sensitized after some time but the cramps happen every month which may deter the performance. It has been said that exercise only when the body is feeling healthy and we must stick to it.