220 experts Lucy-ann Prideaux and Auriel Forrester discuss why some women feel very tired and lethargic during the week of their period, and struggle to do any exercise or training.
Registered nutritionist Lucy-ann Prideaux has this nutritional advice
The underlying issue here is hormonal balance, which describes the normal ebbs and flows of oestrogen and progesterone throughout a month. Many factors (dietary or lifestyle) can disturb this rhythm, resulting in fatigue, low mood, anxiety, sugar cravings, bloating or fluid retention. A balanced cycle goes a long way to helping you feel healthy, happy and energetic.
Hormonal imbalance is often caused by stress and/or an unbalanced diet, which denies the body the nutrients needed to produce the right hormones in the right balance. Nutrients often lacking include essential fatty acids (particularly the Omega-3 fatty acids, ALA, EPA and DHA, and an Omega-6 called GLA), B vitamins (especially B6), calcium and magnesium.
So eat plenty of cruciferous veg (broccoli, cauliflower, kale, Brussels sprouts) to support the healthy detoxification of oestrogen and other hormones in the liver. Choose B-vitamin-rich carbohydrates such as quinoa, wholegrain rice and veg. Enjoy oily fish like sardines, mackerel or salmon for protein and Omega-3 fats.
Avoid added hormones in meat and dairy by choosing organic, or try nut milks such as almond milk. Snacks can be mixed seeds, fresh fruits, almonds and walnuts – all good sources of protein, fibre and essential fats. Eggs, avocados, olives and olive oil are also great choices. Drink clean, filtered water, herb leaf teas and veggie juices to stay well hydrated. Spread your calorie intake over the course of the day, focusing on three main meals and two snacks, if possible.
World-renowned expert in women-specific coaching Auriel Forrester has this training advice
The effects of menstruation on athletic performance are often subject to inconclusive and contradictory research. Research does suggest that the body is more receptive to different training loads during each stage of your cycle, so you should structure training around it, rather than work against it.
For example, the muscles appear to be more receptive to strength training around the time of ovulation (mid-cycle), and aerobic training early or late in the cycle. So assuming your problems start the day before your period and continue for five days, training could be phased as follows, with day one being the first day of your period:
Days 1-5 Recovery, taper or rest
Endurance training (mid-
Strength training (short,
Speed and endurance training
(aerobic and anaerobic intervals)
Day 28 Rest
This first phase should be rotated between recovery (short and easy technique biased sessions), taper (short intense efforts with good recovery between to ensure peak for a specific event) or complete rest (nothing).
Keep a note of when your period is due and, depending on your race goals, schedule the different training types into your diary. That way you can maximise the benefits of your menstrual cycle and minimise the drawbacks.