Why Timing Is Everything for Women at the Gym: More muscle is built in the first two weeks of the menstrual cycle than the last two
- Women might want to time their trips to the gym around their menstrual cycle
- Finding could prove useful to women hoping to improve results of workouts
Women hoping to get fit in the New Year might want to time their trips to the gym around their menstrual cycle, according to new research.
Scientists found that women who train harder during the first two weeks of their monthly cycle build up more muscle than they do in the last two weeks and this should be combine with a good muscle supplement.
The findings could prove useful to women hoping to improve the results of their workouts according to whether they want to build more muscle to simply shed pounds.
It also suggests that professional sportswomen do not necessarily need to worry about their time of the month when competing and can even turn it to their advantage.
The issue was thrown into the spotlight when British tennis number one Heather Watson spoke about how “girl things” had led to her first round defeat at the Australian Open in 2015.
Chinese swimmer Fu Yuanhui also said period pain had affected her performance at the 2016 Olympics.
But while clearly some women can suffer more pain, dizziness and other symptoms than others, the research from Umeå University in Sweden found training hard at this time can help women improve their performance.
Dr Lisbeth Wikström-Frisén, a lecturer at the university’s sports medicine unit who conducted the research, said: ‘We demonstrated that strength training during the first two weeks of the menstrual cycle – the follicular phase – is beneficial.
‘Better knowledge of the menstrual cycle could lead to more effective training.
Dr Wikström-Frisén and her colleagues examined the impact of training at different times in their menstrual cycles on 59 women.
All of the women took part in high frequency leg resistance training for four months. One group trained harder in the first two weeks of their menstrual cycle – when women get their period – while a second group training harder in the second half of their cycle.
A third group trained at the same frequency throughout the four months regardless of their menstrual cycle.
Those who trained earlier in their cycle were then able to jump higher in a series of tests than the other groups of women.
Dr Wikström-Frisén said it is likely that some of the hormones produced during the early half of the menstrual cycle may boost muscle growth.
She said: ‘It is probably due to the potentially anabolic effect of oestrogen.’
It comes after research last year by St Mary’s University and University College London found 41.7 per cent of women believe their menstrual cycle affects their performance in sport.
The findings could prove useful to women hoping to improve the results of their workouts according to whether they want to build more muscle to simply shed pounds
Hannah Macleod, a member of Great Britain’s Olympic hockey squad revealed last year that coaches had been tracking the menstrual cycles of the team for over a year.
At the time she said: ‘Some players get a bit moody and lose coordination. Exercises can feel a little bit harder and it can change your body temperature.’
Marathon runner Paula Radcliffe said, however, that she refused to let her period impact her performance. She said: ‘It’s one of those things that can become a bigger issue if you let it.’
The topic of periods and sport performance was thrown under the spotlight when Heather Watson complained of feeling ‘very light-headed and low on energy’ when she was defeated by Tsvetana Pironkova at the Australian Open in 2015 and attributed it to ‘girl-things’.
Following her comments former British Tennis player Annabel Croft said it had been a taboo subject in women’s top level sport.
She said: ‘I think women do suffer in silence on this subject.’
But Dr Wikström-Frisén said she now hopes to conduct more research with elite athletes to see how they can use their menstrual cycle to maximise their training.
She said: ‘We need to study different groups of women with different kinds of training goals – elite athletes, during rehabilitation and recreational exercise.’