Your Menstrual Cycle & How it Impacts Your Training - Part I

By Sarah Bartlett Holistic Fitness & Nutrition Coach

Hormonal health seems to be all the rage these days, with every fitness blog and guru harping on about cortisol, insulin and their influence upon your body’s (or client’s body’s) ability to drop fat. We know our hormones play a role in determining our body composition. We also know that females have more fluctuations in their hormones than men and that they are more influenced by these changes. For me, as a coach, this raised the question about the potential impact of these fluctuating hormones (during the menstrual cycle) on the outcomes in training and performance for myself and my female clients.


In this blog series, we are going explore the female reproductive system and cycle, as well as it’s influence on training, in depth through three parts:

  • Anatomy and physiology of the female reproductive system

  • Key hormones in each stage, and how this can influence your athlete

  • How we can best adapt our training and nutrition around these factors to optimise fat loss, even when our hormones seem to be working against us.

PART I: ANATOMY & PHYSIOLOGY OF THE FEMALE REPRODUCTIVE SYSTEM

Women are not just smaller, more curvy men – they are separate creatures, with a visibly different anatomy, and therefore physiology and... hormonal profile(!) which inevitably leads to drastic differences in how their bodies respond to training, and their bodies' nutrient requirements. In order to understand how to control and manipulate these variables to optimise yours (or your client’s results), we first need to understand what is going on…


So, we’re taking a little journey back to 8th grade P.E class everybody!




Anatomy of the Female Reproductive System


Physiology of the Female Reproductive System



Vulva


The vulva is the collective name for the external genitalia – specifically the mons veneris, labia majora, vestibule, perineum and clitoris.


Vagina


The vagina is the passage from the external genitalia to the internal genitalia. It extends from the vulva to the cervix, is the primary organ responsible for sexual intercourse, provides a passage for semen to travel, as well as a canal from which menstrual fluids can pass and babies are birthed.


Cervix


The cervix connects the uterus to the vagina, and is located at the lower part of the uterus. It acts as a barrier between the vagina and uterus, controlling when and which substances can pass into or out of the uterus. Its’ walls produce a thick mucus which acts to ‘plug’ the cervix. Around ovulation, this mucus membrane becomes thinner to allow the passage of sperm to enter the uterus. In the event of pregnancy, this mucus becomes thick to protect the developing embryo during gestation.

Uterus


The uterus is the hollow, muscular organ at the centre of the system. Its’ primary role is to accept a fertilized ovum and to nourish the developing embryo as it develops into a fetus and all the way through the gestation period until childbirth, when the thick muscular wall of the uterus produces the strong contractions known as labour. Upon conception, the uterus accepts and implants the fertilised egg within the cushiony endometrial wall, from which the fetus derives nourishment from blood vessels which develop exclusively for this purpose.

Endometrium


The endometrium refers to the epithelial layer of the uterus, along with its’ mucus membrane. This is where the fertilized ovum will be implanted should pregnancy to occur. This layer grows thicker with blood and blood vessels approaching ovulation, ready to accept a fertilized ovum. If this does not occur, this layer will shed forming a period.


Fallopian Tube


The fallopian tubes are muscular tubes extending from and connecting the uterus to the ovaries. They act to nourish the developing ova, and help to transport the ripe ovum to the uterus.


Ovaries


The ovaries are a pair of small almond-shaped glands located to the upper left and right of the uterus. They produce the ova as well as the female sex hormones, such as Oestrogen and Progesterone. Once a female has reached puberty, the ovaries will release a single mature ovum once per month, usually taking turns– this process is called Ovulation. This process continues every month until Menopause.

In Part II we will discuss the phases of the menstrual cycle, key hormones and how they change throughout the cycle. For further information about cycle optimisation or to enquire about coaching with Sarah Bartlett, you can get in touch.


Until next time....


Be Well, Be Light, Be Happy, Be You ✌🏻


🦁 Barty xx