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Nutrition For The Female Athlete – Part 2

Eating Advice For Active Women 

In part 1 of this blog post series, I talked about the concept of the female athlete triad. Menstrual dysfunction, low energy availability and low bone mass can affect active women without the right nutrition and exercise plan individualised to their needs. Now in part 2 & 3 of this blog post series, I will discuss hormonal changes across the menstrual cycle that can have an effect on exercise and nutrition.

Hormones during your 28-day cycle

Every females cycle will differ, but assuming a 28-day cycle, there are 2 phases – the follicular phase (day 1 -14) and the luteal phase (day 15 – 28). Day 1 of the cycle is when menstrual bleeding begins.

During the follicular phase (day 1-14), the hormones progesterone and estrogen are at their lowest, with estrogen slowly rising until ovulation occurs on day 14. Testosterone levels are also raised slightly, so muscle building is optimised. Energy levels are at their highest in this phase, and your body is able to effectively use carbohydrates as an energy source in this phase, so you can reach higher exercise intensities during training. As estrogen peaks towards the end of the follicular phase, changes in collagen structure means tendon and ligament tears are more likely to occur, so its important to ensure you are particularly careful with your exercise warm ups and technique.


 


 

 

Increases in strength and energy during the follicular phase means you can take advantage of your body being able to use carbohydrates more effectively as a fuel source and to aid muscle growth and recovery. Think about including carbohydrate foods as a pre-workout meal and including high fibre carbohydrate sources with your meals. Some examples include a banana smoothie before your workout, and brown rice with stir fried chicken and vegetables for dinner. Sleep is also a key consideration during this phase, make sure you are getting enough sleep after your big training sessions to aid recovery!

Stay tuned for Part 3 of this blog series which will go into the hormone changes across the second phase of the cycle and the impacts this can have on exercise performance.               

If you are interested in a periodised nutrition plan to suit your cycle and training demands, our sports dietitian can provide individualised guidance. Contact reception on 9280 2322 or head to our online bookings page to book in a chat with Kelsey.