Current research shows that reductions in high endurance exercise performance are reported during the luteal phase (LP) of the menstrual cycle.
In a recent study published in PLOS One, nine trained female athletes were assessed during specific intervals in their menstrual cycles. In the past, studies have suggested that physical performance in elite female soccer players correlates with their amount of training and ability to push themselves to their limit. After running a series of tests, it was measured that endurance is significantly lowered during the luteal phase (LP) of the menstrual cycle. The LP, also known as the pre-menstrual cycle phase of a woman’s cycle, is the part of the cycle where an egg is released from the ovary. This event usually takes place after a woman’s period ends from unsuccessful conception, and is considered the “fertile window”, as a means of being the most successful time to conceive. Scientists in this study believe this is due to an increase in progesterone, a hormone that prepares the uterine lining for potential pregnancy, and maintains it. As a result, there is an increase in body temperature associated with the release of progesterone. This has been suggested to limit prolonged exercise and increase cardiovascular strain.
A limitation of the following study is that this data may only be applicable to women who considered to be elite athletes, which is a minority compared to the vast majority of average women. The reduction in endurance was also only recorded with activities such as continuous treadmill running, and but not with jumping or sprinting. The findings defend the claim that this reduction is only present with long-term tasks utilizing endurance, but not short-term tasks that require small spurts of energy in comparison. In conclusion, there should be further research and testing done on the endurance and natural hormonal cycles of women in order to utilize the optimal performance in female athletes.
Written By: Jacqueline Suttin