At Orreco and FitrWoman this International Women’s Day, we’re celebrating the superpower of the menstrual cycle.
We are passionate about spreading the message that the menstrual cycle doesn’t have to be a hindrance or deterrent to exercise and performance but an opportunity to get to know your body better and work with your constantly changing hormones.
Dr Georgie Bruinvels, Head of Orreco’s Female Athlete programme and co-founder of the FitrWoman app agrees:
“Many believe that females are either menstruating or they’re not and we haven’t appreciated how hormones are changing throughout the entirety of the cycle,” explains Bruinvels.
“We’ve also often associated, or it’s often been believed, that menstruation (phase one, or when you are bleeding) is a hormonal time when for instance people might say ‘I’m feeling hormonal today’, however, I want to debunk that, as actually menstruation is the time in the cycle when reproductive hormones are at their lowest, so that’s one big myth.
“At this time, female sex hormones are low and more stable which is a time where many people feel they can perform really well. We really believe that if you’re proactive and prepared then you can learn how to support your body and perform at all stages of your cycle.
“We need to educate people that in females of reproductive age, hormones are constantly changing. These hormones travel in the blood, and can affect lots of other body functions, such as the way you think, feel, move and it can affect how you might need to fuel or how you might respond to your training or how you feel mentally.”
However, one size does not fit all, every person is different and may have different symptoms and a unique experience around their cycle. Orreco is on a mission to empower women to individualise their approach, with one of the recommended ways to do this being the tracking of the menstrual cycle, as Dr Bruinvels explains:
“The important thing to realise is that everyone is different. Phase one could be a time when some athletes feel lethargic and fatigued and have a lower performance but for others it can be a time when they feel stronger and can push themselves.
“Unless you have a severely symptomatic cycle or an underlying menstrual dysfunction, I believe that if you’re proactive and prepared and work with your cycle- so you understand by tracking your cycle over time what works for you- and introduce the correct nutritional and wellbeing strategies which promote good sleep for example, then that can equal optimum performance.
“Through tracking and learning about your body, not only are you able to recognise and implement ways to reduce symptoms, but you can also capitalise on your physiology and the hormonal changes.
“The key message is that we need to empower women with knowledge and to be proactive and prepared, to understand their specific cycle and not fight against it.
“At the end of the day, more research is needed to better understand how the hormonal changes affect athletes but the key is to have an individual approach. We feel that with the correct support and knowledge, every person who menstruates can train, compete and perform on any given day of their cycle.”
To begin tracking your cycle and access nutrition and training tips, download the Fitrwoman app.