Estrogen vs Progesterone when exercising.

There’s evidence to show that due to the fluctuating nature of our hormones (particularly oestrogen and progesterone) throughout your cycle, your maximal strength, muscle mass and performance may vary over the month. It’s not just your muscle tissue that’s physiologically affected, your mood and energy levels are impacted too!

Did you know that most exercise studies are done on men? This is because of our ever changing female body, test subjects couldn’t have the constant symptoms like men, as so many factors impact our day to day life, including stress, the food we eat, exercise, sleep etc... but here’s what we DO know…

In the first half of our cycles (the follicular phase), your oestrogen levels are starting to increase and your progesterone levels are low. Your energy levels are starting to increase and your mood is improving!

With the rise in estrogen, it brings these positives:

● Increases fat burning enzymes in muscles.

● Activates a compound call AMPK which enhances fat as a fuel source

● Increases your muscle strength.

During the follicular phase focus on:

· Weight training

· Lower body exercises

· Increased fat burning

· Increased muscle strength

· Our body uses fat as a fuel source

· Can metabolise carbohydrates easier

· HIIT training will feel easier

· Greatest muscle gains

After ovulation, we enter the luteal phase. This is when our progesterone starts to rise. Your egg is released from the corpus luteum in the ovary. During the luteal phase the corpus luteum produces and causes a rise in progesterone. Oestrogen levels dropped dramatically after ovulation occurs.

Effects of progesterone include:

● Increase in core body temperature

● Increase in resting metabolic rate

● Reduces tendon strength

● Impairs muscle strength

● Increased hunger

● Decreases insulin sensitivity

● Activates fat storage

During this phase of our cycle, focus on:

· Lighter weights

· Upper body exercises

· Focus on skills and technique

· Metabolism is elevated

· Heat tolerance is decreased

· Endurance training will feel hard

· Increase protein consumption

Remember, this is just a guide. We are all individual, which means what we can and can’t tolerate during the month will be individual to us. My biggest tip: chart your cycle! Write down where you are in your cycle, what type of exercise training you were doing and how you felt the day you did it. After a couple of months you will find a pattern emerge, in how you feel, your moods, your strength, and what you can and can’t achieve.

The only way to truly know ourselves is by tuning in! Sophie xx


References: Keeping health in mind - Exercise & depression Retrieved December 10, 2020 from

Ferstera, N. (November 2020). Train like a girl webinar.

Norman, N. (November 2020). Women are not small men.

Lyn Smith, S. (March 22, 2019). Optimising training around your menstrual cycle.

Dreger, J. (11 Feb). How your menstrual cycle affects resistance training

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