As with pregnancy, the pre-menstrual time is the other most maligned time to be in a female body. The pre-menstrual time is also one of the two most opportune times to reap the rewards of our legal, natural ability to blood dope as female-bodied athletes.
Let me explain a bit about the physiology involved here: The only two adaptations I work with my clients to achieve as an endurance coach are increased VO2 max and increased neuromuscular connection with slow-twitch muscle fibers - that's it. All the mindfulness, nutrition strategies, cyclic training, laboratory testing, and lifetimes of training boil down to this.
Let me fast forward a bit to the pre-menstrual body. Low levels of hormones in this phase of our cycles increase total plasma volume, the amount of fluid available for the body to use as the basis of blood and bone marrow. When we increase total plasma volume, it can feel like we're sluggish or we perceive as the athlete that we're slower, lethargic, or less strong. As with any performance enhancement, natural or artificial, being in a state of optimal performance often doesn't feel good and we must get over the perception of decreased performance because that perception couldn't be farther from the truth.
During the pre-menstrual phase of an unmitigated menstrual cycle (one not inhibited or altered by hormonal birth control) the body is actually capable of higher resistance to stressors (better temperature moderation because of increased plasma) and higher VO2 Max (because the increased plasma is able to transport oxygen and nutrients in the blood). Pretty cool!
The way I transform this science into strategies for my athletes is by employing a strategic training theory that harnesses the menstrual cycle's inherent strengths in movement and cues for rest. Learn all about that by signing up for individual coaching with me.
Whew! All boiled down to say: pregnancy AND an unmitigated pre-menstrual time are the only periods during which an athlete can legally, naturally blood dope. Performance enhancement doesn't necessary feel good but it works. Read more on the evidence behind this here.