Athletes and coaches have long questioned the role that the menstrual cycle plays in a female athlete’s athletic performance. Understanding the impact of the menstrual cycle and hormonal fluctuations on athletic training and performance is essential when manipulating programming for an athlete.
During the menstrual cycle the hormone estrogen plays a significant role in the cardiovascular system, bones, and brain functioning, whereas the hormone progesterone primarily influences thermoregulation and ventilation. Most research to date has not demonstrated a significant connection or difference in aerobic capacity, anaerobic capacity, aerobic endurance, or muscle strength during the menstrual cycle of female athletes.
New research in the European Journal of Applied Physiology (2011), investigated the effects of the menstrual cycle phase on substrate oxidation and lactate concentration. Researchers studied 11 female rowers, who completed a rowing ergometer test at 70% of their maximal oxygen consumption (VO2 max). Measurements calculating body energy expenditure, oxygen consumption, respiratory exchange ratio, substrate oxidation, and lactate blood levels were taken on all athletes. The athletes were followed during two different phases of the menstrual cycle, the follicular phase and the luteal phase.
Results indicated that endurance performance was not influenced by the normal menstrual cycle. Researchers found that energy expenditure, VO2 max, and heart rate were also not significantly different during the menstrual cycle phases. Overall, it appears from this new research that there was no significant changes during menstrual cycle on athletic performance in the female athletes sampled. Further research should be conducted with a larger sample of female athletes from different sports to further assess these findings.