Lesson 2: Intro to Hormone Cycle

1. What are hormones?

  • Hormones are chemical messengers that send signals that allow for communication across the body. We are going to focus on three sex hormones that relate to the menstrual cycle: estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone.
    1. Estrogen
      • Produced by the ovaries
      • Dominant in the first half of the cycle (menstrual & follicular)
      • Purposes include, but are not limited to:
        • Builds the uterine lining
        • Keeps our skin supple
        • Keeps our brain on point
        • Keeps our heart in top condition
    2. Progesterone
      • Produced by the corpus luteum
      • Dominant in the second half of the cycle (ovulation & luteal)
      • Purposes include, but are not limited to:
        • Helps prepare the uterus for potential embryo implantation (pregnancy)
        • Supports thyroid health
        • Supports cortisone (stress hormone production)
        • Supports bone health
    3. Testosterone
      • Produced by the ovaries and adrenal glans
      • Rises before ovulation to increase libido (sex drive)

2. What is the hormone cycle?

  • You may associate the hormone cycle to be your period but there is so much more to it.
  • While you have your period for 3-7 days, your body experiences hormonal fluctuations through four phases over the course of a month. These four phases are menstruation, follicular, ovulation, and luteal.

3. Why does the hormone cycle matter so much for women?

  • A healthy fluctuation of our hormones is an integral part of a woman's body's ability to function and perform! Especially as a female athlete, we ask a lot from our bodies and it's a valuable skillset to understand how to support your biological process that directly impacts peak performance.


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4. So, how do we support our hormone cycle?

By focusing on ways to balance your hormones and eliminating hormone disruptions, you can have better periods, more energy, better relationships, and an overall better quality of life. Nutrition, physical activity, and productivity all play a role in hormone regulation.

Nutritionally, you can best support your hormones by:

  • focusing on incorporating fruits, vegetables, organic foods, local foods, and healthy fats
  • focusing on crowding out processed foods, excess sugar & caffeine, and excessive alcohol

*crowding out: instead of eliminating foods, it is the process of adding more nutritious foods to "crowd out" the less nutritious foods

Physical Activity, to best support your hormones:

  • Keep in mind that you are quite literally physiologically different in each phase of the hormone cycle; therefore, you can’t expect your body to feel, look, or perform the same way week to week.
  • Remember this DOES NOT mean you are any less capable of performing or training, it simply means your body has different needs in different phases to be able to accomplish the same things.
  • Focus on exercise and physical activity that best supports each phase in order to maximize your body's capabilities.

Productivity, to best support your hormones:

  • We often think of being productive as working towards a goal, but what if we rephrase this thought to making intentional choices towards a goal?
    • Bear with me, our bodies are constantly fluctuating and what we need week to week varies...
    • Therefore, being our “most productive self” could simply be about honoring what’s going to make us our most whole selves because as our “whole-self” we can approach everything with our best efforts.
      • It comes from the idea that our 100% is going to look different every single day.
      • Sometimes being productive means grinding, sometimes being productive means rest.
  • This course is designed to help us decipher this difference!
    • Ask yourself: how do we honor our bodies while pushing towards a goal without pushing ourselves to burnout?

5. So, what does this all mean?

The hormone cycle often has a bad reputation because of the negative effects of symptoms from PMS. However, this is a natural process in our bodies and it's one to honor and embrace!

As a female athlete, we often know very little about our hormone cycle and how it may affect us in our sports performance and/or day-to-day life:

  • Because we aren’t taught how to regulate our hormones, we are often out of balance which can lead to a variety of PMS symptoms which impact our performance on the court and our quality of life off the court.
  • PMS has been heavily normalized, but this isn’t how our bodies are meant to function.
  • By syncing your actions with your cycle, you can become PMS free and optimize your body's abilities in each phase for maximize performance on the court and in your daily life!

Some food for thought on what foods can mess up your hormones: 

  • Processed and refined snack foods with a long list of ingredients
  • White sugar
  • White flour
  • Margarine
  • Processed meats, hot dogs, cold cuts
  • TV dinners
  • Fast food especially anything deep fried
  • Fake sugars like Aspartame
  • Soda or soda with artificial sweeteners
  • Salad dressing with hydrogenated oils
  • High Fructose Corn Syrup
  • BPA found in plastic bottles & can lining