Studies have shown that a woman’s menstrual cycle can affect exercise-induced muscle damage and oxidative stress that follow bouts of physical activity and exercise. Estradiol is an estrogen steroid hormone and major female sex hormone that is responsible for the development of female secondary sex characteristics. During the menstrual cycle, estradiol fluctuates, and is low during the first 1-8 days of the follicular phase and elevated during the midpoint to luteal phase, during days 18-24.
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Estradiol has been shown to increase satellite cell activation and impacts muscle generation in response to resistance exercise. Considering this, research out of Helsinki, Finland, sought to determine whether estradiol fluctuations during the menstrual cycle influence the muscle’s ability to undergo increases in strength and mass.
The participants in this study were healthy, physically active, eumenorrheic (having normal or regular menstruation) females. All twenty-two females that participated in this study had not taken any form of hormonal contraception for one year prior to the study. To calculate their menstrual cycles, participants utilized the calendar method to determine the length of their cycle, and calculated the occurrence of their mid-follicular (MF) and mid-luteal (ML) phases.
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During the exercise protocol, participants were required to exert a minimum of 30% of their individual pre-determined maximal contraction for each repetition. The exercise protocol was performed unilaterally and isokinetically, at 10 sets of 10 repetitions with 3 minutes of rest between sets. Muscle biopsies were taken in opposing legs during the MF and ML phase. Estradiol was determined in each cellular extract, and statistical analyses were performed.
There were no significant differences detected between the right and left legs in levels and effects of estradiol fluctuations. Researchers were hoping to replicate studies that showed levels of serum estradiol to be significantly greater at ML phase than MF phase.
Based on the results of the study, muscle estradiol levels were not affected by either the MF or ML phase, or by eccentric exercise. Results indicate no significant difference between menstrual phases in muscle estradiol before or after eccentric exercise, concluding that phases of the menstrual cycle do not significantly effect training results, and do not significantly effect the muscle’s ability to undergo increases in strength and mass. For curious female athletes training at high intensity, begin to personally observe differences in training due to different stages of the menstrual cycle.
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Andre, T., Gann, J., Haines, M., Hwang, P., McKinley-Barnard, S., & Willoughby, D.
(2018). “Skeletal Muscle Estrogen Receptor Activation in Response to Eccentric
Exercise Up-Regulates Myogenic-Related Gene Expression Independent of
Differing Serum Estradiol Levels Occurring during the Human Menstrual Cycle.”
Journal of Sports Science and Medicine, 17, 31-39.