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Exercise and Menstrual Cycle Phases: Know Your Body, Boost Your Health | Jess Freemas

Athletic performance is impacted by your exercise and menstrual cycle phases. Listen as Jess Freemas explains how to work out according to your cycle and optimize your health.

How can you sync your fitness routines with your menstrual cycle? And why should you? In this episode, exercise physiology expert Jess Freemas discusses the connection between periods, workouts, and women’s hormonal phases. She is from Orreco, a bio-analytics platform that helps athletes. At Orreco, Jess helped pioneer the FitrWoman app, which empowers female athletes and exercise enthusiasts to understand their bodies and optimize their performance.

Jess explains the challenges, stigmas, and misconceptions surrounding menstruation, working out, and how tracking your menstrual cycle can equip you to adapt your exercise habits for improved health. You’ll learn strategies to manage period symptoms, the science behind exercising according to menstrual cycle phases, and ways to level up your fitness for life.

Jess is a Female Athlete Specialist at Orreco. Based in the U.S., Dr. Freemas is advancing female athlete research and delivering high-impact consultation to various athletes and teams across the NWSL, WNBA, NCAA, and Team USA. Jess holds a Master's degree in Exercise Physiology and a Ph.D. in Human Performance from Indiana University and has published work detailing the effects of menstrual cycle hormone fluctuations on female physiology and performance.

Discussed in this episode:

  • Research on the menstrual cycle and working out

  • Women’s hormones and their impact on energy, mood, and nutritional needs

  • What happens when women stop working out because of their period?

  • How women can follow a menstrual cycle workout plan to improve health and performance

  • How the FitrWoman app helps women align their workouts and athletic goals with their menstrual cycles

  • Ways to improve menstrual education and awareness for overall health

“Menstrual cycle symptoms affect up to 90% of women. Now that we have this data, how do we make it actionable? How do we improve it? That’s really the point of [this research] — showing that women are affected and that they actually realize they’re affected by the menstrual cycle.” — Jess Freemas

Exercise and Menstrual Cycle


Georgie Kovacs:

So Jess, thank you so much for joining the Fempower Health podcast. I actually learned about Orreco through media around the FitrWoman app. And what also got me excited is Georgie Bruinveld. Is that how you pronounce her name? So. My name's Georgie. Her name's Georgie. I'm like, Holy cow. And I could tell you got slammed with press because she reached we were talking and then all of her messages were we are overwhelmed with press. So that's good news. So by the name of the app, I think people will get an idea of what we're here to talk about, which is menstrual cycles and athletics. And maybe not everyone that's listening is a full on athlete, but we're going to also talk about how the data you guys are looking at and the research you're doing can impact all of us who want to stay healthy. So before we dive into that, tell us your background and then we can dive into some of the research.

Jess Freemas:

So I recently finished a PhD in exercise physiology with a focus in human performance. And then I went deeper into just sort of female physiology and changes across the menstrual cycle and how it affects everything from mood to renal function and how it compares to men and to fluid regulation and just during exercise and in the heat. And so just all the ways that really hormonal fluctuations across the menstrual cycle can affect your physiology. And then of course related to exercise in some of these studies as well. And so really the goal of this FitrWoman app is like you said, we do work with athletes as a consultancy. But this is for the just general recreationally active, two elite, anybody who's exercising woman and how to train smarter and better and give the evidence based researches and practices to really hone in and harness sort of we call it this inner superpower that your body is and that the menstrual cycle can be.

Georgie Kovacs:

I did some research. So I looked at top questions people ask about menstrual cycles and working out, and some of the questions were even is this factor fiction? That it really matters? Your menstrual cycle, where you are in your menstrual cycle and how that impacts working out and some of the data is it's ridiculous. It's hocus pocus. And then you guys are looking at data. Before we, I guess, dive into some of this data, I had just a theoretical question. So one of the things that I'm noticing in women's health, because I've spoken to well over 100 experts now and some are clinicians, some are doing like tech companies that are doing deep data analysis is sometimes I wonder if the reason why people may not think something works is because we don't yet have the data. So the question is the wrong question. It's not, does this work? It's almost, do we have the data and what does the data say? Does it work or not. And I don't know if people start with that first question. And so based on the research that you guys have been doing, I'm so curious on your thoughts on that very general question.

Jess Freemas:

I mean, this is discussed often, especially among scientists and applied scientists, and just both because there's a barrier to research, there's a barrier to applied side, and they're so interlinked. So, for instance, on the scientists like research side, we're like, yes, show us the evidence. Where's the evidence so that we can really sort of make best informed choices. And I think, to your point, we are lacking so much data in the space, even though it's gaining popularity and there is more research out and coming and people are taking notice. But we still have so many years and studies to do to really, I mean, even equal men if that ever happens. But it just takes so long to study the menstrual cycle in these women. And so we just don