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News - 19th July 2021
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How does your menstrual cycle or hormonal contraceptive affect your exercise performance?

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Researchers from Deakin University’s School of Exercise and Nutrition Sciences are currently recruiting healthy female endurance athletes aged 18-40 years to take part in a large online study that investigates the impact of the female menstrual cycle and hormonal contraceptives on gastrointestinal and sleep outcomes, which can affect exercise performance.

 

But why is this relevant? Despite females being 50% of the population, female-specific research only accounts for 4-13% of sports science and sports medicine publications. This means that most recommendations for female athletes are based on studies performed on males. The translation of research derived from males to female athletes is not necessarily straightforward, as it is limited by differences in physiology, such as body composition and sex steroid hormones, that can influence health and performance outcomes.

 

But there is more! Female athletes often report higher gastrointestinal symptoms than males during endurance events, and little is known if this relates to differences in the nutritional intake or, for example, hormonal variations during the menstrual cycle. Moreover, females report sleep problems more frequently than males, and it has been demonstrated that sleep is extremely important for overall recovery, to maintain athlete’s mental health, improve mood and decrease the risk of injury and depression.

 

And that is why we need you! To help to solve the mystery and make our contribution to science. If you want to take part in this study, you need to:

  • Be a female athlete between 18 and 40 years of age.
  • Live and train in Australia.
  • Complete a minimum of 150 min per week (2.5 h/week) of endurance type sports / exercise (e.g. running, cycling, swimming, etc.)
  • Complete a consent form and online screening questionnaire to determine your eligibility for the study by following this link

 

If you are eligible to take part in the study, you will be required to:

  • Continue your normal daily routine and exercise training. You don’t need to change anything, just continue being you.
  • Complete daily online questionnaires and weekly questionnaires throughout one menstrual cycle (average duration of 28 days). This can be done from your computer, tablet, or mobile phone, and it takes only a few minutes per day.
  • If naturally menstruating (e.g. not using hormonal contraceptives), we will send you a home-based urine test that will help us to determine the different phases of your menstrual cycle.

 

We are aiming to have about 200 female athletes complete the study (the more the merrier!) by the end of December 2021.

 

Findings from this study will benefit female endurance athletes through enhanced knowledge on the impact of the menstrual cycle and hormonal contraceptives on gastrointestinal and sleep outcomes. These findings will also provide a platform for further sports nutrition and exercise science research in female athletes.

 

If you are interested in obtaining further information about the study, please contact the research team via email: feashstudy@deakin.edu.au You will also receive a copy of the overall results, once published, directly to your email.

 

This study has received Deakin University ethics approval (reference number: 2019-046).

 

We wish you all the best with your training and wanted to say thank you again for going through the screening process and for your willingness to assist us with our research.

 

Lilia Convit
IOC Post Grad Dip Sports Nutrition, B. Exerc. Sport Sci. (Hons), BSc. Nut & Dietetics
School of Exercise & Nut. Sci., Faculty of Health

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