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Methodological Recommendations for Menstrual Cycle Research in Sports and Exercise


Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise: December 2019 - Volume 51 - Issue 12 - p 2610–2617
doi: 10.1249/MSS.0000000000002073
SPECIAL COMMUNICATIONS: Methodological Advances

Introduction The aim of this review is to provide methodological recommendations for menstrual cycle research in exercise science and sports medicine based on a review of recent literature. Research in this area is growing but often reports conflicting results, and it is proposed that some of this may be explained by methodological issues.

Methods This review examined the menstrual cycle verification methods used in recent literature on exercise performance over the menstrual cycle identified through a literature search of PubMed and SportDiscus from 2008 until 2018.

Results Potential changes over the menstrual cycle are likely related to hormone fluctuations; however, only 44% of the selected studies measured the actual concentrations of the female steroid hormones estrogen and progesterone. It was shown that the likely inclusion of participants with anovulatory or luteal phase–deficient cycles in combination with small participant numbers has affected results in recent menstrual cycle research and, consequently, our understanding of this area.

Conclusion To improve the quality of future menstrual cycle research, it is recommended that a combination of three methods is used to verify menstrual cycle phase: the calendar-based counting method combined with urinary luteinizing hormone surge testing and the measurement of serum estrogen and progesterone concentrations at the time of testing. A strict luteal phase verification limit of >16 nmol·L−1 for progesterone should be set. It is also recommended that future research should focus on the inclusion of the late follicular estrogen peak. It is envisaged that these methodological recommendations will assist in clarifying some of the disagreement around the effects of the menstrual cycle on exercise performance and other aspects of exercise science and sports medicine.

1Faculty of Science, The University of Newcastle, Ourimbah, AUSTRALIA

2Ruhr University Bochum, Bochum, GERMANY

Address for correspondence: Xanne Janse de Jonge, Ph.D., Exercise and Sport Science, Faculty of Science, The University of Newcastle, Central Coast Campus, PO Box 127, Ourimbah NSW 2258, Australia; E-mail:

Submitted for publication November 2018.

Accepted for publication May 2019.

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Online date: July 26, 2019

© 2019 American College of Sports Medicine