Journal of Human Sport and Exercise

Substrate oxidation in female adults during endurance exercise throughout menstrual cycle phases: IronFEMME pilot study

Carmen P. Ortega-Santos, Laura Barba-Moreno, Rocío Cupeiro, Ana B. Peinado



The main aim of the study was to investigate the effect of menstrual cycle phases on substrate oxidation during steady state intensity exercise in adult females with regular menstrual cycle and on oral contraceptive (OC). Twenty-four healthy endurance and strength trained females, with regular menstrual cycle phases (n= 15; Age 35.6±4.2; height 163.9±5.9 cm; body mass 58.1±5.2 kg; VO2peak 50.3±3.6 ml·min-1·kg-1) or on oral contraceptives (n=9; Age 30.4±4.5; height 163.9±9.0 cm; body mass 58.1±6.7 kg; VO2peak 52.4±4.2 ml·min-1·kg-1) participated in the study. All participants performed a graded maximal exercise test to determine their peak oxygen consumption (VO2peak). Participants then exercised at the speed corresponding to 75% of VO2peak for 40 minutes on a treadmill in each menstrual cycle phase: regular menstrual cycle group (early follicular phase, mid-follicular phase and luteal phase) and OC group (hormonal phase and non-hormonal phase). There were no differences in the respiratory exchange ratio of each phase, in regular menstrual cycle phase group (mean±SEM): early-follicular phase 0.89±0.01, mid-follicular phase 0.87±0.01 and luteal phase 0.88±0.01 (p>0.05). There were also no differences in respiratory exchange ratio for the participants using oral contraceptive: hormonal phase 0.89±0.01 and non-hormonal phase 0.91±0.01 (p>0.05). However, we found that OC may influence fat oxidation (p=0.018) during the hormonal phase. Our preliminary results suggest that menstrual cycle and oral contraceptive do not influence substrate oxidation in females with regular menstrual cycle phases. Regarding the few disparities, more research is needed to understand how sexual hormones influence substrate oxidation in female.


Oxygen uptake; Female athletes; Oral contraceptives; Respiratory exchange ratio; Energy metabolism; Oestrogen; Progesterone


Batterham, A. M., & Hopkins, W. G. (2006). Making meaningful inferences about magnitudes. International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance, 1(1), 50–57.

Beals, K. A. (2013). Nutrition and the Female Athlete: From Research to Practice. CRC Press.

Burrows, M., & Bird, S. (2000). The physiology of the highly trained female endurance runner. Sports Medicine, 30(4), 281–300.

Comitato, R., Saba, A., Turrini, A., Arganini, C., & Virgili, F. (2015). Sex hormones and macronutrient metabolism. Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, 55(2), 227–241.

Constantini, N. W., Dubnov, G., & Lebrun, C. M. (2005). The menstrual cycle and sport performance. Clinics in Sports Medicine, 24(2), e51–e82.

D'Eon, T., & Braun, B. (2002). The roles of estrogen and progesterone in regulating carbohydrate and fat utilization at rest and during exercise. Journal of Women's Health & Gender-Based Medicine, 11(3), 225–237.

Dawson, E. A., & Reilly, T. (2009). Menstrual cycle, exercise and health. Biological Rhythm Research, 40(1), 99–119.

De Crée, C. (1998). Sex steroid metabolism and menstrual irregularities in the exercising female. Sports Medicine, 25(6), 369–406.

Devries, M. C. (2016). Sex‐based differences in endurance exercise muscle metabolism: impact on exercise and nutritional strategies to optimize health and performance in women. Experimental Physiology, 101(2), 243-249.

Devries, M. C., Hamadeh, M. J., Phillips, S. M., & Tarnopolsky, M. A. (2006). Menstrual cycle phase and sex influence muscle glycogen utilization and glucose turnover during moderate-intensity endurance exercise. American Journal of Physiology-Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology, 291(4), R1120–R1128.

Egan, B., & Zierath, J. R. (2013). Exercise metabolism and the molecular regulation of skeletal muscle adaptation. Cell Metabolism, 17(2), 162–184.

Hopkins, W. G. (2006). Spreadsheets for analysis of controlled trials with adjustment for a predictor. Sportscience, 10, 46–50.

Isacco, L., Duché, P., & Boisseau, N. (2012). Influence of hormonal status on substrate utilization at rest and during exercise in the female population. Sports Medicine, 42(4), 327–342.

Knechtle, B., Müller, G., Willmann, F., Kotteck, K., Eser, P., & Knecht, H. (2004). Fat oxidation in men and women endurance athletes in running and cycling. International Journal of Sports Medicine, 25(1), 38–44.

Kraemer, R. R., Francois, M., & Castracane, V. D. (2012). Estrogen mediation of hormone responses to exercise. Metabolism, 61(10), 1337–1346.

Kraemer, R. R., Francois, M., Webb, N. D., Worley, J. R., Rogers, S. N., Norman, R. L., Castracane, V. D. (2013). No effect of menstrual cycle phase on glucose and glucoregulatory endocrine responses to prolonged exercise. European Journal of Applied Physiology, 113(9), 2401–2408.

Lebrun, C. M., Joyce, S. M., & Constantini, N. W. (2013). Effects of female reproductive hormones on sports performance. In Endocrinology of Physical Activity and Sport (pp. 281-322). Humana Press.

Leung, K.-C., Johannsson, G., Leong, G. M., & Ho, K. K. Y. (2004). Estrogen regulation of growth hormone action. Endocrine Reviews, 25(5), 693–721.

Oosthuyse, T., & Bosch, A. N. (2010). The effect of the menstrual cycle on exercise metabolism. Sports Medicine, 40(3), 207–227.

Oosthuyse, T., Bosch, A. N., & Jackson, S. (2005). Cycling time trial performance during different phases of the menstrual cycle. European Journal of Applied Physiology, 94(3), 268–276.

Rapoport, B. I. (2010). Metabolic factors limiting performance in marathon runners. PLoS Computational Biology, 6(10), e1000960.

Spriet, L. L. (2014). New insights into the interaction of carbohydrate and fat metabolism during exercise. Sports Medicine, 44(1), 87–96.

Suh, S.-H., Casazza, G. A., Horning, M. A., Miller, B. F., & Brooks, G. A. (2003). Effects of oral contraceptives on glucose flux and substrate oxidation rates during rest and exercise. Journal of Applied Physiology, 94(1), 285–294.

Tara, M. D., Sharoff, C., Chipkin, S. R., Grow, D., Ruby, B. C., & Braun, B. (2002). Regulation of exercise carbohydrate metabolism by estrogen and progesterone in women. American Journal of Physiology-Endocrinology and Metabolism, 283(5), E1046–E1055.

Vaiksaar, S., Juerimaee, J., Maeestu, J., Purge, P., Kalytka, S., Shakhlina, L., & Juerimaee, T. (2011). Phase of oral contraceptive cycle and endurance capacity of rowers. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 113(3), 764–772.

Vaiksaar, S., Jürimäe, J., Mäestu, J., Purge, P., Kalytka, S., Shakhlina, L., & Jürimäe, T. (2011). No effect of menstrual cycle phase on fuel oxidation during exercise in rowers. European Journal of Applied Physiology, 111(6), 1027–1034.

Zderic, T. W., Coggan, A. R., & Ruby, B. C. (2001). Glucose kinetics and substrate oxidation during exercise in the follicular and luteal phases. Journal of Applied Physiology, 90(2), 447–453.


Copyright (c) 2018 Journal of Human Sport and Exercise

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.