For elite athletes, understanding your body is part of the job. But for menstruating athletes, that knowledge often stops at how periods and hormonal cycles affect athletic performance. That's why beach volleyball star and Olympian Alix Klineman is doing all she can to destigmatize conversations about women's hormones and health.
Klineman joined NBCLX's podcast "My New Favorite Olympian" to discuss her Olympic journey and all the bumps that have come with it. She revealed her struggles with birth control and hormones and her eureka moment when she discovered she could use nutrition to help regulate her menstrual cycle and better control her performance. Lastly, Klineman explained why it’s so important to destigmatize talking about periods. (CLICK HERE to subscribe on your favorite podcast platform or CLICK HERE to watch the full video.)
Early in her career, Klineman struggled with hormonal issues and birth control and worried about how it impacted her performance. But she says found her "fairy godmother" when she hooked up with the bioanalytics company Orreco and Dr. Georgie Bruinvels. Bruinvels specializes in the field of female physiology and was able to help Klineman connect the dots between fitness, nutrition and her menstrual cycles.
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"With elite athletes, it's all about performance isn't it? They want to know what they can do to support themselves consistently throughout their cycle," said Bruinvels. "They want to know how they can perform at their best when they're on menstruation day one...how can they be at their best every single day? How can they be as bulletproof as possible?"
To that end, working with Bruinvels taught Klineman it wasn't enough to only eat well while she was training. She learned her body needed different nutrients at different points in her cycle to have her body perform optimally.
"I have this chart that's been catered to me with exactly what I need each week and I literally keep it in my glove compartment and I go to the grocery store and right before I go out I'm like, 'Ok I'm on week two of my cycle I need more fish and white meat this week and less red meat,'" said Klineman.
In addition to helping her own physical performance, Klineman wants everyone who menstruates to benefit from more conversations about hormones and periods. "I think this is something that is not talked about enough, and just to even know that there's this huge link between injuries and birth control, like, I don't even think that most female athletes know this. And I think this should be baseline information."
"I think the more awareness we raise about how female athletes are different and how their bodies are different, the more that we can start tailoring our programs to fit our specific needs and I think it'll just be that much more helpful."
For more of our conversation with Klineman check out our podcast "My New Favorite Olympian" hosted by NBCLX's Ngozi Ekeledo and Olympic fencing medalist Ibtihaj Muhammad. Don't miss an episode. CLICK HERE to subscribe on your favorite podcast platform or CLICK HERE to watch the full video.