Let me tell you – once you get in tune with your monthly cycle you feel as if you have your sh*t together. I would highly recommend downloading the app Flo or using a journal to track your symtpons to know where you are at with what so once you have completed a full month you can look back over the weeks and put it altogether.
Take a read with the below – I hope it helps you!
Week 1 / Follicular Phase / Menstruation / Days 1-5
The lining of the uterus, which is called the endometrium is shed and causes bleeding to occur. This usually lasts 3-6 days.
Your hormones – estrogen and progesterone are low at this stage, which explains the low levels of energy and overall sluggish behaviour.
From the start of the week you will feel some bloating and discomfort, whilst also experiencing fatigue, instability, mood swings and our favourite jabbing pain of cramps. Over the week, your bloating should start reduing, leaving you to feel quite leaner.
Increase foods rich in iron and potassium (foods you can tolerate). Such foods include:
Dark leafy veggies, such as spinach, kale and broccoli, peas, lentils dried beans, red meats, poultry and fish.
Side note: combine plant sources with Vitamin C to help your body absorb iron more. Vitamin B12 is also another vitamin that affects our energy levels. It is only found in animal products such as eggs, milk, cheese, meat, fish and poultry. For vegetarians, many food products are fortified with vitamin B12 like soy, rice or almond beverages.
Drink soothing teas like chamomile or peppermint to combat cramps and digestion. Plus drinks lots of water.S
Fatty and fried foods, processed foods, alcohol, dairy, caffeine and salty foods. Basically, these will hinder your symptons and simply just make you feel worse. So have it with your own risk, but know why you may be feeling somewhat worse…
Exercise is extremely beneficial and therapeutic for our bodies – it just depends on the activities you choose.
Cramps can make us want to curl up and just stay in bed with a hot water bottle, but this time is actually a good time to go for a gentle walk. But from my own experiences by mid week you will start feeling great again. This leaves me to say this ia actually a good time to start a new program, hence why I also tailor my female clients training programs in 4 week blocks.
(more detail to come soon the do’s and don’ts in a blog post once I have finished the cycle analysis)
This week (for me)
So last week (week 1) you may had been feeling sluggish due to low levels of hormones and iron..
Week 2 / Follicular Phase / Days 6-14
Estrogen and progesterone are on the rise.
After our period, a new egg begins to mature in our ovaries (which produces estrogen), and our estrogen levels start to rise. This phase is called ovulation because the mature egg is released and is hoping to meet a nice sperm to settle down with. The pituitary gland also produces the luteinizing hormone, which produces testosterone. With a rise in estrogen and testosterone, we feel more energized and ready to take on the world.
Bloating will still remain relatively low, but may not feel as lean as week 1.
What you should do during this phase:
-During the follicular phase, you’ll want to make sure you’re taking in plenty of B vitamins, which are important for energy production, as well as focus on gut-friendly foods. Since one of the ways the body breaks down estrogen is in the gut, adding in fermented foods, sprouted grains, lighter proteins, broccoli sprouts, kimchi, sauerkraut, and steamed vegetables will all help to support the microbiome, she explains. Also reach for foods like nuts, legumes, and leafy greens. B12 is specifically important for red blood cell production and is only present in animal foods, so vegans or those on predominantly plant-based diets should make sure they’re getting it from fortified foods like nut milk and nutritional yeast or from supplements.
-Also increase carbs and calories… because you need to fuel your training (as its a peak week and your energy is high).
Since you’re feeling your best this week calls for peak week – PB attempts and an increase intensity/ volume work.
Week 3 / Ovulation / Days 15-17
Estrogen peaks. Testosterone and progesterone rise.
A couple days after you ovulate, you can feel a bit mentally sluggish and even irritable, which occurs because your levels of progesterone are rising as your testosterone and estrogen levels drop. This is called pre-PMS. Progesterone can also make you feel very calm and snuggly, like you want to just stay at home and need lots of rest.
Bloating, fatigue, weakness, no motivation and cravings – for fatty, salty or sugary foods
What you should do during this phase:
-Add herbs like rosemary to your foods, turmeric or curcumin.
-Drink calming teas such as dandelion or peppermint tea
-Add maca powder to your drinks or food.
-Up your magnesium before bed, so double the dosage.
-DRINK MORE WATER
-Decrease sodium (so you don’t feel as if you are bloating even more)
-Get more rest (to put your body under the least stress possible to avoid high cortisol), so really listen to your bodies needs.
-Focus on stress protocols – meditation, deep breathing, yoga, LISS cardio, spend time outdooors.
With your estrogen at an all-time high, you should eat foods that support your liver. Focus on anti-inflammatory foods like whole fruits, vegetables and almonds, or as mentioned above – turmeric/ curcumin. They provide many health benefits, particularly protection from environmental toxins, which are known to have an impact on your hormones.
Moderate –Add in HIIT if you can, otherwise just cardio post training, keep volume and intensity linear
this is the best time to get in some high-intensity exercise
Week 4 / Luteal Phase / Pre Menstruation (PMS) /
Assuming you don’t get pregnant during ovulation, you make it to the luteal phase, which actually starts the day after ovulation and goes until your next period. After ovulation, your body starts releasing lots of progesterone, as discussed in Week 3 above, as well as estrogen. This causes your uterine lining to get even thicker for the embryo you could be cooking in there — for a bit. If there is no fertilized egg implanted in your uterus, your estrogen, testosterone, and progesterone decrease.
You may experience cramps, bloating, breast tenderness, lethargy, headache or migraine, acne flare-ups, diarrhea, constipation, insomnia, and food cravings. Your libido can also go up.
Other symptoms may include mood swings – anger, irritability, depression, oversensitivity, anxiety, self-hatred, nervousness, and crying. This happens due to low leels of estrogen, which cause lower levels of serotonin (which makes you feel happy) and higher levels of stress chemicals. Anything felt worse, you should consult with your doctor.
All symptoms are dependent on the person, and their hormones.
What you should do during this phase:
-Adaptogens such as ashwagandha can be helpful to manage stress.
-Tumeric/ Curcumin may also help during this phase.
-Drink plenty of water and eating foods that support a healthy digestive system to combat the bloating and constipation that is typical at the tail end of this phase.
-Fiber-rich foods like whole grains, fruits, and vegetables will help move things along.
-Depending on how sensitive your stomach is, you may want to temporarily avoid some healthy foods that can contribute to bloating and gas like broccoli, cauliflower, beans, onions, and garlic.
-Also try stay away from artificial sweeteners, as they can make digestive issues worse.
Eat foods that will produce serotonin, like leafy greens, quinoa, and buckwheat. Also eating foods that support a healthy digestive system to combat the bloating and constipation, such as fiber-rich foods like whole grains, fruits, and vegetables will help move things along. You’ll also want to focus on magnesium-rich foods that fight fatigue and low libido, like dark chocolate, spinach, and pumpkin seeds.
Also, drink plenty of water and soothing tea – such as peppermint and chamomile.
AVOID OR LIMIT
Sodium and fatty goods to not increase bloating (as you already will feel bloated), limit caffeine, carbonated or fizzy drinks to not ‘feed’ the bloat.
Light to moderate activity – deload (decrease weights and focus on higher reps), incorporate yoga or pilates, massages and stretching, light walks or swimming. Ensure to include stress and sleep protocols by meditation and taking time out for yourself.
The days listed/ length of phases mentioned are an average time span for each phase.