One of women’s most under utilized super powers is our period. Most of us dread our periods but understanding our cycles can help us maximize our health. Menstruation is considered by many doctors as the fifth vital sign, learning to cycle sync your life can help you reach your full potential as a woman. You can live life to the fullest without your cycle slowing you down.
Your cycle is broken down into sections, your Follicular phase and your Luteal phase, with my clients I break down the cycle into four phases. Each phase is created based on how your hormones fluctuate during this time. These fluctuations create different nutritional and training needs. Syncing your life to these needs will increase your results.
Phase 1: Menstruation (Days 1-5 of cycle)
Most people believe your cycle ends with your period but in reality your cycle begins on the first day you have a full bleed. During this time estrogen and progesterone are at their lowest point but do start to increase by the end of this phase.
Phase 4 triggers an inflammatory response that can be sustained in phase 1. This is where menstrual symptoms come from. Eating foods that help decrease inflammation during phase 4 and phase 1 will help offset this inflammation and improve menstrual symptoms. Examples: foods rich in Vitamin D, calcium, fish oils, and B vitamins.
During this time, your white cell count is lower and this may increase the risk of getting ill. Focus on adding antioxidant rich foods such as berries, broccoli, potatoes, and spinach.
Blood loss also, obviously, occurs so consuming iron rich foods combined with Vitamin C to boost absorption is also recommended.
Phase 1 also increases insulin sensitivity. It is important that you refuel regularly to keep your insulin levels from spiking too fast. This will help with energy levels throughout the day.
Surprisingly, during this time you will get the maximum benefit from performing strength training and HIIT workouts.
What’s really cool about this phase is that cognitive function is increased. This is a great time to learn a complex skill that requires good coordination.
Prepp’d Meal Recommendations: Ginger Miso Chicken, Yellow Chicken Curry, Chicken Fajita Bowl
Phase 2: Follicular Phase (Days 6-14)
Estrogen levels are increasing to their peak and progesterone is still very low. This increase in estrogen is associated with an increase in mood and alertness. This is the time of the cycle where you thrive. I recommend planning to do any creative or project preparation you have during this time. This is the time when you have the energy to get work done.
During this phase continue to meet your nutritional needs and ensure energy balance.
Energy and recovery capabilities are at their best during this phase. This is the time when most people hit PR’s and increase strength. This does not mean you can skip recovery days, balance is still essential to overall health.
Prepp’d Meal Recommendations: Any Prepp’d meal will be perfect!
Phase 3: Ovulation (Days 15-23)
Estrogen levels initially drop off after ovulation and progesterone will start to increase and remain high.
During this time your body temperature may increase, it is important to keep that in mind if you are exercising in the heat. Increase water intake as a raise in body temperature may alter sweat rates.
This phase also comes with an increase in sugar cravings due to your blood sugar likely being more unstable. Focus on frequent meals rich in protein and complex carbs to maintain energy levels.
Muscle break down is also increased during this time so increasing your protein intake will help offset this. Consume (20-30g) of protein both before and after any intense exercise sessions.
Prepp’d Meal Recommendations: Green Goddess Chicken, Maple Mustard Chicken,
Phase 4: Luteal (Days 24-28)
This phase is the phase that actually impacts how your menstruation will go the most. Healthy habits during this time can go a long way towards offsetting menstrual symptoms that can disrupt your life. This is the most important time to hone in your nutrition, exercise, and sleep habits.
Both estrogen and progesterone are at their lowest points. This triggers an inflammatory response and is thought to be the cause of PMS symptoms.
Focusing on recovery and frequent balanced meals will go a long way towards decreasing inflammation and prevent debilitating PMS symptoms.
Prepp’d Meal Recommendations: Ginger Miso Chicken, Yellow Chicken Curry, Chicken Fajita Bowl, and Green Goddess Chicken.
Foods such as berries, beans, salmon, and spinach are great anti-inflammatory and antioxidant rich choices that will help decrease inflammation while also balancing insulin levels to prevent cravings. Including meals rich in Vitamin D, calcium, magnesium, fish oils, and B vitamins are all helpful in managing PMS.
Sleep disturbances are common during this time so eating foods that promote the release of sleep-inducing melatonin will help you still get all the z’s you need. Examples: warm milk, pistachios, mushrooms, and tart cherries.
Our cycles don’t have to be a dreaded time of month. Syncing your nutrition to your hormonal changes goes a long way to maximizing this vital sign and removing PMS symptoms from your life. You do not have to suffer through a period while trying to reach your goals. Our period is our superpower!