Updated: Apr 25
You may have noticed that there are certain times during your monthly cycle when you feel more energized and motivated than others. Where you are craving specific foods more than other times. This is due to hormonal shifts in your body and is completely normal.
Understanding your cycle better will help you work with your body instead of against it. You'll likely find it easier to stick with a workout routine or diet plan and feel more in sync with your energy levels. In this blog, we’ll talk about the phases of your menstural cycle and what foods and workouts are ideal during each phase.
The Four Phases Of Your Menstural Cycle
Follicular Phase (typically 7-10 days)
Ovulation Phase (typically 3-4 days)
Luteal Phase (typically 10-14 days)
Menstrual Phase (typically 3-7 days)
The beginning of the follicular phase is marked by the end of your menstrual cycle. This phase of your monthly cycle starts with the hypothalamus in the brain, which sends signals to organs in the body to produce hormones – all hormones, not just reproductive ones. It primarily communicates with the pituitary, a master endocrine gland.
In this phase, the hypothalamus will signal the pituitary to discharge follicle-stimulating hormones (FSH). This is key to fertility as it tells the ovaries to prepare the egg for release. During this phase, estrogen levels increase, which prompts the uterine lining to thicken in order to host the egg that will be released during ovulation.
Workout Goals During The Follicular Phase:
Physically, when hormones are balanced, this is a time of energy and including cardio workouts like running, cycling, and adding in strength training would be ideal.
Food Goals During The Follicular Phase:
Eat lighter meals consisting of phytoestrogen foods can be extremely helpful for detoxing our excess estrogen and balancing hormone ratios. Include flax seeds, legumes, sesame seeds, garlic, and almonds.
Fermented foods like kefir and kimchi for intestinal health, grains, and legumes for fiber and energy, good quality lean protein, and a lot of vegetables.
If you're estrogen dominant and suffer from any conditions related to an estrogen imbalance, you may experience symptoms during this phase. At this time, the key is to consume foods that support the right amount of estrogen and to detox any excess. Broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and any other cruciferous vegetables are good options.
Now that the follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) has done its job, the pituitary will release luteinizing hormones (LH). This will cause one ovary follicle to burst and release an egg. The egg moves into the fallopian tube and makes its way to the uterus. Estrogen levels increase, thickening the uterus and encouraging the growth of immune cells. Also, testosterone plays a role in the release of the egg, as it spikes up and then decreases when ovulation ends. During this time, you may experience an increase in energy.
Workout Goals During The Ovulation Phase:
Physically, this is a good time to work out. Swimming, running, spinning, or using weights may feel easier to do at this time.
Food Goals During The Ovulation Phase:
During this phase, steady energy throughout the day is essential, so it may be best to eat smaller well-balanced meals on a more regular basis.
Include plenty of leafy greens and cruciferous veggies to help support estrogen metabolism. Lighter grains like quinoa are a good option. (limit the heavy carbs as you naturally have more energy in this phase). Opt for lots of fruits and veggies during this phase.
The luteal phase generally causes the most concern for women. An increase in progesterone occurs as the corpus luteum, a hormone-like substance develops on the ovary. As this happens, it sends a signal to the pituitary to stop making follicle-stimulating and luteinizing hormones. This ensures that there is only 1 egg. Estrogen and testosterone levels also rise toward the end of the phase. If the egg isn't fertilized, then the corpus luteum is reabsorbed into the body, and progesterone production stops as soon as the period starts.
Don’t be surprised if your energy levels are lower at this time. It’s important to get a proper amount of sleep and not take on too many activities.
Workout Goals During The Luteal Phase:
Moderate exercise such as walking and yoga can help reduce stress levels. Practice meditation or mindfulness. Deep breathing techniques can also be helpful, especially if you are dealing with PMS. During the 1st half of the phase continue with strength training and cardio as your energy levels are still high. As you get closer to your period slow things down with more restorative movements like yoga, stretching, and pilates
Food Goals During The Luteal Phase:
Calcium and magnesium foods can help with bloating. Fiber, cruciferous vegetables, calcium-D-glucarate foods like apples, pears, and lemons, and liver foods like leafy greens help flush out toxins and support the detoxification of estrogen. Complex carbohydrates keep blood sugar levels stable to maintain steady energy throughout the day.
Now that the body has gone through the first 3 phases and fertilization hasn’t occurred, it's time for the menstrual phase. The corpus luteum is reabsorbed into the body and progesterone production stops. The uterine lining will now shed, which means bleeding will occur. Estrogen will reach its highest level and then drop, sending a signal to the hypothalamus to begin the cycle again.
Workout Goals During The Menstural Phase:
Exercise should be light or moderate. Your body is going through a process of change and needs time to recover. This is when you may have your lowest energy. Opt for more restorative moments like yoga, pilates, or walking. Don't overdo it and be sure to rest and get plenty of sleep.
Food Goals During The Menstural Phase:
The body is going through a lot of changes; hormones are decreasing and the body is eliminating waste materials, so essential nutrients are necessary to get through the phase successfully and to start the cycle again in the right condition.
Calcium, magnesium, and bromelain-rich foods will help with muscles aches, especially cramping. Prebiotic and probiotic foods function as anti-inflammatories. Essential fatty acids (flax, salmon) help reduce inflammation.
Pay attention to how your body is feeling and responding as you move through each phase of your cycle and adjust your movement and diet as needed to support your body best.
If you need some healthy hormone meal ideas grab this free 3 Day Happy Hormone Meal Plan with all the recipes to get you started.