How to Feed Your Cycle
A woman’s hormonal cycle and its monthly fluctuations have a dramatic impact upon all systems and can influence motivation, strength, fuel-system utilization and overall recovery from training.
The Menstruation-Follicular Phase
During the time or immediately after menstruation Estrogen is on the rise, following a moment of Progesterone dominance. This is a great time to set new goals, create strategies and implement new habits since most women will be feeling more motivated, energetic and outgoing at this time of the cycle.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine philosophy, the phase of menstruation is regarded as a form of “cleansing” for the system – where the body literally flushes out the old blood and with it, emotional baggage, stresses and all the woes from the previous month, read to start anew.
Certain foods can help the body in this “flush” process and it would be wise to incorporate these foods into your nutrition plan during this phase.
More insulin sensitive.
Increase carbohydrate intake as well as:
Iron – beef, chicken, turkey, dried beans, leafy greens such as spinach, egg yolks
Vitamin C – citrus fruits, kiwi, pineapple, cantaloupe, kale, broccoli
B12 – clams, salmon, tuna
B6 – turkey, fish, potatoes, starchy vegetables
Anti-inflammatory herbs and spices – turmeric, ginger, basil, nutmeg, rosemary, mint, cardamom, cumin, fennel, eggplant, beet, onions, garlic, mustard, greens and sprouted grains
Developing awareness around your ovulation patterns can offer some serious advantages in training and nutrition plans.
During Ovulation females are equipped with better focus, higher pain tolerance, increased mind-muscle connection, force generation, neuromuscular control, sharper memory recall, brain function and more.
This is the ideal time to attempt a new PR or learn a new skill and motor patterns such as Olympic lifting, and other advanced skills that are more demanding on the nervous system.
The increase in the hormone Relaxin brings with it an increased risk of injury during this phase which just means that it is more critical than ever to ensure correct form and adhere to it.
Hormone shifts around ovulation have been known to increase sugar cravings so prepare plenty of healthy easy-to-grab snacks on hand. Make sure you’re getting enough fibre to prevent bloating and ensure bowel regularity. Fermented foods can also help promote gut health, bowel regularity and fluid balance, so consider incorporating kombucha, kefir, yoghurt or apple cider vinegar into your daily regimen.
Calories and Carbohydrates are increased.
Increase intake of:
Fiber – fresh fruits and veggies, whole grains, seeds, nuts, beans
Healthy sweet fixes – dark chocolate, fresh in-season fruits, greek yoghurt, dates
The Luteal Phase
During the first half of this phase, progesterone is on the rise, and with it an increased sense of awareness and anxiety. During this time, it may seem overwhelmingly hard, scary or even dangerous for many.
85% intensity feels like 120% and sometimes just getting through a session is a battle. In this phase it is ok to down-regulate loads, reps or sets to ensure not to overload the central nervous system (CNS).
The second half of this phase would be the best time to have a deload week. Recovery and stress management are often crucial components during this phase, and adding in massages, floats, yoga and walking/LISS can help to replete serotonin.
This phase women are prone to burning fat for fuel more. However, due to dropping hormone levels, many women experience cravings, especially for things such as fat, salt and sugar. Try to control your cravings and not go overboard with snacking in order to reap the benefits of the body being primed for fat burning.
Carvings can be overwhelming so be more tightly controlled with your nutrition.
Increase intake of:
Omega-3 fatty acids – coconut oils, olive oils, grass-fed butter and beef, salmon, leafy greens, avocados, walnuts
Decrease intake of:
Omega-6 fatty acids – vegetable oils, processed foods, mayonnaise, salad dressings
Consider avoiding alcohol if you are experiencing PMS symptoms. Drinking alcohol can actually worsen symptoms of headache, breast tenderness and mood swings. Drinking with moderation throughout the rest of your cycle is generally okay, but it would be wise to avoid alcohol altogether at the start of your period.