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Exercise and Eating around your Menstrual Cycle

Ladies, if you are overwhelmed with the information about syncing your cycle, seed cycling, diet changes, and exercise around your period, this one's for you!

What happens in your cycle?

Your cycle is broken up into 4 phases. These phases all come with their own unique hormonal changes and experience of symptoms.

  1. Menstruation: This is your period, and lasts between 4-7 days usually. You may feel cramping, fatigue, headaches, and nausea at the start, however, these should reduce as it goes on.

  2. Late Follicular: the week following your period leading up to ovulation. You get an increase in energy, improved sleep, and mental clarity. Although you may get some ovulation pain.

  3. Mid-Leuteal: Following ovulation, you see a change in hormones, and body temp can start to increase although not many changes in symptoms occur.

  4. Pre-Menstruation: the week before your period. May experience a range of symptoms including higher body temperature, poor sleep, low energy, mental fog, headaches, cramps, weakness, nausea, and more.

Should you sync your cycle to your training?

There's a lot of info regarding adjusting your training for each week of your cycle, the theory behind it seems straightforward; train in accordance with your symptoms. i.e. in pre-menstruation do more pilates and less weight as you feel weaker and may risk injury.

However, this is a little too simple.

Evidence suggests that even though you may feel the effect of symptoms, it doesn't have nearly as much of an impact on your training performance as you think. In fact, a large French study on 2863 women showed that only 12.2% of women reported that PMS impacted their daily lives.

The recommendation is to just pay attention to how your body is feeling. If you aren't feeling up to it, you can rest or back off the weights. However, if you feel fine, there is no reason to limit your training.

So what should you look for?

  • Sleep quantity and quality

  • Experience of fatigue and motivation

  • Recovery and soreness

  • Pain

  • Illness

Check in with yourself regularly to see if these change, and make your judgement from there.

Eating around your cycle

When it comes to eating, it's not as complicated as you think.

Some women will see an increase in energy expenditure by up to 300 calories. While this is great to know, it's not easy to track and see for yourself.

My first recommendation is to be aware of your hunger levels, an increase in energy needs is usually accompanied by an increase in hunger. If you feel hungrier than normal in your pre-menstrual phase, don't be alarmed or beat yourself up. Allow yourself a little extra food to accommodate.

Second, your period is a time of higher inflammation. So incorporating more nutrients in your diet can help. Look for lower-GI foods such as wholegrain bread, oats and potatoes alongside sources of healthy fats such as salmon, olive oil, avocado and chia seeds.

Lastly, you may experience an increase in cravings in your pre-menstrual phase and during menstruation. Allowing space for these foods can reduce the risk of overeating them later.

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