Your menstrual cycle explained - Including how to eat and workout to feel empowered
Conscious Living

Your menstrual cycle explained - Including how to eat and workout to feel empowered

Posted

3 December 2020

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On average, women menstruate for about 40 years and use 11,000 period pads or tampons in their lifetime. 

But how much do we actually know about our periods and our menstrual cycles? And how much do our families, spouses, and friends understand?

The reality is - probably very little.

By learning about your monthly cycle and realizing why you may feel or act in a certain way throughout it, you can optimize your life.

Today we'll break it down. From what to expect during the menstrual cycle's 4 different phases, to what to eat, and how to workout to feel empowered.

Ready? Let's get started.

 

How long is the menstrual cycle?

menstrual cycle calendar

 

You might guess somewhere between 3-7 days. That's when you bleed; from spotting, to flow, to spotting again. While your period is a part of the process, your menstrual cycle is about much more than that.

If you instead ended up with between 25-35 days, you're right!

The length of the menstrual cycle refers to the time between the first day of your last period, to the start of your next period.

Keep in mind that these are just guidelines. Every woman is different and the length, and everything else about your menstrual cycle, can therefore vary. Listen to your body - and if you feel unwell in any way, seek medical advice.

 

How can you take care of yourself during your menstrual cycle?

By understanding the impact of your own menstrual cycle, you can take better care of yourself and adjust your routines in ways that make you feel empowered. Ranging from planning your workload, to food habits, and workouts - which we'll get more into below.

Through my own journey of learning and discovery, I've stumbled across so much useful information that has made me feel more in control of my body.  I now understand why my body may act in a certain way, which sometimes has an impact on my emotional and mental well-being.

 

Your menstrual cycle is like the 4 seasons of the yearMenstrual Cycle

 Now, let's dive into the details. 

To put it simply, our menstrual cycle is divided into 4 phases. You can think of them like the 4 seasons of the year.

  • Winter: Menstruation Phase (your period) 

  • Spring: Follicular Phase 

  • Summer: Ovulation (baby making time!)

  • Autumn: Luteal Phase 


If you already have learned something about your cycle and put an effort into exercising, living and eating well, you’ve done most of the hard work!

Now it’s just about understanding what happens during each menstrual phase, so you can optimize your food and exercise habits throughout the menstrual cycle.

 

1. The Menstruation Phase

This is the period (pun intended) in which your body releases a blend of blood, uterine lining, tissue and mucus. Even though you may feel like “a lot of blood” is coming out of your body, only about 36 % of your menstrual fluid is made up of period blood - about 3-5 tablespoons on average. This phase of your cycle is about slowing down.

 

Food Goals during the Menstruation Phase

Prioritize foods that support the process of menstruation, and replenish nutrients lost in the process. If you are listening to your body’s cravings, you may notice an inclination for warm foods, such as soups and stews. Lean in to these cravings, as they can be an easy way to help your body renew and re-energize.

Essential Nutrients & Foods for the Menstruation Phase:

  • Iron: Beef, beans, molasses, lentils, firm tofu, tuna, eggs, dark-meat turkey & chicken

  • Vitamin C: Bell peppers, strawberries, broccoli, tomatoes, citrus fruit, papaya, mango 

  • Vitamin B12: Salmon, mussels, yogurt, turkey, chicken, eggs, beef 

  • Omega 3 Fatty Acids: Salmon, cod, mackerel, skipjack, tuna, halibut 

  • Zinc: Turkey, chicken, eggs, pork, avocado, nuts, seeds, whole grains, beans, lentils, yogurt, shellfish

  • High Fiber Carbohydrates: Sweet potatoes, quinoa, lentils, oats, brown/wild rice, winter squash


Source: https://mplsimc.com/

 

Exercise Tips during the Menstruation Phase

Woman Practice Yoga

Your energy will dip during menstruation - and this is completely normal! If you’re up for it, try to engage in light-intensity physical activity, such as walking, stretching or yoga. Gentle movement can also help ease cramping, relieve muscle tightness, and/or bloating experienced during your period. Again, everyone’s body is at different levels of athleticism, so go ahead and do more if you’re able to.

 

2. The Follicular Phase

Your estrogen levels rise as your body prepares eggs for ovulation. This time is more likely to be the ‘happy’ phase of your cycle!

Food Goals during the Follicular Phase

fruits yoghurt

This phase is often accompanied by a drop in appetite, as your brain shifts to focusing on your upcoming fertility window. This is the time to fill your plate with protein and lots of veggies, with a daily serving of berries and fermented foods.

Essential Nutrients & Foods for the Follicular Phase:

  • Phytoestrogen Foods: Flaxseeds, pumpkin seeds, soybeans, hummus, berries, grains, garlic, sprouts

  • Fiber: VEGGIES, whole grains, beans, lentils, nuts, seeds, avocado, berries, apples

  • Antioxidants: Berries, broccoli, sweet potatoes, carrots, citrus, passion fruit, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, pomegranate

  • Fermented Foods: Raw & fermented vegetables, yogurt, kefir, miso, tempeh

  • Cruciferous Veggies: Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, bok choy, broccoli


Source: https://mplsimc.com/

 

Exercise Tips during the Follicular Phase

This is a great time to get a little more ambitious on the workouts you choose and to discover new ways to move your body. Try a different workout, or something that challenges both your body and your mind at the same time.

 

3. The Ovulation Phase

When a mature egg is released. In other words, it’s baby-making time (if that’s what you’re planning for)!

Food Goals during the Ovulation Phase

You might experience a drop in appetite. Researchers believe this is your body’s way of directing your attention toward mating. Keep your plate similarly balanced as in the late follicular phase (protein + fats + veggies), with an extra emphasis on magnesium-rich foods to prevent the inevitable drop in magnesium that occurs with ovulation.


Essential Nutrients & Foods for the Ovulation Phase:

  • Fiber: VEGGIES, whole grains, beans, lentils, nuts, seeds, avocado, berries, apples

  • Cruciferous Vegetables: Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, bok choy, broccoli sprouts, broccoli

  • Zinc: Turkey, chicken, eggs, pork, avocado, nuts, seeds, whole grains, beans, lentils, yogurt, shellfish

  • Magnesium: Hemp seeds, flaxseeds, tofu, almonds, quinoa, sorghum, pumpkin seeds, spinach, dark chocolate (!)


Source: https://mplsimc.com

 

Exercise Tips during the Ovulation Phase

fitness training

The surge in 2 special hormones, Luteinizing hormone (LH) and follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), causes testosterone to peak. This contributes to the increase in libido you might notice around this time of your cycle. Use it as an excuse to get busy!

You might also see your energy continue to increase from your follicular phase, so this is the perfect time to take those HIIT / cycling classes!

 

4. The Luteal Phase

In layman's terms, the makings of what happens to your egg. Either it gets fertilized, or it doesn't, and disintegrates, causing a decline in progesterone and some estrogen. This causes the whole cycle to start again as you move back into period phase.

Food Goals during the Luteal Phase

Dark Chocolate

 As the luteal phase draws to a close, you may begin to experience stronger sweet cravings and heightened emotions. The luteal phase is not a time for carbohydrate restriction, and including moderate amounts of low glycemic (high fiber) carbohydrates can help stave off sweet cravings. 

Or, indulge in a little dark chocolate to curb those cravings, but one that is made of at least 70% dark chocolate!

Essential Nutrients & Foods:

  • Vitamin D: Salmon, mackerel, tuna, egg yolk, mushrooms

  • Magnesium: Hemp seeds, flaxseeds, tofu, almonds, quinoa, sorghum, pumpkin seeds, spinach, dark chocolate (!)

  • Omega 3 Fatty Acids: Salmon, cod, mackerel, skipjack, tuna, halibut 

  • Thiamine: Oats, whole grains, bean-based pastas, nuts, oranges, sesame seeds

  • Vitamin B6: Turkey, lentils, fish, potatoes, banana, watermelon, poultry

Source: https://mplsimc.com/

 

Exercise Tips during the Luteal Phase 

The first three to five days of the luteal phase are often accompanied by high energy levels. Your exercise and diet may closely resemble similar to the ovulation phase during these early days. 

However, as you move further into the luteal phase, you might notice your body shift from energize-mode to chill-mode, as progesterone levels rise. This is a great time to focus on strength training and slower yoga with moderate-intensity cardio.

 

In the end, it's all about listening to your body

There is a lot of information here to digest. Baby steps are a good place to start and if you’re already making some progress on your nutritional, fitness and wellness journey, you’re halfway there!

Listen to your body. Keep track and/or take notes via period tracker apps or note-taking apps if it helps.

Most importantly, never be afraid to speak to friends or to a gynaecologist if something just doesn’t feel right. It’s so important that we start to normalise period talk and feel empowered about how our body works.

Would you like to use period products that are safer for your body, sustainable for the environment, and saves you time and money?

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BOBBLE is a sustainable brand that only uses 100% GOTS certified organic cotton free from toxins, chlorine, perfumes and dyes for their range of period products. Breathable, comfortable, ultra-thin, yet absorbent is what you'll experience.

 

Learn More And Check Out The Products

 


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