Last week we dug into the menstruation part of our cycle. I hope you were able to take a couple useful tips and tricks that will help you as you take ownership of your cycle and flow.
I need to go on a bit of a rant here. I have learned this past week that many of us women have NO IDEA what is actually happening in our cycles. It was comforting to know that I was not alone in this, but also saddens me to think that we really aren't given the knowledge to be empowered in the beauty of our bodies. Many women reached out to me to tell me about how they too were only given the option to be on birth control. Others told me that they had been told to stop their cycles completely before they had even turned 16. Knowing what I know now, I am in a state of shock that young girls are being told that instead of learning and taking ownership of their feminine right, they should stop it and, as many told me in messages, Feel ashamed of their bodies inability to be "normal". So many of us carry this burden of thinking that there is something wrong with our bodies, when in actual fact there isn't. So many of the conditions related to what is happening in our bodies is a direct result of environmental toxins, hormone disruptors found in our cleaners, shampoo and bodywash; INCLUDING BABY SHAMPOO AND BODY WASH, chemicals in our foods, hormones in our meats and vegetables, heavy metals in our pharmaceuticals and injections, and literally thousands of other factors. For many of us, we have been bombarded with a toxic overload since birth, how is that your fault? It isn't your fault at all, so stop caring that burden. Take your feminine back and start to be fully responsible for your health. As the saying goes; No one is coming to save you, you have to save yourself!
In that spirit let's continue to learn more and support our bodies fully let's continue.
Most cycles are 28 days with a 3 - 7 day menstruation. Knowing your flow / cycle will be key in learning to listen to your body as well. This week we are digging into The other three parts of our cycles!
As a reminder The four main phases of the menstrual cycle are:
Follicular (before release of the egg)
Ovulatory (egg release)
Luteal (after egg release)
The Follicular phase The follicular phase of your menstrual cycle comes right after your menstruation has finished. This phase actually begins on the first day of your period, and continues until the beginning of ovulation. This is typically days 1 to 11 of your menstrual cycle. During the follicular phase, your body creates a hormone known as follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH). This hormone signals to the ovaries to create eggs for the ovulation phase, each of which is housed inside a “follicle”. After menstruation is over your estrogen levels get a big boost as your body prepares to release an egg — which is usually associated with increased energy. Now is a great time to put this extra energy to good use in your workouts and movements. Adding things like HIIT style workouts and faster paced cardio is a great way to take full advantage of this phase, as well as continuing to burn energy up to 48-72 hours after the workout is done. This means you will continue to "ride the workout high", feel great and keep that energy level UP! If you are strength training at this time, I suggest that you try a slightly lighter weight with increased reps to hit that "burn phase" of training. Continue to use your tracking system and document how you feel and if this style of workout is feeling good, or feeling exhausting. Remember that if your hormones are out of whack, this may not feel how it should. If that's the case, listen to your body and do the movement that feel good to you, as you work on rebalancing your cycle and decreasing systemic inflammation.
During this phase try to incorporate foods that will metabolize estrogen. Examples include green vegetables, nuts, seeds, eggs, fish, and legumes. Cruciferous vegetables, like kale, cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower are packed with a phytonutrient called diindolylmethane (DIM), which helps normalize estrogen levels. While you’re at it, stay away from alcohol during the follicular phase, as it can quickly dehydrate the body, cause hormonal imbalance, increase systemic inflammation and effect energy levels. I am sure by now you can see a trend, systemicly inflammatory foods wreak havoc and all parts of our cycle. For me, when I found out what was causing my inflammation, took that out of my life, and added foods / supplements that supported my body I noticed a massive shift in my PCOS, for the better!
Ovulation phase The ovulation phase of your cycle is just after the follicular phase, typically for 3 to 5 days between the follicular and luteal phase — days 12 to 19 of your cycle. During this phase, you’ll still have high levels of estrogen from the increase during the follicular phase, while also having increased levels of luteinising hormone (LH) and follicle-stimulating hormone. LH is what triggers the body to start ovulating. Ovulation, like the follicular phase, will most likely be a high-energy time. If that’s the case, you can capitalise on this by performing high-energy workouts. Great news! You can continue to follow that same workouts as before. Don't over complicate it.
In the ovulation phase the body is seeking as much B vitamins as you can deliver. B vitamins are used to encourage and support the healthy release of the egg and a successful implantation. Zinc is another important nutrient during this phase, so you will want to make sure to grab that supplement as well. Essential fatty acids are a key supplement during ovulation, as they help encourage blood flow to the uterus and promote the opening of the follicle to release the egg in a timely manner. During this phase I find that I know instinctively reach for an extra serving of my OMEGA supplements and crave things like salmon and eggs. You will want to add foods that are rich in B vitamins, zinc, and EFA to your day. Examples include whole grains, meat, fish, eggs, legumes, and leafy greens. Also, ensure you drink a lot of water so your body is always adequately hydrated. Water plays an important role during ovulation, as it helps to transport those hormones around the body. Try to also limit overly processed foods, acidic substances, alcohol and coffee, as again these cause that systemic inflammation that causes us sooo many issues.
Luteal phase The last phase of your menstrual cycle This typically lasts 14 days, between days 20-28. During the first part of the luteal phase, you’ll likely still have energy from ovulation, which will begin to decline the closer you get to menstruation. The luteal phase is characterised by a peak in progesterone levels, which may make you feel drowsy. Interestingly, an increase in core body temperature during the luteal phase resulting in impaired running economy (performance) was also observed by a small 2020 study, published in Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness by St Mary's University in the UK. This does not mean that you shouldn’t run or do exercise during the luteal phase, but that it may be more difficult than during other phases of your cycle. During this phase, you can absolutely continue with your workouts as usual, but you may experience some more difficulty with completing them with the same intensity. It is recommended that during this phase you start to decrease the intensity and prepare for menstruation once again. Thing about shortening the intense workouts and adding a yoga stretch at the end instead. This will help you preserve the energy your body is going to need for the upcoming menstruation.
Estrogen and progesterone both surge and then wane during this period. Hence the roller coasters of emotions many of us experience. To help level this coaster out eat foods that will produce serotonin, like leafy greens, quinoa, and buckwheat. You many also want to focus on magnesium-rich foods that fight fatigue and low libido, like dark chocolate, spinach, and pumpkin seeds. You want to include foods that encourage and support cellular growth at this time. Examples include pineapple, warm vegetable soups, leafy greens (preferably cooked and served hot), carrots, cantaloupe and sweet potatoes. Interesting fact I learned while researching for this article; stay away from cold foods or raw vegetables, as cold temperatures can cause your system to constrict and create a less-than-favorable environment for cell growth. Ice cream and frozen yogurt are no go's during this time. So no Ice Cream Sundaes,,,, even if you added the blueberries this time.