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Guide for optimizing health in every phase of the menstrual cycle

As a woman, you’ve probably noticed certain times of the month when you feel energized, outgoing and super productive. Then, there’s days where you feel the exact opposite. 

As our hormone levels rise and fall each month, our mood, productivity and nutrition needs change as well. Having the awareness of how we’re going to feel ahead of time allows us to plan accordingly and use these fluctuations to our advantage.

The days of dreading the natural highs and lows of our cycles are long gone. Embrace your femininity and use it to your power with this complete guide to fitness, food and lifestyle during each phase of the menstrual cycle. 

Menstrual (Day 1-7)

This is when our period starts, progesterone levels drop and your energy levels are typically pretty low. Some women get cramps and other PMS symptoms during this time. This is a time to not push your limits and just go with the flow. 

Fitness: You might be feeling sluggish, or your PMS symptoms might have faded by the time your period starts. Do your typical workout routine if you have the energy, or give yourself a break by going on a long walk or trying some yoga/Pilates. Getting some easy movement in can increase endorphins and ease your PMS symptoms. 

Food: Focus on getting lots of iron and protein in. Spinach, sweet potato, broccoli and legumes are all great sources. Add ginger and turmeric to veggies or tea for PMS relief and extra antioxidants. 

Lifestyle: Spending some time indoors getting some much needed rest and relaxation could be exactly what you need. You might decide to stay in instead of going out with friends, and that’s perfectly fine. Focus on self care and introspection. Take this time to meditate and view this time as an opportunity to deeply connect with your femininity.

Follicular (Days 7-14)

During the follicular phase, estrogen levels start to rise. As this happens, our energy levels rise as well as our period ends and we prepare to ovulate. 

Fitness: Try a higher impact workout to match your higher energy levels. Think heavy lifting, longer and faster runs, CrossFit and hot yoga. 

Food: If you’re more active during this time with heavier impact workouts, it’s important to fuel your body more. Higher carbs and fermented foods are great during this time. Some of the healthiest options include oatmeal, whole grain bread, quinoa, potatoes, kimchi, sauerkraut and kombucha.

Lifestyle: Confidence is key right now. This is the perfect time to get out there and be sociable. Schedule a fun activity with friends or plan a steamy date night. This is your time to try new things and take bold action, especially with your social and work life. 

Ovulation (Day 14-16)

Around 2 weeks before the start of your next period, you’re most fertile for a one to two day window. This is ovulation, where you may notice slight cramps or symptoms that feel like PMS. 

Fitness: Because there’s a good chance you don’t notice when exactly you ovulate, workouts could be whatever you want them to be. This could be a good time to push yourself in the gym or try some fun fitness classes like boxing, Barre, Pilates or cycling. 

Food: Take it easy on digestion during ovulation. Focus on adding salads, smoothies and soups to your meal plans during the middle of your cycle.

Lifestyle: This could be a great time for connection and networking. Some women report that their skin is glowing and looking the best during this time, which can help our confidence surge. 

Luteal (14-28)

During the first few days of your luteal phase, you’ll likely still feel pretty energetic and overall good. As your body prepares for menstruation in the latter half of the luteal phase, PMS symptoms arise and our energy levels start to drop. 

Fitness: The earliest time of the luteal phase is perfect for a typical high-impact workout. As PMS symptoms start to kick in, take it easier on yourself by taking a break from fitness for a few days or switching it up to things like yoga or walking. Your goal should be to boost endorphins in the gentlest way possible.

Food: Steer clear of oily, processed or fast food during this time. Eating sugar-rich and processed foods can only make PMS symptoms worse. Instead, try to increase your intake of whole foods and magnesium with dark, leafy greens and nuts and seeds.

Lifestyle: The luteal phase is a good time to start wrapping up important tasks. Due to reduced levels of estrogen, you could be feeling tired and irritable. This is a good time to listen to your body and emotions, and try not to over-schedule yourself when you know PMS symptoms will be coming on. 

@BussertMaddie

mb901017@ohio.edu

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