This post marks the first of our four-part series discussing the details of your menstrual cycle and beyond.
We aim to shed some light on what is typically a “taboo” subject by empowering you with knowledge and practical advice that you can apply. Our hope for you is a deeper understanding and better self-awareness; in turn, helping to improve your experience with this natural part of life.
The four parts to the series are:
- MENSTRUAL CYCLE OVERVIEW (this post)
- MENSTRUAL CYCLE STRATEGIES FOR EXERCISE AND RECOVERY
- MENSTRUAL CYCLE STRATEGIES FOR NUTRITION AND WEIGHT LOSS
- MENOPAUSE PRE PERI AND POST
Now… let’s talk Periods!
FACT: Did you know, the average woman will have 450 periods in her lifetime? That’s A LOT of periods and equals about 10 years of her life if all lumped together.
MENSTRUAL CYCLE OVERVIEW:
The average menstrual cycle is (about) 28 days long. However, anywhere between 24 to 38 days is still considered typical. Your period marks the beginning of your menstrual cycle and there are 2 distinct phases of the ovarian cycle with ovulation landing smack dab in the middle.
- Follicular Phase (typically days 1-14)
- The Luteal Phase (typically days 15-28)
During the Follicular phase, Estrogen increases and follicle-stimulating hormone (FHS) is stimulating those eggs to be mature enough for release.
Estrogen levels surge at day 12, along with an increase of (LH) Luteinizing hormones, which causes ovulation, and then one of your glorious eggs is released into the Fallopian tubes.
Estrogen levels will then drop, but only briefly. They will rise again when your body goes into “nesting” mode, to be ready just in case that egg is fertilized.
Fact: During your period and the Follicular phase (days 1-14), your hormones are at optimal levels for intense exercise, nutritional fueling needs, thermo-regulation and recovery from exercise.
Next up, comes the Luteal phase. This is when your hormones surge into high gear. Progesterone rises, taking the lead over estrogen. This happens to prepare your uterus for egg implantation should fertilization occur.
The high-hormone Luteal phase has a huge impact on your hydration and cooling strategies. So, hydration is very important and your body will have a harder time cooling down during this phase.
It’s also harder to hit high intensities and recover from hard exercise during the Luteal Phase/ high hormone phase (PMS). Have you ever felt that the same weight you lifted last week now feels like it has an additional 100lbs added to it? Well, we know that it doesn’t but in reality it does feel heavier than it did last week. That’s because of where you are in your cycle. This is a good time to back off of training volume and intensity and focus on active recovery.
Now comes the fun stuff (not really), both Estrogen and Progesterone are at their peaks 4-7 days before menstruation begins. Yep, you guessed it. This is what causes the wonderful premenstrual syndrome (better known as PMS).
Finally, if that glorious egg is not fertilized and implanted, Progesterone levels will fall and the lining of the uterus will shed and then we do it all again starting at square 1 with your period.
Fact: During the Luteal phase (days 15-28), water retention, reduced insulin sensitivity, blood sugar swings, hunger, cravings and an elevated metabolism can be attributed to the sharp rise in Progesterone.
As you can see, all the hormonal changes throughout your menstrual cycle can play a huge role in many aspects of your daily life. They will affect your hydration and cooling strategies as well as your performance and metabolism.
This blog just scratches the surface of talking periods. You can offset many of the side effects of these hormone shifts with dietary interventions or by adjusting your training intensity and implementing more active-recovery days as well. We’ll cover many of those topics in our upcoming blog posts.
Stay tuned for the upcoming parts to the series:
- MENSTRUAL CYCLE STRATEGIES FOR EXERCISE AND RECOVERY: We’ll discuss sleep, hydration, protein intake, when and how to deload/ reduce exercise volume and/ or increase it throughout your menstrual cycle.
- MENSTRUAL CYCLE STRATEGIES FOR NUTRITION AND WEIGHT LOSS: We’ll discuss ways to manage energy, hunger, cravings and stay on track for weight loss goals.
- MENOPAUSE PRE PERI AND POST We’ll discuss the signs and symptoms along with ways to optimize your health, fitness and metabolism with nutrition and exercise.
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