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Foods to Support Your Menstrual Cycle

A woman’s hormonal cycle and its monthly fluctuations have a dramatic impact on all systems and can influence motivation, strength, fuel-system utilization and overall recovery from training.

The Menstruation-Follicular Phase

During the time or immediately after menstruation Estrogen is on the rise, following a moment of Progesterone dominance. This is a great time to set new goals, create strategies and implement new habits since most women will be feeling more motivated, energetic and outgoing at this time of the cycle.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine philosophy, the phase of menstruation is regarded as a form of “cleansing” for the system –  where the body literally flushes out the old blood and with it, emotional baggage, stresses and all the woes from the previous month, ready to start anew.

Certain foods can help the body in this “flush” process and it would be wise to incorporate these foods into your nutrition plan during this phase. B-Vitamin-rich foods to support blood loss and energy. Eat nourishing, grounding foods rich in iron – grass-fed beef, leafy greens, cooked root vegetables 

Load up on healthy fats to support progesterone and ovulation – fatty fish such as salmon, avocado, nut butter. Fermented foods can also help promote gut health, bowel regularity and fluid balance, so consider incorporating kombucha, kefir, yoghurt or apple cider vinegar into your daily regimen.

Nutrition Focus

Protein is essential. Carbohydrates for fuel. 

Iron – beef, chicken, turkey, dried beans, leafy greens such as spinach, egg yolks

Vitamin C – citrus fruits, kiwi, pineapple, cantaloupe, kale, broccoli

B12 – clams, salmon, tuna

B6 –  turkey, fish, potatoes, starchy vegetables

Anti-inflammatory herbs and spices – turmeric, ginger, basil, nutmeg, rosemary, mint, cardamom, cumin, fennel, eggplant, beet, onions, garlic, mustard, greens and sprouted grains

Ovulation Phase

Developing awareness around your ovulation patterns can offer some serious advantages in training and nutrition plans.

During ovulation, females are equipped with better focus, higher pain tolerance, increased mind-muscle connection, force generation, neuromuscular control, sharper memory recall, brain function and more.

This is the ideal time to attempt a new PR or learn a new skill and motor patterns such as Olympic lifting, and other advanced skills that are more demanding on the nervous system.

The increase in the hormone Relaxin brings with it an increased risk of injury during this phase which just means that it is more critical than ever to ensure correct form and adhere to it.

Hormone shifts around ovulation have been known to increase sugar cravings so prepare plenty of healthy easy-to-grab snacks on hand. Make sure you’re getting enough fibre to prevent bloating and ensure bowel regularity.

Eats lots of water/fibre-rich foods like watermelon, kiwi, non-starchy veggies, and whole grains to help offset any water retention/ constipation and support a healthy gut. Seafood like shrimp, tuna, and salmon

Nutrition Focus

Calories and Carbohydrates are increased.

Healthy Fats

Fibre – fresh fruits and veggies, whole grains, seeds, nuts, beans, non-starchy veggies

Protein – seafood, shrimp, tuna and salmon

Healthy sweet fixes – dark chocolate, fresh in-season fruits, greek yoghurt, dates

The Luteal Phase

During the first half of this phase, progesterone is on the rise, and with it an increased sense of awareness and anxiety. During this time, it may seem overwhelmingly hard, scary or even dangerous for many.

85% intensity feels like 120% and sometimes just getting through a session is a battle. In this phase it is ok to down-regulate loads, reps or sets to ensure not to overload the central nervous system (CNS).

The second half of this phase would be the best time to have a deload week. Recovery and stress management are often crucial components during this phase, and adding in massages, floats, yoga and walking/LISS can help to replete serotonin.

Your uterine lining is preparing to shed, get ready for your period by getting back to those lean meats, fish, and fibre-rich carbs to manage cravings. Grounding foods like beef, lamb, sweet potatoes, pumpkin and quinoa – avoid raw foods.

During this phase, women are prone to burning fat for fuel. However, due to dropping hormone levels, many women experience cravings, especially for things such as fat, salt and sugar.

Carvings can be overwhelming so be more tightly controlled with your nutrition. Try to control your cravings and not go overboard with snacking in order to reap the benefits of the body being primed for fat burning.

Nutrition Focus

Protein – lean meats and fish, beef, lamb

Fibre-rich carbs – sweet potatoes, pumpkin, quinoa

Increase intake of Omega-3 fatty acids – coconut oils, olive oils, grass-fed butter and beef, salmon, leafy greens, avocados, walnuts

Decrease intake of Omega-6 fatty acids – vegetable oils, processed foods, mayonnaise, salad dressings

Avoid Alcohol

Consider avoiding alcohol if you are experiencing PMS symptoms. Drinking alcohol can actually worsen symptoms of headache, breast tenderness and mood swings. Drinking in moderation throughout the rest of your cycle is generally okay, but it would be wise to avoid alcohol altogether at the start of your period.

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