IT'S FUN BEING FEMALE
When it comes to hormones, females are uniquely complex. Our hormones fluctuate on a monthly rhythm and many of us experience strong emotional, physical and mental changes during it. Being on your period can sometimes feel like a rollercoaster. Sometimes you’ll feel totally wiped out, then you’ll be crying at commercials on TV, and the next wanting to eat every snack in the pantry. If you’re not prepared, it can really throw you off your game!
However, keeping up your fitness and nutrition routines has a ton of benefits that can help you feel more like yourself, more consistently.
An average menstrual cycle lasts about 28 days, starting on the first day of your period and ending on the first day of your next period. But your menstrual cycle is more than just your period.
Your cycle is made up of two distinct cycles that overlap and interact, one happening in the ovaries and one in the uterus. During the first phase, the follicular phase (the first 14 days of your cycle), your body prepares for an egg to be released and builds up the lining of the uterus. In the follicular phase, most women feel stronger and have more energy. The second phase, the luteal phase (the last 14 days of your cycle) is when your body prepares to accept a fertilized egg or to start the next cycle if there is no pregnancy. Women tend to have less energy and feel more sluggish during this period in their menstrual cycle. This lack of energy is due to a decrease in estrogen which will increase your metabolism, body temperature, and a decrease in how well your body uses carbs.
YOUR CYCLE AND THE HORMONES AT PLAY
So now you know that your cycle will last around 28 days, but it’s important to also note that your hormones will peak at different times. This will change and affect how you feel during these phases.
The main hormones that will be present during your cycle and causing changes are estrogen, progesterone, luteinizing hormone (LH), and follicle stimulating hormone (FSH).
- Estrogen: A feminine sex hormone that helps develop and maintain female sex characteristics. Peaks during ovulation.
- Progesterone: A feminine sex hormone that helps prepare the body for pregnancy. When this hormone peaks, ovulation begins.
- Luteinizing Hormone (LH): A feminine sex hormone that acts on the ovaries to make follicles release an egg. Peaks during the beginning of ovulation.
- Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH): A feminine sex hormone that helps follicles and eggs to grow. Peaks in the middle of the menstrual cycle.
Your period starts on day one of your cycle, which begins the menstrual phase. In this phase, estrogen is slowly increasing and luteinizing hormone (LH) is stimulating the release of an egg. You know how this phase goes, because this phase is your period and ends when ovulation begins. Every woman feels differently during this phase, but every woman knows exactly how they feel during this phase.
During ovulation, estrogen peaks and progesterone does as well. This phase lasts about and typically you won’t notice it. Phew. The same goes for the follicular phase, most women don’t notice it.
The final phase of your cycle leading up to your period will be the luteal phase. You may know this as PMS. Your hormones are at their lowest level at this time.
EXERCISE & EATING DURING YOUR CYCLE
When it's that time of the month, you can sometimes feel a little tired or lethargic. Keeping your normal workout routine will help to break through your slump and give you a much-needed boost of energy.
Exercise is also shown to help regulate your cycle and flow, which can lead to lighter periods and less cramping. We’ll take that! Sweating during a workout can help with water retention and bloating, which is such a common symptom of your period. Staying hydrated can also help with water retention and bloating, this is especially true when you’re sweating more. We recommend having a water intake goal of 128 oz. a day. Endorphins released during exercise can help you feel happier and less moody or emotional, commonly brought on by PMS.
You may feel like you want to take a break from exercise during your cycle, and that’s common! Typically, women feel weaker and potentially fatigue or light headedness due to a decrease in iron. Always listen to your body to know exactly what you need. If you feel like you can, try to keep up with as much of your regular routine and keep your body moving, even if that means making some modifications. Try to keep your blood flowing, whether that’s through strength training sessions or something lighter like yoga, long walks, or stretching. You’ll feel much better in the end, we promise. Just make sure to give yourself some extra TLC to rest and recover after you exercise.
You may be a little hungrier when you’re on your period. That’s totally fine! Keep it manageable and in check by keeping healthy snacks on hand or even upping your carb count for that week.
Be sure to get plenty of iron-rich foods like broccoli and leafy greens. Foods rich in vitamin D and Omega3 can help with inflammation and bloating. Avoid super sugary snacks, as they can spike your insulin levels and create imbalances in your hormones. If you are craving something sweet, go for berries. They’re rich in antioxidants and will help with immunity.
There are plenty of ways to battle PMS and feeling generally crappy when you are on your cycle. Keep up your workout routine, fuel your body with nutrient dense foods, get plenty of rest, and take care of your mental health. We promise a little sweat and fresh food will go a long way!