Ok, so lots of us already track our periods using apps but when was the last time you actually paid attention to what you were doing to your body for the rest of your cycle?
We know there are certain times of the month when we’re feeling high and mighty with bags of energy and other days when opening the curtains in the morning feels like too much.
Actress and author of best-selling book It’s Not a Diet Davinia Taylor told GLAMOUR, “Our hormones are a constantly evolving beast so you need to work out the best ways to work out and eat according to your cycle.”
“Over the years, I’ve learned to read my cycle and how it affects my energy levels really well, and here’s what I recommend when it comes to exercising with your cycle, rather than against it.”
Here’s Davina’s guide to eating and exercising based on your cycle…
Menstruation: Days 1–5/6/7 (depending on your cycle)
Day one is the first day you bleed, and it’s when your hormone levels are at their lowest, making you feel more tired. Yoga is a good option on these days, but as I’m not a fan I’ll usually do some light weight sessions just to keep moving in a low-impact way. I avoid cardio at this time, and I won’t exercise for more than forty minutes each day.
I ease up on the intermittent fasting during these days if I feel like I need to. Sometimes a drop in iron levels can affect your energy, and you may get cravings for sweet things. I prepare an avocado chocolate mousse in advance, which is full of antioxidants, to stop myself reaching for the Dairy Milk. Clams or a grass-fed rib-eye steak are also great to eat around this time due to their high iron levels.
The follicular phase: Days 1–14
I tend to have a really brutal time on days three and four of my cycle. As a result, I will quite happily give myself a break and put my feet up. There is no point in me pushing myself and risking inflaming my already suffering body. But learn when you feel good and to work with your cycle. Hormone tracking apps can be a brilliant source of information on this.
If I’m feeling negative, a Wim Hof breathwork session can snap me out of it. The great thing is it requires zero physical effort. You can literally lie on your bed and breathe. You can find some of his exercises online, or on his app.
The good news is that during this follicular phase hormones start building again, so by day seven I’m back into running and plenty of leg exercises on a daily basis.
From day seven I’ll go back to my usual intermittent fasting schedule.
Ovulation: Day 14 (ish)
Surging oestrogen can provide an increase in energy, giving you ovulation superpowers! This is a great time to challenge yourself by trying your first HIIT class, or trying to beat your 5K personal best.
Progesterone is low, meaning your pain tolerance is high, so you will recover more quickly from high-intensity exercise.
Again, I’ll follow my usual intermittent-fasting schedule during these days.
The luteal phase: Days 14–28
I still have a good amount of energy during this phase, so I continue to train. However, as I move beyond day 20 I go on longer, slower runs and keep to a steady fat-burning pace. I get out into nature as much as possible and use the daylight to increase my energy, as opposed to relying on coffee.
I’ll still be following my regular intermittent-fasting schedule, and I will also add plenty of fresh cruciferous vegetables to my meals to help keep my hormones as balanced as possible before the big drop!
You might crave carbs more in this phase and they will burn better as fuel in this high hormone phase as well as supporting serotonin levels. Go for whole food sources like root vegetables and avoid fried carbs.