If you want to learn more about the different phases of your menstrual cycle and how to schedule your work week around them, check out this post. In this post, we will cover what your body will experience during each phase and how to eat and exercise in order to feel your best.
If you want more in-depth information on caring for your body during each phase of your cycle, I recommend reading Alisa Vitti’s book, Woman Code.
Phase 1: Menstruation Phase
Duration: 3-7 days
Body response: You will bleed and may feel cramping, fatigue, bloating, cravings, aches, and a fluctuation in libido.
Recommended diet: Replenish your body with nutrient-dense, water-rich, and iron-rich foods. Eat foods like wild rice, buckwheat, beets, kale, kelp, mushrooms, berries and watermelon, kidney beans, chestnuts, salt and tamari.
Recommended exercise: Start your cycle with walking and yoga. Gently moving your body will reduce the likelihood of cramps. As your cycle wraps up, you may want to kick up the intensity of your exercise routine.
Phase 2: Follicular Phase
After menstruation and before ovulation
Duration: 7-10 days
Body response: As you move closer to ovulation, your vaginal secretions will move from dry to wet and sticky. You’re also transitioning into the most energetic stage of your cycle, so it’s normal to feel restless. Bloating will decrease and you will start to feel lighter. Your hormone levels are at their lowest now.
Recommended diet: This is the time to eat fresh and light. Try eating more salads and raw foods and using lighter cooking methods like steaming or sautéing without heavy oils. Your body will benefit from healthy fats like avocados, Brazil nuts, and cashews. For your meals, incorporate foods like oats, wheat, broccoli, carrots, peas, zucchini, grapefruit, lemon, orange, green lentils, mung bean, and sauerkraut.
Recommended exercise: You now have the mental brainpower and energy to tackle new, challenging workout routines. Try to mix it up and increase that intensity!
Phase 3: Ovulation Phase
Duration: 3-4 days
Body response: Peak ovulation occurs for 24 hours and will likely be accompanied by an increase in libido and vaginal secretions, as this is the time your body is likely to get pregnant. You may also feel pain in your pelvic side when the egg is released. The ovulatory phase can be a mixed bag because of the rapid fall and rise in hormones. Given this, it’s possible you will experience any number of symptoms from headaches and cravings to bloating, breast tenderness and an increased ability to hear, taste or smell.
Recommended diet: This is a time to replace your carbs with quinoa and eat an abundance of fiber-rich fruit and veggies. Like the follicular phase, it’s beneficial to eat raw and lightly cooked foods at this time. To support your ovaries, eat foods like asparagus, bell peppers, brussel sprouts, eggplant, spinach, tomatoes, cantaloupe, raspberries, strawberries, red lentils, almonds, pecans, pistachios, chocolate, coffee and turmeric.
Recommended exercise: This is the time of month where your energy is at its peak. Stick to strenuous workouts and weight bearing exercises to take advantage of this burst of energy.
Phase 4: Luteal Phase
After ovulation and before menstruation
Duration: 10-14 days
Body response: Your energy will decline during this period, and as you approach your period, you may experience a variety of PMS symptoms like bloating, irritability, moodswings, and cravings.
Recommended diet: Now that things are slowing down, it’s recommended to begin to roast or bake your veggies and eat foods like brown rice, cabbage, cauliflower, celery, cucumber, garlic, onion, pumpkin, sweet potato, apple, dates, peaches, pears, chickpeas, walnuts, and spirulina.
Recommended exercise: Since this is a longer phase, you will likely experience a difference in energy from its beginning and end. At the start of your luteal phase, you may still desire strenuous exercise, but as you move closer to menstruation, you can begin to shift to less intense workouts like yoga, walking and the elliptical in order to keep your body moving with greater ease.