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Should you change your training + nutrition around your period?

Women, we’re badass... period. But does it ever feel the other way around? Period symptoms > feeling badass?

Once a month (for the majority of us) we get our period which can mean - pain, fatigue, mood changes, cravings, headaches and more. But you know what most of us do? We keep pushing! Isn’t that crazy?! It’s time to flip the narrative, instead of feeling embarrassed or ashamed of our period, let’s feel empowered by it.

Learn about each phase of your cycle, how you can adjust your training, eating and recovery habits to support you through every phase, rather than feeling like you’re inadequate or not doing enough!

Let’s get the basics down, we have four phases of our cycle: 

  1. Week 1: Menstruation - the shedding of the uterus lasting for 3 to 10 days depending on the individual
  2. Week 2: Follicular phase - Our cycle starts with the first day of our period, this is part of the follicular phase lasting 1-14 days
  3. Week 3: Ovulation - Ovulation is the release of a mature egg from the surface of the ovary. This usually occurs mid-cycle, around two weeks or so before menstruation starts. 
  4. Week 4: Luteal phase - This is where the egg sticks in the uterus and is waiting to be fertilised. It starts around day 15 through 28, and is when we experience PMS, low energy, cravings and more. 

Throughout your cycle, your hormones will change: affecting your hunger cravings, utilisation of carbs and fats, energy levels, training, balance and coordination, sleep, recoverability, and therefore your ability to stick to your nutrition and training plan. For some women they won’t feel the effects of their periods so much and for others, changing how you train and eat around your period can be revolutionary. 

So let’s look at how we optimise our training throughout the various phases -

  • Menstruation - Whilst you may have less energy during your period, your strength should remain intact, if not increased. Listen to your body - keep moving if you’re able to as it’s a great opportunity to build lean muscle.
  • Follicular Phase - This week is when you should feel the most energetic. A great time to be shooting for PBs in the gym, testing your strength, doing any high intensity training and pushing yourself. Ovulation commences at the end of this phase and carries into the beginning of the luteal phase. 
  • Ovulation - During ovulation we should experience a high amount of energy, meaning we can continue our higher intensity training and pushing ourselves, towards the back end of ovulation we should start to make some changes.
  • Luteal Phase - Slow down sis. Our energy will be low in the lead up to our period. We may experience less coordination, balance, and strength, which is why it’s not the best time to be aiming for PBs or even using free weights (opt for machines instead if balance is an issue). A de-load week (same exercises, less load) could be just what your body needs - it’s a good time to perfect your technique. If weight training is too much, opt for long walks, yoga and stretching.

Now for our nutrition plan during our period phases- 

  • Menstruation - This is a good time to incorporate some iron-rich foods, like red meat, to restore the body while bleeding, and some healthy treats like a protein mug cake, egg white pancake or dark chocolate to curb those cravings. It's a good idea to avoid alcohol and caffeine at this stage. 
  • Follicular Phase - Hunger is at its lowest here, this is a great time to start dieting or push a little harder with your calories to make some headway with your results. We’re more sensitive to insulin in this phase meaning we can tolerate a higher amount of carbs and use them more efficiently.
  • Ovulation - Given the increase in motivation we experience during ovulation, it’s a good time to keep pushing with the deficit if we’re dieting. Incorporate some magnesium in your diet as your body's natural production decreases. As we complete ovulation, we may start to experience cravings, and a slower digestion. Our body prioritises fat as it’s fuel preference, so decreasing carbs (despite the cravings) is a good idea 
  • Luteal Phase - Our metabolic rate increases, helping us burn more calories at rest than usual (90-500 calories), meaning we may feel more hunger as well as cravings. Our serotonin starts to decline (our feel-good hormone, Hello PMS!) progesterone fluctuates in the period, sometimes causing constipation, try including more fibrous vegetables and healthy fats (nuts, seeds, avocado, fatty fish).

*Information found in 'The Women's Book' by Lyle McDonald 

I hope you got some value from this and if you’re struggling with creating the right nutrition and training plan for you, come join us at TWS where we can do (almost) all of the heaving lifting for you! Try your free 7 day trial today, so we can make living a healthier lifestyle, even easier with customised nutrition and training plans.

Soph xx