We all know that if you have a healthy reproductive cycle, we have a period every 28 days or so, but did you know that there is a constant evolution happening inside of you each month – the way we feel, act, burn energy in the middle of the month is very different to the end of the month.
To understand what’s going on inside your body at different times of the month, it’s helpful to think of each stage of your cycle as a different “season” that correlates to the different weather seasons throughout the year.
Day 1 of your cycle is also day 1 of menstruation (your period). At this time of your cycle, hormones are at their lowest point. Without the benefits of oestrogen and testosterone kicking around, we can emotionally feel like turning inwards and not being very social. The couch or our bed and doona look SO appealing right about now. Energy levels are low because of our waning hormones.
Everything about our hormone and brain function right now is telling us to slow down and rest. If you’re into high intensity exercise – save those workouts for later in the month. Rest it so needed right now so that we’re not overworking our adrenals (our stress regulating glands) but if you still want to be moving, walking, yoga and gentle pilates is perfect.
Our biology has not done this by accident. Women need this time of the month to concentrate on looking after themselves and replenish energy stores, so that we can nurture and care for our community for the rest of the month with our energy cups full.
As we move away from the menstrual phase and move into the follicular phase of our cycle (where follicles are developing, for one of them to drop a mature egg in a few days time) we feel our mood and our energy shifting more outwards. We become more outgoing and more social.
As our energy starts to lift so too can our exercise routine. More vigorous exercise is more appealing as our stamina picks up.
Our appetite is naturally lower in the Spring than it was in winter – and nourishing our bodies with fresh ingredients and some raw foods is great for our gut health and our hormones right now.
Here we are at the peak in our cycle. Summertime equates to our ovulation phase. Oestrogen is at its highest and we get a quick surge of testosterone to help our most mature follicle drop it’s egg. We’re feeling social, and we’re feeling confident! We’re in our fertile window, so everything internally is happening to give us the best chance at getting our egg fertilised. (Ever wondered why your libido is at its peak around ovulation? It makes sense now doesn’t it!)
Getting into some higher intensity exercise is perfect right now as our energy is higher and we recover from things like weight bearing exercise quicker with better results. Take advantage of this!
A trap we can sometimes fall into in summer time is that we make lots of social plans for the following weeks, but in actual fact we aren’t going to be feeling as up for a full calendar then as we do now – so be mindful of this.
As we continue along in our cycle and if our egg goes unfertilised, our oestrogen levels begin to fall to make way for a slow rise in progesterone (aka the chillout hormone). We start to notice that shift back towards turning inwards. We tend to self reflect more and perhaps don’t see things in the same light as we did back in our summer time.
If you push yourself through this time by continuing to exercise at high intensity, or push yourself to go on that night out when you really want to be on the couch watching Bridgerton, you’re doing your hormones a disservice. Cortisol is naturally higher at this point in our cycle, and pushing through can raise it even further, causing inflammation and hormone imbalance – leading to period problems down the line.
You might also find at this time that your appetite increases and you want to eat more carbohydrate rich foods (this can be partly why sugar cravings are a thing right now!). This is a completely normal response to the hormonal changes happening, and trying to resist eating more will actually do you more harm than good with cortisol spiking higher and hormonal deficiencies occurring.
Tracking your own cycle
So, now that you have this information about your cycle, you can put it to good use! The first step to using this information to nourish your hormones and your cycle is to understand where you are at in your cycle at any given time.
Tune and listen to your body – it will tell you which phase of your cycle you are in. Look for signs like changes in cervical mucus (slippery and wet = fertile window), your mood and body temperature. You can also track your cycle using one of the many apps out there. They are really helpful, but they do calculate things like your cycle length and day of ovulation using averages and the data you give them – they don’t know your body like you can and do.
So now you know what your cycle is telling you, and you know how to honour the stage of your cycle, enjoy all the benefits like more energy, less PMS and a happier, healthier cycle!
About Melissa Finlay
Melissa Finlay is a qualified holistic nutritionist who specialises in Women’s health. She’s also a qualified personal trainer and pilates instructor.
Mel works with women to show them how food, nutrition as well lifestyle intervention and self care can unlock a new level of energy and vitality, and assist with healing from specific issues like postnatal depletion or diagnosed women’s health conditions like endometriosis.
In January 2020 she launched the Amazing Mums Academy- an online membership for mums, which has allowed her to bring her knowledge and expertise to Mums in a really accessible way, whilst building a community of Mums who support, understand and encourage each other to achieve their goals.