More and more it is becoming exceedingly apparent that women and men work on different cycles. For men, this means a 24 hour cycle in which their energy starts and ends the same way daily. However, for women, that cycle is 28 days rather than 24 hours. So what does your cycle have to do with your health? According to recent research, quite a bit. But before we can dig into that we need to understand the cycle. So that whether you’re just looking to get the most of you workouts or you want to train for the next female bodybuilding competition you’ll know what to do and when in your cycle to do it.

The Stuff Sex Ed Forgot to Teach

If you’ve ever taken a sexual education class, you’ve probably learned nothing about what your cycle is or how it affects both your hormones and overall energy levels. In most cases, they probably told you in more awkward ways, “here’s a pad, you’re going to get moody once a month until your 50s and 60s, good luck!” But there’s so much more to a woman’s cycle than that. 

The 4 Phases of Your Cycle

Menstruation and ovulation are just the tip of the iceberg in terms of a woman’s cycle. There are actually two other parts of the cycle that aren’t really talked about. Those other two include the follicular phase and the luteal phase. 

If you haven’t guessed it yet, these different phases will make up your 28 day cycle as a woman. And once you have a better understanding of your cycle, you’ll be able to start cycle syncing to improve your health and fitness routine ten fold. So let’s get started. 

Menstruation

To keep things simple, we’ll call your menstrual phase of your cycle the first phase. This is the phase in which you’ll be shedding your uterine lining if you didn’t get pregnant from the last cycle’s endeavors. This portion of your cycle typically spans around 7 to 10 days. If you haven’t been impregnated, this is also when your hormones tend to drop. What hormones am I referring to? Your progesterone and estrogen hormones.

In most cases, the shift in hormones also leads to several other symptoms. Those symptoms include mood swings, headaches, back pains and all of the uncomfortable things you’ve been told is “normal” during this phase. But what if I told you that truth is not the real truth. By eating and exercising for this phase of your cycle you can actually alleviate many of these symptoms. 

But what could you possibly do differently that will change up how you currently feel? Try adding the different foods below and exercise according to the part of the cycle your in.

Food & Exercise

When it comes to your menstrual phase of your cycle and working out, easy movement is actually the best medicine. This could mean things like light stretching to getting in a few sessions of yoga. This is the part of your cycle in which you’ll want to essentially pamper yourself and fuel up for the follicular phase. 

Now, as for eating. The goal is not to completely eliminate all the bad things from this phase of your cycle in order to start cycle syncing. Instead, think about adding different foods into your diet for this phase. The best food and beverage options for your menstrual phase of the cycle include some of the following: 

  • Protein rich meats
  • Nuts & Seeds 
  • Berries
  • Green Leafy Vegetables

Follicular

Something not really well known is that the follicular phase and menstrual phase actually overlap. However, while the menstrual phase ends around the 7 to 10th day, the follicular phase continues on bringing you to the halfway point of your cycle. In other words, your ovulation phase. This is the part of your cycle that your estrogen and progesterone begin to rise again. 

Food & Exercise

In terms of food and exercise, it’s relatively the same as with your menstrual phase of your cycle. You’ll want to keep exercise light; however, you can partake in things like light cardio. Something else you’ll want to consider is your water intake in this phase. Because of how estrogen levels can significantly increase during your follicular phase, you’ll want to balance it out by consuming foods that can metabolize estrogen. This includes things such as broccoli and sauerkraut. Then comes ovulation.

Ovulation

It is a common misconception that ovulation is when a woman is most fertile. However, it is the week prior to ovulation in which a woman becomes most fertile. It is actually said that if you’re wanting to become pregnant then having intercourse the five days leading up to your expected ovulation day is the way to do it. 

But what hormones are affected by ovulation and what does it mean for your health and exercise routine? Ovulation affects our estrogen. It is actually the time in which it peaks along with dealing with higher levels of both testosterone and progesterone. It is when we tend to have the most energy in our cycle. 

Food & Exercise

As for cycle syncing, eating the right foods and performing the right exercise during each phase makes a difference for women. In the ovulation phase, women are at their highest energy levels. This means that high intensity workouts should be done in this time period. How long does the ovulation phase last? Typically from the 15th to the 17th day of your cycle. It doesn’t seem very long at all. However, these numbers vary based on each person.

Food is yet another topic to talk about when looking at your ovulation phase of your cycle. In the ovulation phase you’ll want to focus on antioxidant rich fruits, good vegetables, and nuts. 

Luteal

The last portion of your 28 day cycle is the luteal phase. This takes up the 18th to the 28th day of your cycle. It’s the portion in which your estrogen and progesterone levels are high. However, if the egg is not fertilized, those heightened hormones will see a sudden decrease which will prompt menstruation and the beginning of your next cycle. 

Food & Exercise

This is the phase where you may start to end up with some of the symptoms commonly known about during menstruation. However, unlike the menstrual phase of your cycle, you can still get away with light to moderate intensities. This will depend solely on you and how your body feels during this phase. So plan for yoga, pilates, or even aquatic aerobics. 

Now, as for food, you’ll want to increase serotonin in your body to make up for the drop in estrogen and progesterone you’ll likely be facing. Think green leafy vegetables and things like quinoa. Magnesium is also important to increase in this phase as well. Ladies, this is when eating dark chocolate in moderation is completely acceptable. However, if you’re not one for sweets you could also just eat yourself more spinach during this phase and it will do the same. 

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