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Optimal nutrition for each stage of your menstrual cycle.

Updated: Jan 16, 2021

Understanding the different stages of your menstrual cycle is a great tool with regards to performance, energy and your bodies nutrional needs.

There are four stages with the day one starting on your first bleed.

Each phase is as follows-

PHASE 1-Early follicular phase (days 1-7)

Eostrogen and Projesterone levels are low

This is a time when women are physiologically 'most like men' and some women can feel particularly strong in training known as 'period strength'

*This is a good time to start a diet (on day three)

*Increase iron rich foods such as red meat, spinach, shellfish, pumpkin seeds, organ meats, quinoa, legumes, broccoli, fish, tofu

*Increase vit C for iron absorption

*Increase anti-inflammatory foods such as fatty fish, berries, brocolli, avocados, green tea, turmeric, olive oil (inflammatory foods are processed foods, refined carbs, fried foods, trans fats)

*Increase diuretic foods if retaining water such as asparagus, beetroot, cabbage, celery, cranberries, cucumbers, garlic, parsley, watermelon.

*Optimal macro ratios are 40% carbs, 30% protein and 30% fat or 30% carbs 40% protein and 30% fat

PHASE 2- Late follicular phase (days 7-14)

Eostrogen levels are high and projesterone levels are low

Eostrogen has a positive impact on muscle growth and strength and can mitigate muscle damage caused by exercise. This is why women are able to train harder at this stage. Eostrogen also has a positive effect on mood and energy so you may feel more motivated to exercise. A great timwe to focus on strength training.

* This is a good time to have a refeed day/meal or diet break

*Keep iron rich foods higher and vitamin C ( examples as above)

* Anti-inflammatory foods (examples as above)

*Optimal macro ratio as phase 1

PHASE 3 - Early-mid luteal phase (days 15-25)

Both eostrogen and projesterone levels are high and insuline insensitivity is present so fat storage is increased to prepare for a possible pregnancy.

PMS symptoms may appear, adjust food and exercise accordingly

A high hormone stage, progesterone is correlated in an increase in BMR ( basal metabolic rate) of about 10% equating to around 100-250 kcals. Progesterone can also stimulate appetite so a good idea to include high volume foods (non-starchy vegetables e.g.)

*Increase Magnesium rich foods such as spinach, squash and pumpkin seeds, tuna, brown rice, almonds, dark chocolate 85%, avocados, bananas, peanut butter.

*May add extra calories e.g. 100-250 kcals pr day

*Increase fibre with foods such as beans, broccoli, berries, avocados, apples, dried fruits, nuts, potatoes.

*Optimal macro ratio 30% carbs 40% protein 30% fat or 25% carbs 40% protein 35% fat

PHASE 4 - Late-luteal phase (days 25-28)

Both eostrogen and projesterone are falling ( unsuline insensitivity is present so

fat storage is increased)

There is a drop in the neurotransmitter serotonin. Serotonin has a positive impact on our mood and general feelings of well being explaing a change in mood.

Hunger and cravings are at their highest and a craving for chocolate is very common, this is because our need for magnesium although only dark chocalate (at least 70%) will contain this you can also supplement. Another reason is the change in BMR making our bosy seek out energy dense foods like high GI carbs, crisps and chocolate as previously mentioned.

GI changes may occur in some women causing constipation or diarrhoea. Identifying and eliminating trigger foods for a few days would be advantageous.

Think about 'working in' rather than 'working out'. Consider this a time to give back to your body e.g. restorative yoga, meditation, massage...

PMS symptoms may worsen, use appropriate movement and mindful strategies to cope with stress

*Increase magnesium rich foods (as above)

*May add extra calories e.g. 100-250 kcals pr day

*Include high quality dark chocolate 85% is optimal

*Cocoa powder -you can make up a hot drink with boiling water this is great for helping curb cravings

*Diuretic foods (as listed above)

*Avoid trigger foods-these are the highly pallatable foods that once you start eating you just can't stop. Thinks milk chocolate, crisps, doritoz, cake ,biscuits.

*Optimal macro ratio 30% carbs 40% protein 30% fat or 25% carbs 40% protein 35% fat

Of course this is just a guide and every woman is different including the length of their menstrual cycle which can range from 21-35 days. Working with rather than against your cycle has huge benefits and it's as individual to you as your fingerprint.

Embrace it and all the benefits it provides.

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