Following on from the previous Period post, let me invite you to understand more about your body during its 1 month Menstrual Cycle.
Getting a better understanding of your cycle and the associaetd fluctuations in mood, appetite and physical capacity will help you set up a proactive self care strategies.
What is a Menstrual Cycle?
The menstrual cycle is the period (pun intended) from the start of your menses (day 1 of bleeding) to the day before your next menses. Generally this is a 28-day cycle, or somewhere between 21-38 days.
Week 1: Period (bleeding)
Your period can last any time from three to seven days. This is when both your hormones, oestrogen and progesterone, are at their lowest.
Often your energy levels will be low, and you can be easily tired, especially in the first few days of your period. Cramping and sorness (e.g. lower back pain) are also common.
Take it easy during this phase. Some women also benefit from going low on caffeine to reduce the inlammation.
Week 2: Post-period to Ovulation
Oestrogen level will go uphill and this will help boost your mood. You will feel more energised, sociable, optimistic and motivated.
During this period there is a spike of testosterone (another hormone) which could help with muscle mass and strength development, so you may enjoy seom weight training for that extra strength training boost.
Ovulation (release of an egg) happens around Day 14.
You may experience some cramps but otherwise Week 2 is often times where you are a little more pain-resistant because more endorphins (which masks pain) are released in the brain.
High oestrogen levels can mask your appetite and you may feel less hungry.
Remember though that regular eating and fuelling is vital to maintain stable blood sugar level patterns and for the best energy level for performance!
Week 3: Post-ovulation
The other hormone, progesterone, starts to rise while oestrogen and testosterone starts to drop. The imbalance in oestrogen and testosterone can make you feel emotionally wobbly or unstable.
It’s also a time where you can feel fatigued easily and this can be helped by having small regular meals instead of trying to fit a large plate of food in one sitting.
Both oestrogen and progesterone drops down, reaching to their lowest levels before the period starts. This has an effect of dragging down your mood and some of you may feel more sad or anxious.
PMS can be common, including acne, bloating, constipation, diarrhoea, fatigue, mood swings, and sore breasts. It’s also typical to experience food cravings and increase in appetite, especially for carbohydrate- and/or sugar-rich foods.
This can partly be due to the body trying to lift the mood up, because foods rich in carbohydrate (and sugar) can increase serotonin, the happiness hormone. Gentle exercises (walks, yoga, pilates) can also help lift the mood.
- Eating regularly will help minimise the unwanted mood swings and energy level fluctuations throughout the month.
- If symptoms are severe during your Period phase, going low on caffeine may help.
- Try switching things up in Week 2 and aim to strengthen your body. Also remember to eat enough carbohydrate and protein rich foods as you train more during this phase.
- Craving for carbohydrate- and sugar-rich foods prior to your period is normal. Instead of freaking out about the cravings or feeling guilty about them, try and enjoy the moment of eating some sweet foods. If you want to switch things up, also try some gentle exercises (walks, yoga, pilates) or stretches and see how these may help with your mood.