I love getting to know more about life’s natural cycles and rhythms. Lately, I’ve become increasingly curious about the natural menstruation cycle and how it impacts our energy and mood. Upon researching more deeply, I’ve discovered how we can help fuel and support our bodies natural cycles through our diet, exercise and even our daily behaviours. I challenged myself to listen to these natural rhythms for one month to see if I noticed a difference in my mood and energy. Check out what I learnt below!
As I’ve grown older I’ve become aware of how unnatural we live our lives. Constantly stimulated by artificial light, eating genetically modified food, and even in the products we use on a daily basis. While I’m not yet taking the giant leaps to return to my ancestors way of life, I definitely think it’s important that we become aware of our body’s natural rhythms and develop a true awareness of what our body needs at any given time. I’m slowly learning that I’m my best self when I listen to my body’s natural cues, and support myself by acting accordingly.
For example, if my body isn’t able to fall asleep at night I foster this energy into something creative yet relaxing like reading, planning or writing.
Similarly, when it comes to my natural menstrual cycle, I’ve recently learnt that I can support my bodies needs throughout my cycle in the daily choices I make in terms of my diet, exercise and activities.
In the recent weeks, I challenged myself to align as much of my daily choices as possible according to where I was in my menstrual cycle. The results were surprising yet comforting. So keep reading to find out why!
Firstly, I’m basing these recommendations from a wide range of experts which I’ve researched into. However my first recommendation to anyone is to really research the menstrual cycle and ask questions to your medical professionals if you have any queries or concerns about what you experience throughout your cycle.
These recommendations below are simply some ideas of how to align your diet, exercise or activities with the stage of your cycle which you are experiencing - the key here is to increase your connection with your body and help try support it in the best way possible!
For more information about menstrual cycles, I highly recommend checking out Eve Health. They have a fantastic blog, as well as professional testing kits if you’re looking into learning more about your own cycle!
Here are some blog posts I recommend checking out:
NOW, onto the real blog post!
Below I’ve split the cycle into it’s 4 main phases and have listed below the recommendations (diet, exercise & activities) I followed and my experience with each!
Stage 1: Menstruation (roughly day 1 - 5)
During this stage, oestrogen and progesterone hormone levels are low. We see bleeding, which is our uterus lining being shed. During this stage of our cycle, the following recommendations are made:
Exercise: slow things down with a relaxing pilates session or gentle yoga flow. Try some meditations, head out for a walk or trial slow and controlled body work exercises like tai chi or flexibility movements. Low impact cardio like cycling or swimming can also be effective. Remember, that your body is focusing inward at this time, so keep things relaxing and gentle!
Diet: include warm & nourishing foods like stews, soups and dark leafy greens. Increase your omega 3 fatty acids by eating foods like salmon! Cinnamon has been found to help painful periods too. Try to avoid comfort food cravings for highly processed or sugary foods. Find whole food alternatives increase like frozen berries, a little dark chocolate or popcorn.
Activities: your body is ready to plan, brainstorm and start new creative projects. Make a vision board, set your goals and get ready!
During the first few days of my cycle, I’ve always noticed that my body is very inwardly focused. I become very tired, and have an increased desire to sleep in or take naps. This time around, I really tried to listen to my body and make sure I was getting enough sleep. As a result I ended up switching up my routines to try ensure that I was getting at least 9 hours. I also tried to ensure that I was always getting time to read before bed instead of being on my phone - giving myself a better chance at a good night’s rest.
I’m always a sucker for planning and brainstorming. So knowing that I was in the ideal stage of my cycle to do so was really motivating. This particular cycle aligned exactly with the stage of a new season, month and university semester too so I was definitely in the mood to set new goals, plan new content and get inspired!
Self care wise, I tried to give myself a little pampering. I got myself a wheat-bag whenever required for cramps, kept an essential oil roller of Clary Sage on hand (I find this always helps too!) and put no pressure on my body.
I loved going on walks during this stage! I made lots of stops at a local cafe called Suburban Kitchen to grab one of their amazing berry smoothies - definitely hit the spot every time. During my weekly meal preps I tried to include as many warm and nourishing meals as possible - lots of snacks too so I was constantly fuelled!
Check out my meal prep guide for while I’m at uni here!
Some of my favourite recipes this week were…
Luckily Nadia’s Food Bag included a delicious salmon recipe for this week too. One of my biggest findings was that because I got tired so much quicker I found that if I actively ensured that I was eating and drinking PLENTY throughout the day I would manage to get through the day much smoother. On days where I didn’t put in as much effort with my snack/meal preparation I really struggled with an afternoon energy slump!
During my period I also noticed that my mood was generally lower. I often felt self-conscious, anxious or nervous. To combat this, I tried lots of meditations for self confidence, forgiving imperfections and even sleep.
Stage 2: Follicular (Day 6 - Day 13)
Oestrogen and progesterone are on the rise! Our brains are sharp and ready to go! For stage 2, the following recommendations are made:
Exercise: focus on strength training, circuit workouts, sprints, boxing and aerobic classes. You should find you have a surging motivation to work out!
Diet: the key here is protein and vegetables. Go for veggies high in vitamin E (kumura and leafy greens) as well as lots of nuts and legumes. Gut-friendly foods are also great during this stage! Think fermented foods, sprouted grains, lighter proteins, kombucha and kimchi.
Activities: you’re feeling social! Join a new club, try something new and get yourself out there. Problem solving is also a great strength at this stage. So try to schedule any strategy meetings at work around now.
I was finally beginning to feel more confident and on top of things. At university we were doing lots of group projects, I was forced to introduce myself, make new friends and get out of my comfort zone. This felt strangely addicting and got easier the more and more I forced myself to do it! I challenged myself to sit next to new people who looked friendly, this gut feeling never led me astray. My boyfriend and I went out to town this week and had a super fun and social night with friends. I really enjoyed being around other people and finally had the energy to stay up later!
This week I continued my focus on lots of healthy snacks. This mostly included my homemade trail mix and healthy bliss balls. I found myself craving sugar a little, so tried to replace this with servings of kumura or other complex carbohydrates.
A big goal for me this year was to focus on increasing my number of female friendships. During this stage of my cycle I found I was most successful at putting myself out there and introducing myself. I’ve kept these friendships going since and I’m really proud of myself for making the effort!
Exercise wise, life got a little busy! However, I had a private pilates session at The Pilates Centre which challenged my body’s movement patterns and increased my body awareness. I also tried to slip in a strength or HIIT workout wherever I could.
Stage 3: Ovulation (Day 14 - 20)
Oestrogen levels peak and testosterone and progesterone levels rise.
Exercise: hit the gym with a friend, try a group workout, team sports are a must too! Head out for a run, or try some strength/resistance training.
Diet: cruciferous vegetables like cauliflower, broccoli and bok-choy are your new BFF. They’re great at flushing out excess oestrogen. Reach for magnesium-rich foods like spinach and dark chocolate. Post-workouts, refuel your body with a balanced meal of complex carbs and protein. Eg. a buddha bowl of quinoa, legumes, and an array of colourful veggies.
Activities: you’ll see a spike in motivation, confidence and energy levels. Surround yourself with friends, family and your special someone. It’s normal to feel a change in energy and motivation post ovulation day (approximately day 14). The ovulation stage is the perfect time to have that difficult conversation you’ve been dreading!
Increased beta brainwave activity increases your alertness and learning capability. So get networking, and work hard on those projects! Learn more about brainwaves here.
You’re in the mood for love, so schedule a fun date night with your other half too. During this stage, your body is releasing pheromones that have been proven to make your more attractive. So if you’re trying to lock someone down, now’s your chance! You’re articulate and magnetic girl so go for gold!
I found myself needing family and friend time more than ever during this stage. So much so that if I spent too much time alone I’d be very upset and lonely. Therefore I tried to surround myself with people who I love! I found myself craving heavier meals, so I made a delicious beef ragu for dinner - AMAZING. Ultimately I tried to load up every meal with lots of vegetables or legumes.
I think due to my increased alertness I found myself overthinking a lot of situations because I was constantly thinking of every possible situation. Therefore I noticed I had to focus my time very intensely on the work in front of me to I could maintain productivity!
Stage 4: Luteal (Day 22 - Day 28)
During this final stage, oestrogen and progesterone levels are high! Get ready for your new cycle.
Exercise: try bodyweight training, kettlebell workouts and pilates. Restorative exercises like stretching, yoga and swimming are also great towards the end of this stage before your period begins.
Diet: ground yourself with earthy foods like soups and root vegetables. Load up on the berries and vitamin c too! Make sure you’re drinking plenty of water to help combat bloating or constipation before your period begins. Fibre-rich foods like whole grains, fruits and vegetables will help with this too. Most importantly, completely avoid alcohol, carbonated drinks, artificial sweeteners, red meat, dairy and added salt wherever possible!
Activities: as your attention begins to turn inward again you may notice you’re increasingly keen to spend more time at home. Use this chance to sort out some life admin and get shit done. Finish off some last minute projects and clear the path for new and exciting moments of creativity. This is your chance to put in the hard yards!
During this stage of my cycle I’ve been spending more time at home and have even been watching a little too much Netflix. I hardly ever find I have the patience to sit and watch a tv show but at this time I was really craving just curling up in bed with a good book or a show. I found I had sudden moments of real productivity - even at random times like during the middle of the night or late into the evening. I listened to these times and worked through until I was tired enough to fall asleep. However, this meant that I was more likely to sleep in in the morning and have a slower start to my day!
I found myself craving hot showers and long baths. I tried to make sure I gave myself the time for these too. The comfort food cravings got real too. Everything from soups, to cinnamon scrolls - I was craving heavy meals and sugar! While I tried to keep this reasonably balanced, I let my diet slip a little. Exercise wise I’ve really been enjoying bodyweight training or light strength workouts. HIIT workouts are definitely not my thing at the moment! I did lots of pilates workouts with mum, mostly mat pilates - but really enjoyed this and my body recovered well after each workout. As my cycle came to a close, I really noticed my energy levels start to decrease as my body prepared to begin it’s cycle again!
While this one month experiment was a very eye-opening experience, I am in no way recommending that you dictate your entire calendar around your cycle - we just don’t have that much control in our lives! However, if you do have a little more flexibility it’s incredibly interesting to look into your own cycle and experiment with aligning activities accordingly to see how your body responds.
I’ve loved learning more about my body and what my body is needing at certain times! But at the end of the day, EVERYBODY is different. Our cycles are all varying and so what might be ‘normal’ for one person may be completely odd for another. A key message here is that if you see any sudden changes in your cycle, this is certainly a time when you need to be looking into this further and posing questions to your doctor!
Are you going to try align your activities to your cycle? Share your thoughts below!
From our home to yours,
Hi there! Thanks for checking out the Live Lively blog. I am so excited to share my passion for productivity, personal growth and wellbeing!