What to eat during each stage of your menstrual cycle

by Carol Saldanha on Sunday 09 April 2023

3 min read

If you experience menstrual cycles, you know one day you might feel on top of the world. The next, you cry for no apparent reason, and all you want to do is curl up in bed.

What if you could better balance these hormonal fluctuations that affect your mood by syncing your lifestyle and diet habits to each phase of your menstrual cycle? Eating for your cycle – or cycle syncing – is gaining more attention and supporters.

What is cycle syncing?

Cycle syncing is when you adjust aspects of your life, such as how you eat and exercise, based on the phases of your menstrual cycle.

While there’s limited scientific evidence around cycle syncing, many studies show that hormonal fluctuations affect energy, mood, appetite and sleep.

Some of the benefits advocates of the practice report are:

  • feeling more energised and balanced
  • experiencing fewer mood swings
  • making workouts more effective

Menstrual phases and your diet

Navigating the different stages of your cycle can be challenging. But the right dietary strategies can help support overall health and wellbeing.

Menstrual phase

During this phase, the body sheds the uterus lining, which can lead to symptoms such as cramping, fatigue, and mood swings. 

It can help to focus on nutrient-rich foods during this phase to support energy levels and replenish lost nutrients. Consider eating:

  • Leafy greens, red meat, and beans to help replenish lost iron during menstruation.
  • Whole grains and fruits to provide sustained energy and help balance blood sugar levels.
  • Foods high in vitamin C to help in iron absorption.

Follicular phase

In this phase, estrogen levels rise, leading to increased insulin sensitivity and a preference for carbs.

Try to eat complex carbohydrates, lean protein, and healthy fats in this phase. These include:

  • Whole grains, sweet potatoes, and fruits to provide sustained energy and help balance blood sugar levels.
  • Chicken, fish, and beans to help support muscle building and repair, which can be very beneficial if you exercise regularly.
  • Avocados, nuts and seeds to support hormone production and reduce inflammation, which can help support overall health and wellbeing.

Ovulatory phase

This is when the body is primed for fertility and may benefit from foods that support reproductive health.

Try to eat foods high in omega-3 fatty acids, fermented foods, and antioxidants, such as:

  • Salmon, chia seeds, and walnuts to help support healthy hormone production and reduce inflammation.
  • Fermented foods like sauerkraut and kefir to help support gut health and immune function, which can also improve overall health and wellbeing.
  • Foods high in antioxidants, such as berries, leafy greens, and dark chocolate, to help protect the body against oxidative stress.

Luteal Phase

During this phase, progesterone levels rise, leading to water retention, bloating, and cravings.

Focus on foods high in fibre, magnesium, and healthy fats. These include:

  • Vegetables, fruits, and whole grains to help support regular digestion and prevent constipation.
  • Spinach, almonds, and black beans to help support relaxation and sleep.
  • Olive oil and avocados to help support mood and energy levels.

Want to sync your workouts to your cycle?

As hormones fluctuate, so do your energy levels. It can be a good idea to also sync your workouts to your cycle. Take it easy during your menstrual phase with yoga or go hard with a HIIT class during your ovulatory phase. Move with us through every stage of your menstrual cycle and keep kicking your fitness goals.

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