Understanding the 4 Phases of your Menstrual Cycle
Updated: Jun 1
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Women’s menstrual cycles are a powerful thing! Our monthly cycle of hormones affects us in so many ways! The monthly period is just the tip of the iceberg!
Ever wonder why one week you feel great? On top of the world! You feel good about your body, you're killing it at work or in school, and your energy and creativity levels are high! And then, out of nowhere, with no trigger, everything seems to change. Energy plummets and you feel gross and bloated. Any kind of work seems to drag on and you have absolutely no motivation. You’re not supposed to start your period for at least another week or two! What’s going on?
I felt this way every month for YEARS! And I didn’t figure out what was going on until I learned more about my cycle and started tracking it! Once I educated myself on what was going on, it suddenly all made sense!
Women's sex hormones affect so much more than our ability to produce a baby. Sex hormones impact our energy levels, creativity, libido, how many calories we burn throughout the day, and so much more!
Today, I’m off hormonal birth control, preventing pregnancy naturally by tracking my cycle. I’m continually caring for my hormonal balance with food and lifestyle. See my article here on how to balance your hormones. I’m working with the natural ebb and flow of my sex hormones instead of against them! I’m supporting my body and letting my body support me!
Here’s how I’m doing it, and here’s how you can do it too!
Track you cycle
If you’re not already tracking your monthly cycle, here’s how to do it. You’ll first need to know how to track it, so you know which phases of the cycle you’re in over the course of the month.
Hormonal Birth control prevents your body from cycling naturally.
If you’re on hormonal birth control, you’re not cycling, as birth control keeps your body from ovulating. Any “period” you have is actually just a pill bleed or a breakthrough bleed. It’s not a true period. See my post here for why you consider ditching hormonal birth control.
Let’s dive into how to work with your cycle!
The Follicular Phase:
This is the phase immediately after your period ends until ovulation, usually about 2 weeks. Be checking your temperature to be sure. This has been called the "Beyonce phase" of the menstrual cycle! Estrogen is high as your body is getting ready to produce an egg. The Follicular phase is like the Spring Season. Your body is flushed with fresh new hormones and ready for the summer (ovulation).
Energy and creativity are high during this phase! This is a great time to start something new! Take on a new project, and stretch yourself at work or creatively. Usually, this is the time when new ideas come to me. I usually am flushed with new ideas, AND the confidence to complete them!
This is a great time to get in hard workouts, cardio, HIT, or heavier weight training.
You can cut back on calories at this time. Still, make sure you’re getting plenty of nourishing foods, but you can confidently cut about 200 calories a day if you’re comfortable with it. Enjoy all the raw foods you want during this time as you’re less likely to bloat.
Yep. This is my favorite phase too.
You thought the follicular phase was good. Just wait until ovulation! Ovulation is usually just one day, but it’s essentially an extension of the follicular phase. If the follicular phase is spring, ovulation is summer!
You’ll feel great and be at the height of your game. Expect your libido to be high during this time too, as your body’s goal is to get pregnant.
Continue to push yourself at the gym. Your body is fit to handle cardio, HIIT workouts, or heavy-weight training.
Focus on incorporating plenty of nutrient-rich foods to support your body! You can fit in plenty of raw fruits and veggies during this time.
The Luteal Phase:
The luteal phase is after ovulation until your period, usually about 2 weeks. Be checking your temperature, and watching for a temperature spike to be sure you’ve ovulated and are in the luteal phase. The luteal phase is comparable to the fall season. Your body is slowing down and preparing for winter (menstruation).
Your energy will fall a bit during this time. Creativity and excitement may also decrease. This is a time to focus on admin work or maintenance. Organize during this time and complete tasks.
Let up on any cardio or HIIT workouts you’re doing in the gym and do some light strength training, yoga, pilates and take plenty of walks. If you keep to the same exercise routine throughout your cycle (I do), expect to feel a bit less strong during this phase. Weights that you previously felt good lifting might be harder to lift during this phase. Take it easy and listen to your body.
Continue eating plenty of nourishing foods during this time, focusing on getting magnesium from nuts, legumes, and fish, and/or taking magnesium baths. Let up some on the raw foods, as you’re more likely to bloat during this time. Your body will actually be burning 200-300 more calories a day during this period, so if you’re hungry, eat, getting plenty of carbs and protein. Don’t try to make huge caloric cuts during this time. Take it a bit slower and be gentle with your body.
We’re all very familiar with the menstruation phase of our cycle, otherwise known as the period. This should last about 4-7 days. All levels of hormones will drop during this time to allow your uterine lining to break apart and shed. This is the winter of your cycle. A time when hormones are low, and a time for rest.
This is a time for rest and reflection. Take some time to reflect and lean into your intuition. Your mind should be clear, so this is a good time to make decisions. Take it easy and listen to your body.
Gentle yoga and walks are the best kinds of exercise during this time. You can continue to do weight training if that’s in your routine, but take it easy and don’t feel the need to push yourself.
Eat plenty of nourishing foods of all kinds, continuing to focus on magnesium. If you’re having a lot of pain during this phase, know that you can help heal your hormones to reduce the pain. See my post here.
And that's it! A very simple guide for understanding the 4 phases of the menstrual cycle! Understanding the nuances of the menstrual cycle is so so enlightening and empowering! Do you track your cycle already? What have learned from your menstrual cycle? Let me know in the comments!