If you are a cycling female, you have no doubt noticed cravings, motivations, mood and energy follow a cyclical + rhythmic pattern throughout each month. The ebb and flow of female hormones cause the ebb and flow of symptoms, creating a beautiful + dependable monthly cycle. While all pre-menopausal women follow this hormonal pattern, each woman's symptoms may look slightly different.
So what is actually happening during these hormonal shifts and why are our moods + motivations impacted?
The female cycle 101
your menstrual cycle is the number of days from the first day of bleeding in one month to the first day of bleeding in the next month
the average length of a cycle is 28 days, but a “normal” cycle length is anywhere between 26-36 days
the menstrual cycle has four phases: follicular // ovulatory // luteal // menstruation
a spike in estrogen during the follicular phase causes a spike in LH which triggers ovulation [typically in the middle of the cycle]
following ovulation, progesterone rises and should peak around day 21
a fall in progesterone triggers your period [if you have not become pregnant]
Breaking down each phase
follicular [days 1-14]:
Day one of your period is day one of your cycle and the beginning of your follicular phase. Once menstruation has ended, celebrate the heightened energy you feel during the follicular phase. During the second week of the cycle, estrogen is at its peak making you feel vibrant, motivated + confident. You may find you are wearing clothes that are more feminine and have increased energy to engage in hard workouts or lots of social commitments. Appetite also tends to wane during this time, so ensure you are nourishing yourself with high quality proteins + fats.
During the follicular phase, lean into the following:
try new things!
enjoy more energy + brain power
engage in more intense workouts
prioritize protein + high quality fats
socialize + connect with girlfriends
ovulation [approximately day 14]:
During ovulation, an egg is released from one of your ovaries to be fertilized. You will feel the most confident during this time as testosterone peaks. Lean into the masculine energy you have during this time! This is also when estrogen begins to taper off, making its detoxification essential so that it can be removed from the body [hello cruciferous vegetables!].
In the middle of your cycle when ovulation is occurring:
capitalize on the confidence you feel
celebrate peak sex drive
chow down on cruciferous vegetables
try out high impact HIIT workouts + interval training
luteal [days 15-beginning of menstruation]:
After two weeks of high social + creative energy, estrogen and testosterone decline and progesterone becomes the predominant hormone during the luteal phase. Higher levels of progesterone create a sense of independence + practicality and may lead to you feeling like staying in and being more introspective. You may find you have cravings for more carbohydrate-rich foods and low-intensity workouts, as well as feeling more tired than usual.
In the luteal phase, prioritize the following:
turn attention inward
time to nest // spend time at home
check off practical to do list items [administrative]
complex carbohydrates from vegetables + root veg
engage in low impact workouts
give yourself an extra 30 min - 1 hour of sleep per night
menstruation [the first day of bleeding - last day of bleeding, approximately days 1-7 of the cycle]:
When implantation has not occurred, reproductive hormones decline and the uterus begins to shed its lining. This triggers bleeding + cramping as the uterine lining sloughs off and may lead to a decrease in energy levels. Length of bleeding can be anywhere between 2-7 days depending on the woman. Headaches are common during this time, as well as feeling depleted + fatigued.
During menstruation, support your body by focusing on the following:
savor warming stews
gentle yoga + pilates
Every woman is different and not all symptoms are the same. If you would like to learn about what you experience on a cyclical basis, consider tracking your symptoms throughout the month and notice the pattern your unique body follows.
If you do not have a cycle, really notice what you feel throughout the month to honor the different "personalities" of each phase. Consider using the moon to guide your progression between go and slow, as it has been shown that the moon may impact the cyclical rhythms of women, especially those who limit their exposure to endocrine disruptors + artificial light.
In my online membership, The Table, you'll learn more about how to support your body during your cycle [whether you are pre-, peri- or post-menopausal]. We dedicate an entire quarter to balancing hormones so that you can reclaim vibrancy no matter which season you are in. Consider joining the waitlist!