How to Use Your Cycle to Your Advantage
How well do you know your body?
Do you know when your next cycle is due to start?
Do you know if you ovulate?
Have you considered how you feel throughout your cycle?
Some weeks you may have high energy, others you may feel particularly lethargic. Is this true?
Well the answers to these questions will help you work out if your body is working efficiently or not based on your cycle.
I am not a doctor, I am simply sharing some knowledge that I learnt at FILEX and found it incredibly mind blowing. Until I went to this lecture I would curse my body for having a period, I didn’t understand how to use my cycles to my advantage and just let my emotions get the better of me without stopping to think that perhaps my brain wasn’t working at optimum level that particular day for reasons out of my control.
The advice I am giving below is for women having regular periods. If you have medical conditions eg. Thyroid, PCOS, Endometriosis, feel free to read on but check with your doctor before following any suggestions. Also if you are going through Menopause or no longer have cycles you can choose your own cycle, it is suggested to use the lunar cycle.
Warning, I am going to go straight to the point here with no boundaries!
First things first, your cycle begins the first day of proper bleed. This is cycle day 1 and the start of your follicular phase which leads up to ovulation. After Ovulation you go into the luteal phase until it all starts again.
Studies have shown that during the follicular phase (first 2 weeks from your period starting), you will find you more likely have more energy, can lift heavier, train harder, have better endurance, better recovery and will feel stronger mentally. Once you have ovulated and moved into the luteal phase, things start to get a little harder both mentally and physically, particularly in the last week of your cycle.
When you stop and think about these phases, it makes sense, who doesn’t feel weaker and more tired, and definitely more snappy leading up to their period? I certainly do!
So how do we use this to our advantage?
I believe we should track our cycles making us more conscious of what our body is going through. We can then adapt our training and eating habits accordingly.
What I learnt and was suggested by Dr Kira Sutherland, is to use the extra strength and willpower we have at the start of our cycle to our advantage. Take your training up a notch during this time, really stick to the eating plan you have chosen and be very strict with it. This is results time! Push yourself and go hard!
So you have made it through the follicular phase, have most likely ovulated and are heading in the luteal phase, now what?
After ovulation for the first week, try and maintain the intensity with your training as much as you can. You may find you won’t quite be able to lift as much or sprint as fast. Accept that this is part of the cycle and be kind to yourself. Take some extra time with your recovery, really embrace self care before and after training. As for your eating, continue to stick to your eating plan.
For the last week of your cycle, your body and mind will most likely be feeling more lethargic than the rest of the month, you may be highly irritable and find motivating yourself a little more challenging. This I believe is normal. I would suggest using this week as maintenance week, don’t go for a PB here unless unavoidable. Really focus on your consistency, just getting to the gym, do your training but be kind to yourself. Don’t stop or use your upcoming period as an excuse but simply listen to your body and make the time to stretch & roll after your session, try a yoga class, particularly Yin Yoga during this phase.
During this final week of your cycle, it can be more challenging to stay focused on your healthy eating habits. You may crave that bar of chocolate more than the rest of the cycle, you may want to eat that whole packet of chips. What I suggest is to allow yourself a LITTLE lenience in this last week, not the whole bar of chocolate or full packet of chips but perhaps 100-200 calories extra in a day. If you must eat your chocolate choose a dark chocolate and only a few pieces, this will help with the craving. Always remember the bigger picture, your goal! Is eating a whole block of chocolate going to help you fit into your skinny jeans? Probably not, it will simply throw you off track both physically and mentally.
If you are going to add more calories or ease off your “diet”, do it sensibly with good whole food choices. Extra vegetables including the very important dark leafy greens will give you the extra Zinc needed during this phase.
One thing that is also very important during the luteal phase is you will need to add extra salt to your diet. Add some extra Pink Himalayan Salt to your meals and increase your water intake to reduce bloating. It is also highly recommended to take Magnesium, Zinc and Vitamin B6 supplements.
Our bodies also go through other cycles every day starting with high cortisol levels in the mornings which ease throughout the day, and melatonin cycles which increase throughout the day ready to help us sleep at night. We need to use these and other cycles to maximise our daily performance.
So start tracking your cycle, monitor your energy levels, your emotional state, your training output and record it on paper or using a cycle tracker app. This way you can start to use your cycle to your own advantage. Maximise the peak times when you’re feeling great and be kind to your body and mind when you’re heading towards the end of your cycle. Adjust your training and eating habits accordingly but also be mindful or your goals.
Start talking to other women, share how you’re feeling and how you’re tracking your cycle. Talk to the men in your life, they too will benefit from knowing where you are in your cycle and when to just leave you alone. Your own personal awareness and acknowledgment of the phases we go through will hopefully help you to stay a little more balanced and feel more in control of what is happening to your body. Be grateful for this gift we have as women and the strength it gives us. Embrace they way your own body works and give it love!
Next time I will talk more about eating habits, intermittent fasting, when to fuel your body for optimum functionality and other tips for staying on track.
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