RECONNECT WITH YOUR RHYTHM
“Understanding and flowing with your cycle is one of the best things you can do for your health,” Jodie stresses. “We’ve become so disconnected from our bodies and natural rhythms that we are missing really important signs. In a fast-paced world where we get rewarded for pushing ourselves, it’s no wonder we’re burning out and feeling like we’re not good enough.” Jodie explains that we have become conditioned to follow the circadian rhythm of working hard during the day and chilling out in the evening, in line with how testosterone works. “As women, we just don’t work this way. We have different hormones and rather than peaking at certain times of the day, we peak at certain times of the month. Tapping into this infradian rhythm is a game-changer. When you learn to notice the subtle shifts in energy you can use this to your advantage, improving your focus, productivity, creativity and communication.”
KNOW WHAT’S NORMAL
“It’s totally normal for your energy to ebb and flow throughout the month,” Jodie says. But if you feel constantly tired, struggle to sleep or emotionally depleted, you could be heading towards burnout. “Mood changes are normal, but if you’re having intense mood swings where you feel fully possessed before your period, then this could be a sign your hormones need some TLC. Your period blood should be a nice deep red from start to finish – if it’s light pink, full of clots, a purplish or brown colour, then this is also a sign something isn’t quite right.”
HOW TO EAT
Food cravings are likely to change throughout your cycle due to fluctuating levels of oestrogen and progesterone, but good nutrition should always be top of mind as your gut is involved in oestrogen metabolism. “Everyone is so unique but ensuring you’re eating several portions of leafy greens every day is a good place to start. Keeping your blood sugar balanced and eating enough protein and healthy fats should also be top priorities for a healthy cycle,” Jodie advises.
HOW TO GET STARTED
Cycle tracking may sound a little scientific, but it’s surprisingly straightforward. There are countless apps to help (we love Clue, Flo and Moody Month), but you could also make notes in a journal, says Jodie. “In tracking your cycle by hand, you can write down any symptoms you experience, which isn’t always possible in an app. Start by making a note of any symptoms throughout the month, and after three months look back to see if you can spot any patterns.”
Here’s what you need to know about the four phases of your cycle…
The Menstruation Phase (the 4-7 days of your period)
MOOD & HORMONES: “This is day one of your cycle, the day you start bleeding. Just like animals in winter, this is a time for conserving your energy and making self-care a priority. Your hormones are at their lowest point during this phase meaning you’re unlikely to have much energy so consider swapping your high-intensity workouts for something more restorative like yoga or walking. Due to low hormone levels, your libido will also be low and the foods you eat should be more warming,” Jodie says. If you’re a keen gym goer, studies also show it’s worth taking the time during this phase for a proper warm-up. Research suggests a strong link between hormonal fluctuations and ACL knee injuries.
GOOD TO KNOW: “When you are bleeding, your ‘superpower’ is your intuition and this is a great time for introspection and to assess where you’re at with your life. When you ignore this vital period of restoration and continue to push yourself, the rest of your cycle and physical health can suffer,” Jodie says. You may also find it harder to sleep around this time, as metabolic changes and heightened brain activity can make it harder to switch off.
The Follicular Phase (the week after your period ends)
MOOD & HORMONES: “The week after your period finishes, levels of oestrogen will start to rise, meaning you’ll get your energy back, so don’t be afraid to take your exercise up a notch – strength training and HIIT classes are all good options,” says Jodie.
GOOD TO KNOW: “With creativity naturally high during this phase, it’s a good time to start generating new ideas and thinking outside the box. Due to increased connections in the brain, we’re also able to articulate ideas better and think more clearly,” Jodie explains. It’s also likely you’ll feel more assertive and motivated at this time: now is a good time to socialise, discover and learn. It’s also a good time to start new projects at work – brainstorm with your team and break out the spreadsheets.
The Ovulation Phase (mid-cycle for 3-5 days)
MOOD & HORMONES: “Your oestrogen levels are the highest they will get all month during the ovulation phase, meaning you’re biologically at the most fertile point in your cycle. Rising hormone levels – testosterone included – means you’ll also be feeling more confident and attractive. In fact, biology wants to get us out flirting and feeling fabulous. Your sex drive will be high and your skin should be glowing,” Jodie says. With oestrogen at its peak, however, this can heighten emotions.
GOOD TO KNOW: The brain chemistry you have during this phase heightens your verbal skills, making this a good time to have important conversations. At the same time, with oestrogen and energy at their peak, now’s the time to make gains with strength training and hit that PB.
The Luteal Phase (10-12 days before your period starts)
MOOD & HORMONES: “During the first half of this ‘season’ – or the ten days before your period starts – you’ll still have energy but as your period approaches, progesterone comes into the picture, instinctively making you want to slow down,” Jodie says. “This relaxation hormone helps us to get organised and prioritise rest. Oestrogen also falls, as does your happy hormone, serotonin. This is your body’s way of protecting you if you were to fall pregnant, so biologically it’s pretty amazing. However, if you don’t pull back, you can become more reactive and snappy.” If you experience PMS, also note this will be the week you’ll feel it. Jodie believes that when you honour your body’s innate need for rest during this phase, you’ll supercharge your ability to get more out of the active phases of your cycle.
GOOD TO KNOW: Exercise-wise, you may have energy for more intense activities towards the beginning of this phase, but workouts like barre and Pilates may be more realistic the week before your period, Jodie explains. Science shows that as progesterone increases, your heart rate and breathing may feel higher, explaining why slower-paced workouts are a good bet.
Jodie Brandman is a nutritional therapist specialising in female health and fertility. She has just launched The Female Health Hub, an online platform for females looking to better understand their cycle – expect nutrition and lifestyle masterclasses, exclusive content and more. Visit JodieBrandman.com for further information.
*Features published by SheerLuxe are not intended to treat, diagnose, cure or prevent any disease. Always seek the advice of your GP or another qualified healthcare provider for any questions you have regarding a medical condition, and before undertaking any diet, exercise or other health-related programmes.