THE QUESTION: I’ve heard that changing the way I eat and exercise throughout the month can help regulate my cycle and manage some of my hormonal symptoms. Is this true? How can I start planning smarter meals and workouts?
ALISA’S ANSWER: Let me start by saying a resounding “YES!” Anyone familiar with the work I do at FLO Living knows that I regularly extol the benefits of cycle-syncing when it comes to food, but I’m also a big believer in tailoring your workout plan to your monthly flow.
The problem many women come up against, of course, is that cultural messages tell us we should always be pushing ourselves to the limit when it comes to physical fitness. And sometimes, this drive to sweat hard and achieve personal gym records can feel great. But at other times, it can be the worst thing for your hormonal health.
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Do you find yourself exhausted after a spinning session some days, while other times, the same sweaty workout gives you a great boost of energy? Of course you do! Different times in your cycle set you up to feel differently at varying points in the month. Your body is primed and ready for certain kinds of exercise — like intense cardio versus yoga — depending on where your hormones are.
When it comes to exercise, it’s so important to change your routine according to where you’re at in your cycle. Sometimes, you can’t always push as hard as you might want to or feel like you should, and other times, the pushing can feel really good and benefit your body and mind.
While science works to catch up with the wisdom of women’s bodies, there are ways you can work with your own endocrine system and hormonal changes to reap real benefits from exercise.
The FLO Science: Why is it important to cycle sync your diet and exercise?
When it comes to our hormonal health, you have probably heard that too much exercise or working out too hard can cause irregular cycles, missing periods, endometriosis, and more. You’ve probably also heard that too little exercise brings on the symptoms of PCOS, can raise your risk of cancer, and makes your periods heavy and painful. We are overwhelmed with advice, tips, and research.
Thankfully, your hormonal patterns provide all you need to figure out your optimal exercise. The cyclical pattern of our bodies sets up the perfect architecture to plan out the best workout. During each phase of our menstrual cycle, our bodies are primed and prepared for different kinds of exercise.
At certain times, our stores of nutrients and hormones go into building the lining of your uterus, making enough progesterone, for example. At other times, we have everything at our disposal to channel into a really strong workout.
During the first part of your cycle, your energy will naturally be higher and optimized for high-intensity exercise. During the second part of your cycle, your hormonal ratio of oestrogen and progesterone shifts again, making more restorative physical activities more ideal.
Cycle awareness and cycle syncing your workouts can save you from exhaustion, burnout, hormonal imbalance-based health issues, injury, and boredom! The best part is, you don’t have to work out harder; you just have to work out smarter.
The FLO Fix: How to cycle-sync your diet and exercise
Eating and exercising according to your cycle is so much easier than you think. All it takes is a little bit of planning and a basic understanding of the four phases of your cycle: follicular (before you ovulate, after your period), ovulatory (when you’re ovulating), luteal (before your period), and menstrual (your period).
Once you’ve got those down, all you have to do is include the following foods during each appropriate week-long phase to make sure your body has all the micronutrients it needs to thrive:
1. Follicular phase: artichoke, broccoli, carrot, parsley, green peas, string beans and zucchini
2. Ovulatoryphase: asparagus, brussels sprouts, chard, escarole, scallion, spinach
3. Luteal phase: cauliflower, collard greens, daikon, onion, parsnip, radish, squash, sweet potato
4. Menstrual phase: beet, kale, kelp, mushrooms