As women, we all know that our monthly cycle can sometimes feel as though we are on an emotional rollercoaster – right? Put that together with aches and pains, general tiredness and a can’t be arsed attitude and we often set ourselves up for failure month after month. But what if there was a way that we could optimise our menstrual cycle in our favour, to allow us to feel better, more energetic and also cut ourselves some slack…?
There is, and I am going to discuss some strategies that you might wish to try.
One of the main things I often see with my clients is women constantly trying to fight against the symptoms of their cycle. Pushing through them and only making themselves feel worse. We should be striving to optimise our training and nutrition to support our monthly hormonal changes rather than constantly fighting against them.
Firstly, we must start to understand our hormonal cycle, the stages of the cycle and how they might make you feel.
PMS – or pre menstrual syndrome (sometimes referred to as PMT) normally occurs at the Luteal Phase of our cycle – or Day 22 and lasts until Day 28. This is where you might start to experience symptoms such as:
- Breast tenderness
- Unstable emotions
- Water retention
- Fatigue and general tiredness
I like to call this the ‘upside down’ week. Personally, my emotions are all over the place – one minute I could sink an entire packet of chocolate digestives and the next minute be crying over a video I saw on Facebook.
There are a lot of little things that will help you to feel better during this week, depending on your current lifestyle, I’m sure you will find one or two of these tips will help you in a big way!
If you are a regular exerciser, or have quite a heavy training schedule – this week could be a really good week to consider taking things a bit lighter. The perfect opportunity to have a de-load week, train less, and when you do train – go lighter on your weight and perform more reps. If you’re already feeling fatigued, this will assist not only your body but your mind set as well, allowing you to still train but giving your body the recovery that it needs.
Your body has a physiological requirement for an increased carbohydrate intake around this time in your cycle – so consider reducing your fat intake a little to allow for around 20% more carbohydrates. Make sure your increased carb intake comes from starchy vegetables like potatoes, squashes, rice or oats as this will also satisfy the craving for ‘comfort food’.
And let’s face it, the more we can avoid cravings, the more friends we will keep! Nobody wants to be around an ‘upside down’ craving monster… 😉
Allow yourself some time out. You might find yourself in ‘nesting mode’ – you know that feeling where you want to wrap yourself in a duvet and hide for the day? Well, once you have your light training session out of the way – give yourself some rest time. Meditate, read a book, listen to music or just do something you enjoy. We really don’t give ourselves permission very often to actually just chill out – do it, I promise you’ll feel much better for it!
Now it’s all well and good me giving you this advice, but how will you KNOW when to expect Days 22-28?
Tracking your cycle.
The easiest way to do this is download one of the free apps to your phone which will easily allow you to track your cycle. Most of them will also allow you to track symptoms too – which is great because when you see a pattern emerging month by month, you will be better prepared as time goes on for what symptoms to expect at what time.
This will allow you plan your de-load, relax-more weeks and also plan in the weeks where you’ll hit your training and nutrition hard (the week immediately following the end of your period is the best time for this!).
So in short – stop fighting your cycle and start optimising it.
Track, record, tweak, repeat.
Cut yourself some slack.
And remember, a little chocolate here and there does not harm either 😉