I have always struggled to be consistent with a new workout program, and like clockwork, I started resisting the program around the week 3 mark. When day 21 or so rolls around, I’m ready to throw in the towel and be done with it.

Here’s what I suspect was happening: I would feel motivated to start a new workout during the early phases of my menstrual cycle, a few weeks would go by, and all of a sudden, like the flip of a switch, my motivation and energy vanished. 

Most workout programs are designed for men and don’t take into consideration women’s changing hormones. I can make the correlation to my hormones now but why did it take me decades to come to terms with this? We aren’t going to feel the same energy throughout the month and that’s okay. Our bodies are telling us that we need space and rest. Why aren’t we taught this during sex ed? I have found so much peace of mind in knowing why I feel the way I am feeling at certain times of the month.

Instead of fighting through a tough workout during the end of my cycle, I listen to my body and accept that it’s okay to take a break or choose light and restorative instead. No more beating myself up over this. 

As women, we may not be able to change the fact that we have wildly fluctuating hormones throughout the month, but we can embrace it. I want to empower moms to use their menstrual cycles to their advantage by tuning in to their energy levels, moods, and periods of productivity.

Alright, it’s time to jump into the four phases of your cycle and how to take advantage of them.

Menstrual Phase (Days 1-5)

What’s happening: Your body is working hard to get rid of the uterine lining it built up last cycle. Energy levels are typically low.

How to embrace the menstrual phase: 

  • Use this time to rest and recharge
  • Factor in time for more sleep
  • Take it easy and don’t push yourself too hard
  • Avoid strenuous exercises— try yoga, stretching, or walking
  • Practice self-care activities, like taking a warm bath, reading a book, or watching your favorite movie
  • Schedule low-intensity tasks or appointments during this time
  • This is an excellent time for journaling and self-reflection

Food considerations: Focus on restoring nutrients like iron and magnesium. Eat foods like red meats, leafy greens, beans, and bone broth. Support your body during this time with nuts, pumpkin seeds, flaxseed, dark chocolate, and whole grains.

Follicular Phase (Days 6-14)

What’s happening: Your estrogen levels are rising. You probably are starting to feel an increase in your energy and mood. You may feel more optimistic and social during this time.

How to embrace the follicular phase: 

  • This is a great time for creativity and problem-solving tasks
  • Tackle challenging tasks or start new projects
  • Try new workout routines
  • Work on resistance training and moderate-intensity exercises
  • Brainstorm and plan for the month ahead
  • Anxiety may rear its ugly head
  • This is the best time for social activities, as you may feel more outgoing and sociable

Food considerations: Focus on fresh, fibrous foods. Think salads, lean proteins, whole grains, and vitamin C-rich foods such as citrus fruits, berries, and bell peppers. Keep up with the pumpkin seeds and flaxseed. Oh, and get in lots of healthy fats!

Ovulatory Phase (Days 15-18)

What’s happening: The ovaries release an egg. This phase is associated with high levels of estrogen and testosterone (yep, women have testosterone too!) You might feel more confident and energetic. You probably have an increased sexual desire as well.

How to embrace the menstrual phase:

  • Tackle physically demanding work tasks (or the more dreaded tasks at home)
  • Schedule important meetings and events during this time, if possible
  • This is prime time for more strenuous workouts i.e. heavy lifting, HIIT
  • You may feel more motivated to get moving and take on challenges
  • You might also plan a date night or spend quality time with your partner

Food considerations: Support yourself with antioxidant-rich foods. Opt for lots of colorful fresh produce, and healthy fats, such as avocado, nuts, coconut, and fish. 

Luteal Phase (Days 19-28)

What’s happening: Progesterone levels rise as your body is preparing for a fertilized egg to implant in your uterine wall. During this time you are more prone to mood swings, irritability, and fatigue.

How you can embrace the luteal phase:

  • Take extra care of yourself during this time, and don’t overcommit yourself.
  • Listen to your body and prioritize self-care activities, like meditation, yoga, or gentle exercise.
  • Avoid taking on big, challenging projects or commitments during this time.

Food considerations: Your body will benefit from foods that are rich in vitamin B6, such as bananas, nuts, and poultry. Eat extra leafy greens. Sesame seeds and sunflower seeds are your friends during this time. 

Take action by tracking your cycle!

If you aren’t currently tracking your cycle, that’s a great place to get started. I recommend the Stardust app. Some apps don’t tell you what phase you are in but this one does!

Keep in my mind that this is based on a textbook 28-day cycle. Your cycle may be longer or shorter so it’s important to track your symptoms to get a better idea of what phase you might actually be in.

So to recap, by understanding your menstrual cycle and the associated hormonal changes, you can work with your body rather than against it. By using your natural energy ebbs and flows to your advantage, you can increase your productivity and improve your overall well-being. So I challenge you to tune in and listen to your body. 

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Abby (1)

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I'm Abby— a Registered Nurse and Functional Health Consultant. I assist clients in identifying the root cause of their health problems, begin healing, and attain optimal wellness. Book a free consult to learn more about my services!

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