Hack your cycle with food
Morgane Leten - Nutrition & Fertility Coach
Hands up 🙌 if you ever crave a certain kind of food.
Big slice of cake, anyone? Or maybe you’re the savoury type who fantasizes about a salty bag of crisps.
Either way, you’re not alone!
When you crave certain foods, your body is trying to tell you something and if you’re like us, then you probably spend a lot of time ignoring those cravings. But here’s the thing: you need to start listening! Cravings can give you important clues about the nutrients your body needs.
Ever notice how those cravings come and go? One day it’s cookie dough ice cream, the next, it’s chips and mayonnaise. That’s because your cravings are linked to your menstrual cycle. Yup, that’s right! And your cycle, just like the four seasons, has four different phases.
The four seasons of your cycle
In each season of your cycle, your body needs different food and different levels of activity. That’s because your body creates different hormones in each season. And, it’s these hormones that can make you feel like running a marathon and downing a green smoothie, or snuggling up on the sofa with some tea and a good book. Once you tune into your body and understand these seasons, you can make better choices when it comes to nutrition and exercise.
Want to hack your four seasons and eat like a boss? Read on…
🌸 Spring (aka the follicular phase)
Number of days: 7-10
Ahhh, springtime. A time of new beginnings. And that’s exactly what’s happening in this season of your cycle. In the days following your period, an egg matures, just like flowers starting to bluum in Spring. In this phase, you probably feel pretty good: energetic, confident and ready to hit the dance floor (if that’s what you’re into).
What to eat
You might not feel as hungry during this phase because your metabolism slows down a bit, so you may need fewer calories than the week before your period.
This is a great week for:
- Lots of fresh veggies. Think bright colours and lots of variety
- Fermented foods (Mmm kimchi)
- White proteins like plain Greek yogurt, white flesh fish or tofu
Make sure you pump up the protein during this phase too. You need about 70g/day.
Meat is a good source of protein but try to get as much of your protein from plants as you can. Try to incorporate things like soya, buckwheat, quinoa and hempseed.
Other good options are things like oats, broccoli, carrots, avocado, courgette, salad, green lentils, pumpkin seeds, cashews and flaxseed.
How to move
Hello Wonder Woman! You’ll have lots of energy in this phase so now’s the time to schedule that HIIT class or pick up some heavier weights at the gym. If you want a challenge, go for it! Choose activities like vinyasa yoga, running, cycling, tennis or swimming.
🌞 Summer (aka the ovulation phase)
Number of days: 3-4 days
Welcome to the most fertile season of your cycle. If you are trying for a baby, now is the time. If not, it’s good to be aware of this phase and plan accordingly! It's also a good time to get some socialising on the agenda! You’ll likely have plenty of energy during this season, and you’ll feel happy, attractive and confident. Dinner and drinks, anyone?
What to eat
Feeling hot? That’s because your body temperature rises during this phase. It is summertime, after all! Try to choose fruits and vegetables that have a cooling effect. Also, make sure you eat things with vitamin B like:
- Green leafy vegetables
- Whole grains
- Eggs and meat
Try to pack in some zinc during this season because it helps with the production of progesterone, an important hormone you need after ovulation. You can get zinc in things like pumpkin seeds, fish, meat and poultry, eggs, mushrooms, wheat germ, whole grains and a variety of dietary supplements.
How to move
Just like Springtime, you’ll have a lot of energy during the summer phase so it’s an ideal time to challenge yourself. Go for a cardio-busting workout like a bootcamp or power yoga.
🍂 Autumn (aka the luteal phase)
Number of days: 10-14
Time to take things down a notch. This is PMS season...
PMS is caused by changes in the hormones progesterone and oestrogen during this phase and it can cause all sorts of nasty side effects. Things like bloating, headaches, skin problems and tight breasts are all common, as are mood swings and feelings of low mood or depression.
But don’t worry! It’s not all bad news. You can actually reduce your symptoms by eating differently during this season. Say Guudbye to PMS!
What to eat
During the autumn season, your body actually needs more calories. You’ll also need complex carbs and enough protein to feel full after each meal.
Here are a few tips:
- Make your liver happy with lean proteins like chickpeas, lentils, fish and cruciferous veggies like cabbage, broccoli, watercress and kale.
- Try to avoid alcohol, coffee, black tea, processed foods, white carbs, refined sugar, gluten and dairy. This is because your body needs to break down oestrogen and this process happens in your liver.
- Help your gut by eating plenty of fibre from vegetables like parsnips, sweet potato and kohlrabi. These are high fibre vegetables that fill you up and help get rid of sugar cravings.
- Consider adding some probiotics into your diet to keep your gut healthy and help restore the natural balance of bacteria in your gut.
How to move
This is where you might fancy your sofa over the gym, and that’s OK! Don’t beat yourself up. At the end of this phase, your energy levels drop and you might start feeling tired – both emotionally and physically.
Now is a good time to go easy on yourself and practice some self-care. If you’re up for it, try Pilates, some restorative yoga or a refreshing walk in nature.
❄️ Winter (aka the menstrual phase)
Number of days: 3-7
We probably don’t need to go into much detail here. You know the drill. You’ve likely experienced the headaches and cramps that accompany this phase. You may even deal with diarrhea and vomiting. That’s because there’s a lot going on in your body. Getting the right nutrients during this phase can help you weather the storm.
What to eat
Just like in winter, you may seek out warmth during this phase, so roll out the comfort food. Hello soups and stews! You need to make sure you:
- Get enough omega 3 which can be found in fish like wild salmon, sardines and mackerel. Not into fish? You can up that omega 3 intake with sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, flaxseeds and walnuts.
- Get extra magnesium because it can help prevent cramps and headaches. You can get it from dark leafy vegetables, nuts, seeds, bananas, raw cacao, fish and shellfish, avocados and supplements.
- Get extra iron. Find it in things like long-drawn broth of bones and meat, beetroot, watercress, sesame seeds, goji berries, oats, quinoa, buckwheat, dark green leafy vegetables, dates, dried apricots, almonds, nettle tea and black molasses.
And if you really want to up your game in this phase, get an extra dose of vitamin C. This will help you absorb all that iron you’re eating, so why not add in a kiwi, some strawberries or a sweet potato?
How to move
Now it’s time to put your feet up, guilt free! This is the season of rest and recovery. Don’t be a hero, especially during the first days of your period. If your body feels tired, rest and make sure you get enough sleep. If you do feel like exercising, choose low impact activities like yoga or some light stretching.
Up your game
Even if you eat a healthy, balanced diet, it's hard to know you’re getting the right amount of nutrients. That’s why supplements are a great idea. We have several options that are perfect to support all four seasons of your cycle. Take the Quiz and discover what’s Guud for you.
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