Right let’s be honest periods can be an absolute bitch can’t they! Whilst men think it’s just a bit of bleeding once a month it is actually so much more than that. Every week within our cycle the body is affected in different ways. If you ever take the time to track your cycle you will be able to clearly see changes in your mood, performance, weight, energy levels, hunger levels the lot! I decided for this blog to take a bit of a deeper dive into our cycles and attempt to explain why we feel certain ways each month. It was only when I took a step back to understand my cycle more, that I realised some distinctive patterns and thus could give myself a bit of a break instead of beating myself up! … it all just made sense!
Now if you are a guy out there reading this, I suggest you continue to read because there could be a few light bulb moments as to why your girlfriend goes from a princess to a demon overnight …. or when may be the best time to try and give your girl a ‘special cuddle’ so stay tuned!
Firstly, our cycle can be split into 4 sections: Menstruation, Follicular phase, Ovulation and the Luteal Phase. Normally a full cycle will be roughly around 25-30 days (although naturally things like the contraceptive pill etc may affect this). I am going to briefly look through the full cycle with you and explain some of the changes you may notice in your body.
Let’s start in week 1-2 – During the follicular phase our body starts to slowly increase in levels of oestrogen. As this hormone increase, we see a boost in our mood and our energy levels and may feel a bit more positive about things. We will also generally feel a little less hungry, so will be able to regulate our diets better, and we may also find we can build muscle a little quicker than in the latter phases of our cycle. Throughout the follicular phase as we head towards the ovulation peak (guys this was the bit where you need to listen up), we will also start to find that our libido will steadily rise reaching a peak around week 2 and ovulation. It is at this stage where we will feel the most confident, sexy and self-assured (HORRAAAYYY!!)). Remember from an evolutionary perspective this was the world telling us to procreate and get bonking at the best time! During this stage our testosterone also increases which boosts our libido even more… and if you are a gym goer means we can do some of our best lifts! What a win win… SEX AND PB’s! On the downside with all of these hormones raging around our body some women may get a little bit anxious around this time so be mindful of this as well!
So that is all the good news… now to weeks 3-4 the Luteal phase – To put it bluntly this is where is all starts to go a bit tits up. As our hormones begin to change, we see a lowering in oestrogen and an increase in progesterone. With this hormone now being more dominant we can begin to feel a little more tired and fatigued and also our appetite increases so we generally tend to find ourselves falling off any diet wagons or just eating more comfort foods. I know from my own experience it is during week 3 of my cycle when there literally isn’t enough food in the world and I am constantly STARVING! Now interestingly when I read up about this it is because our metabolic rate rises, which increases our calorie needs, because our body thinks that we could have gotten pregnant during ovulation… how crazy is that! It is at this point when we can also experience those hungry mood swings… you know the ones … where if you don’t get some sugar in the next 30 minutes someone is going to get it!
The best thing we can do during this phase of our cycle is eat little and often and turn to options such as fruit for those sugar hits we are looking for. Naturally our libido drops more now, as in theory if we were going to get pregnant it would have happened already, and thus instead of searching for some late-night action, we search more for affection and closeness as we sometimes can feel a bit down, sad or exhausted in this phase (onesies at the ready!). This leads me nicely on to that final week pre period. As our hormones continue to lower this is where we can really feel that change in mood including anxiousness and sadness …. This is the one girls where you find yourself crying over every advert on the TV… or because you were 5 minutes late to your bus. Generally, this can also be the time when the more physical effects can show for some, with pre period cramps etc causing havoc for many… before finally we complete our full cycle ready to go again!!
This all being said, every single person is different and for some they may not experience any mood swings, cravings or even physical pain at all. Therefore, the above is only an explanation for some and cannot be generalised. HOWEVER, if you do experience any of the above, I have some recommendations for you:
- If you are feeling fluctuations in your mood try and write a cycle diary. I did this for a couple months and I could immediately see where my mood began to change around week 3. This allowed me then to put in some positive habits such as being kinder to myself those weeks, going to bed earlier and not pushing myself as hard in the gym. It also enabled me to understand why I was acting a certain way and thus try and mindfully work with my body rather than against it. I now know each month what to expect that week and I can fully embrace it.
- Plan your workouts for your cycles. When our energy and mood is high, we are generally able to perform better in our workouts. Therefore, I tend to lean towards heavier weight training and high intensity work during my first 2 weeks and then focus more on lighter training with more reps in weeks 3-4. This is mainly so I can look after my body, but also so I am not beating myself up constantly about dropping back on PB’s etc.
- Our weight can change weekly throughout a cycle (daily even!) so make sure if you are tracking your weight you are always comparing week 1 to week 1 and not weeks within a cycle as you will end up feeling disheartened and lose motivation.
- If you know, like me, that come week 3 you want to eat everything in your path then try and lower your calories across the first couple of weeks of your cycle to allow for this and also try and make food choices which are going fill the need but also add some wholesome benefit to the body such as fruit.
- Know your body, Respect your body & Love your body! We are all unique and that is what makes us all so special!