When you’re menstruating, you may feel like you’re always in one of two states: “on my period” and “not on my period.” However, the weeks when you are not on your period are actually divided into three distinct phases, each of which makes its own unique impact on your mind and body. Familiarizing yourself with the four phases of the menstrual cycle can allow you to adjust your lifestyle habits — including diet, exercise, and other activities — to help you feel your best throughout each phase of your menstrual cycle.
Just don’t treat your current menstrual cycle phase as the only indicator of what your body needs on a given day. “Ultimately, throughout your cycle, eating healthy and getting enough sleep and exercise are crucial to your overall well-being, but listening to your body and what it needs is what’s most important,” says Amy Roskin, MD, a ob-gyn and chief physicians. officer at The Pill Club. For example, if you should be high in energy based on your phase but feel low, don’t hesitate to take a rest day.
Then take a deeper look at what happens during each menstrual cycle phase, plus how you can adjust your habits accordingly.
What are the menstrual phases?
While you may think your period marks the end of your cycle, menstruation actually kicks things off. As for what happens physiologically during this phase, “menstruation occurs when the egg released with ovulation is not fertilized,” explains Dr. Roskin. “As a result, the hormones associated with your menstrual cycle — estrogen and progesterone — drop off, and you begin to shed your uterine lining (which has thickened to prepare for a possible pregnancy). On average, menstruation lasts between two and seven days, according to the Mayo Clinic. (
While you’re on your period, many lifestyle changes can help make for a smoother ride. Alisa Vitti, functional nutrition and women’s hormone expert and founder of FLO Living and the MyFLO app, recommends adding quercetin, an antioxidant found in many plants, and nettle, a flowering plant, to your regimen to help reduce cramps. help reduce (You can find them available separately or as a combination supplement.) Both act as anti-inflammatories—which, according to one study, may help PMS symptoms, though it’s unclear whether inflammation precedes PMS symptoms or vice versa, as Form previously reported. (As always, consult your doctor before starting any supplement regimen.)
In terms of how to spend your time during this menstrual cycle phase, “focus on functional and restorative stretching, and walking,” advises Vitti. Progesterone and estrogen levels are low at the start of your period, which can lead to low energy levels, according to the US Office on Women’s Health.
The follicular phase of the menstrual cycle
It’s typically understood that the follicular phase of the menstrual cycle begins at the same time as your period, but continues after bleeding stops, and lasts until ovulation, says Dr. Roskin. (So, a little more than two weeks total, in general.) “This phase describes what happens to your ovary, as opposed to menstruation, which describes a process related to the uterus,” she explains. “During the follicular phase [of the menstrual cycle], estrogen causes the uterine lining to thicken. You develop ovarian follicles, which contain eggs (one of which will mature and be released through ovulation).
At this point, you should feel more energetic, making it a potentially good time to do cardio at home. “Exercise and dietary changes can do wonders during the follicular phase – something as simple as going for a walk can improve mood and help with cramps while eating small, frequent meals helps maintain stable blood sugar,” explains Jessica Shepherd, managing director, a waiter. -gyn and medical advisor at O Positiv. For the record, these lifestyle adjustments can have benefits at any time, but they can have the biggest impact during your follicular phase of the menstrual cycle.
Ovulation is the menstrual cycle phase when you are most likely to get pregnant. “The third phase of your menstrual cycle, ovulation, usually occurs around day 14 of a 28-day menstrual cycle,” says Dr Roskin. “During this phase, your ovary releases the mature egg from the follicle. This is caused by the release of luteinizing hormone (LH).” Ovulation lasts only 12 to 24 hours, says Dr. Shepherd.
At this point you will receive your most noticeable energy boost. That’s because estrogen levels are at their peak during ovulation, according to the Office on Women’s Health. This is a good time to do an exercise like a HIIT workout for beginners, says Vitti. She also explains that you don’t need as many calories during this phase, as research suggests that your resting metabolic rate, or rate of calorie burning at rest, hits its lowest point when you’re in the ovulation phase. Plus, “estrogen surges create heightened verbal and social skills,” making it the perfect opportunity to schedule that work meeting, according to Vitti. A few small studies have shown that the phases of the menstrual cycle marked by higher estrogen levels appear to coincide with improved verbal working memory, according to a review published in Frontiers in Neuroscience.
The luteal phase of the menstrual cycle
The luteal phase of the menstrual cycle (also called the premenstrual phase) is the last menstrual phase and lasts about 14 days. Specifically, it “occurs after the ovary releases the egg from the follicle,” says Dr. Roskin. “This would be approximately from day 15 to day 28 of a 28-day menstrual cycle.” (Note, this is not universal, as cycle lengths can vary.) (
Whether or not pregnancy occurred during ovulation determines what happens next. “If you become pregnant, your ovarian follicle, which has now become the corpus luteum, will continue to secrete progesterone,” says Dr Roskin. (The corpus luteum is a normal cyst formed from the material that once made up the ovarian follicle, according to the Cleveland Clinic.) “If you don’t get pregnant, the corpus luteum is reabsorbed [by your ovary], which causes progesterone and estrogen levels to decrease. This causes you to get your period and start the menstrual cycle again.”
Now is the time to prioritize rest. “During the luteal phase [of the menstrual cycle]is important to maintain a healthy sleep schedule,” says Dr. Shepherd. “Avoiding caffeine, alcohol, and added salt can also help prevent menstrual cramps.” Caffeine can disrupt sleep and worsen PMS symptoms, salty foods can contributes to bloating, and alcohol can increase levels of estrogen-disrupting hormones, leading to dehydration and bloating that make PMS symptoms more unbearable. (
As for you should eating, slow-digesting carbohydrates, and quality protein and fats are all a good idea, says Vitti. (ICYDK, slow-digesting carbohydrates, which are carbohydrates that are low on the glycemic index, cause a more gradual rise in blood sugar compared to carbohydrates that are high on the glycemic index, which can raise blood sugar levels.) Prioritizing these macronutrients in your diet can help keep your blood sugar levels stable, which is important during the luteal phase of the menstrual cycle as changes in estrogen to progesterone can impair insulin sensitivity, making blood sugar spikes more likely.
Skip endurance exercise during this menstrual cycle phase, or if you do engage in long bouts of cardio, make sure you’re fueling your body with plenty of those slow-digesting carbs. This will help combat the effects of a decline in estrogen throughout the luteal phase. “Because of the changes in estrogen and progesterone levels and the interaction with cortisol and insulin, long forms of cardio or endurance exercise without properly replenishing glucose can create a situation in which blood sugar drops and cortisol signals the body to use stored fat as fuel to compensate,” says Vitti. “In the long run when new calories are consumed, the body stores them as fat for the future. potential physical activity causing a glucose deficit.”
How do you know which menstrual cycle phase you are in?
If you hope to adjust your lifestyle accordingly, you need to know how to identify which phase you are in at any given time. “Many of my patients find that period tracking apps like Flo, Clue, and Eve are helpful in determining what phase of the cycle they are currently in,” says Dr. Shepherd. (
You can also try a DIY method that requires you to be really good at listening to your body. “Your mood can change and energy levels can fluctuate during different stages of the menstrual cycle,” reminds Dr. Roskin. To reiterate, “typically during the follicular and ovulation phase you may have relatively high energy levels, due to an increase in estrogen and progesterone, whereas when your estrogen and progesterone levels drop during the luteal phase and menstruation, some [people] find their energy can decrease. During the luteal phase, some people experience PMS symptoms (including bloating, headaches and mood swings) as your body prepares for menstruation.”
Counting the days from when your period started or ended can give you an indication of when you enter and exit certain phases of the menstrual cycle, but Dr. Shepherd warns that this “can be tricky as every cycle is different and hormone fluctuations can occur and shift a cycle.” If you have a relatively regular cycle, it will be easier, she says. However, not everyone fits within that norm, as “14 to 25 percent of women have irregular menstrual cycles,” according to the National Institutes of Health.
If you have an irregular cycle, a combination of tuning in to any cues from your body as well as using a period or ovulation tracking app is probably your best bet. “The irregularity of a cycle can be [consistently] with every cycle or only occasionally for some women, so it would also make it difficult to determine what phase of a cycle one might be in,” explains Dr. Shepherd. This is why you probably shouldn’t just be on those will ever want to rely on -changing body cues.
“No two people are exactly the same, but the more you pay attention to your personal signs and symptoms, the more in tune you’ll be with your own cycle,” says Dr. Shepherd. Whichever route you take, charting your menstrual cycle phases can provide useful insight into finding your optimal wellness.