Food, Health and Wellness

Nutrition and the female hormonal cycle

If you’re like me, you’ve noticed that you crave certain foods at different times of the month. Simultaneously, but not unrelated, I’ve noticed that my energy levels to sustain certain types of exercise regimens vary throughout the month. It never really clicked in my brain (until recently) that my body likely needs certain nutrients and has varying energy levels as hormone levels vary throughout my cycle.

I recently listened to a podcast featuring Nathalie of the Fertility Awareness Project. It went into detail of tracking your fertility (whether your goal is pregnancy or to avoid pregnancy) and attuning yourself to what your body needs throughout the phases of your cycle. TL,DR: Learning how to be more aware of your body and serve it where it is presently.

I signed up for the Moon Cycle Magic newsletter on Nathalie’s website and have really enjoyed reading and taking note of the dietary suggestions and lifestyle recommendations for each phase of your cycle. I highly suggest you subscribe to the newsletter as it is an easy and informative read.

Nathalie’s website suggests some recommended reading materials. I took the chance to read one of the suggested books, WomanCode, and really resonated with the dietary and exercise suggestions. I’m not jumping into anything too drastic of a shift for my lifestyle, but I’ve planned my next four weeks of meals around some of the recommended nutritional suggestions AND am planning my exercise around some of these suggestions, too.

Some other articles I consulted included:

What Foods to Eat During Your Cycle (Moody Month)

What to Eat During Your Menstrual Cycle (Blood + Milk)

I’ve applied some of the things I’ve learned from my reading and have married it to the dietary approach I use – intuitive eating. I’ve experienced a lot of guilt surrounding eating certain types of foods and have reached a point of trying to eat foods that nourish me, but also forgive myself and be okay with treating myself when I’m really craving something specific. It’s a journey of finding balance and acceptance toward eating (versus fear or anxiety or strict rules around food). I like the idea of introducing certain nutrients into our meals, while still being kind to myself about what I eat.

I highly suggest you do your own research and talk to your physician before making major dietary shifts, but I’m sharing below a few quick facts about each phase of the cycle AND what I’m eating, how I’m putting my self care needs first and how I’m exercising during those phases. None of these changes are particularly drastic for me, but it was sort of fun meal planning around certain nutrients to add variety. I’ve made Pinterest boards with recipes for each phase, they are linked below, too.

Follicular Phase

Image by Jill Wellington from Pixabay

See my Follicular (Sprout) Phase Pinterest Board for Recipes

Food: Fermented foods, citrus fruit, eggs, cashews, pickles, salmon, light/fresh/vibrant foods like salad, buckwheat. I’m incorporating these into my weekly meals through the following recipes:

  • Kimchi with Udon (buckwheat) Noodles
  • Citrus fruit salad with grapefruit and blood oranges
  • Bagels with cashew cream cheese and smoked salmon (this is a TREAT)
  • A deconstructed spring roll salad with spinach, cucumber, carrot, cabbage
  • Kombucha

Exercise: This is a high energy phase of your cycle – this week I’ll incorporate cardio dance, vinyasa yoga, barre and kickboxing into my workout regimen.

Lifestyle: My creativity and mental stimulation is peaking – I’m making time to plan some creative house projects and working on some labor intensive projects at work that I’ve been putting off!

Ovulatory Phase

Image by LoggaWiggler from Pixabay

See my Ovulatory (Bloom) Phase Pinterest Board for Recipes

Food: Limited carb, higher in fat and protein, high fiber, asparagus, bell pepper, melon, berries, kale, almonds, pecans, corn and quinoa, salmon, shrimp and tuna. I’m incorporating these into my weekly meals through the following recipes:

  • Garlic shrimp asparagus skillet
  • Quinoa taco bowls
  • Vegan apple pecan chickpea salad
  • Cantaloupe cucumber salad
  • Fig oatmeal energy balls
  • Strawberry oatmeal smoothies

Exercise: This is the week where you have boundless energy and the ability to really schedule your week heavily. This week I’ll incorporate a bootcamp workout, cardio barre, HIIT workout and a spin class.

Lifestyle: This is the week, as I said, where you have the energy to be heavily scheduled. This is honestly a blessing because we have two majorly overscheduled days at work this week as out of town consultants come in to work on a project, so I’ll be working later nights and long days in the office.

Luteal Phase

Image by Tilly Parker from Pixabay

See my Luteal (Decay) Phase Pinterest Board for Recipes

Food: Incorporating brown rice, chickpeas, cruciferous vegetables, pumpkin, sweet potato and roasted vegetables. Antioxidant rich smoothies, apples, pears, raisins and dates, as well as reducing caffeine intake. I’m incorporating these into my weekly meals through the following recipes:

  • Kung Pao cauliflower
  • Apple winter salad with apples, raisins, pears
  • Sweet potato miso sushi
  • Carrot soup with roasted chickpeas
  • Pumpkin spice protein bites
  • My favorite antioxidant-rich Daily Harvest smoothies

Exercise: Your energy is on the decline in this phase as your menstrual phase approaches. I’m going to incorporate lower impact exercises like pilates, elliptical and walking this week.

Lifestyle: This phase of your cycle you are very attentive to details and are sometimes more “nesting”. This will be when I reconcile my monthly banking / pay my bills, plan my meals for the next month and take on some organizational projects around the house. I’ll also take more time to relax and have me time, like curling up with a cup of decaf tea and a book.

Menstrual Phase

See my Menstrual (Seed) Phase Pinterest Board for Recipes

Food: As your body is in the menstrual phase, you will need more water and nutrient-rich foods. Incorporate wild rice, kale, mushrooms, berries, cranberry, beets, sweet potato, miso, mussel, octopus, healthy fats and lean proteins and low glycemic carbs like beans, grainy breads and porridge. This was last week for me, so I incorporated these into my weekly meals through the following recipes:

  • Roasted tomatillo chickpea curry
  • Chickpea and roasted almond salad with cranberries
  • Cranberry oatmeal protein bites
  • Vegan smokey southwestern mac and cheese
  • Sushi with beets and miso soup

Exercise: Giving your body time and space to rest, stretch and gently exercise is important during the first few days of your menstrual cycle. I made time to practice gentle yoga, go for extended gently paced walks, and to do light weight lifting.

Lifestyle: I scheduled time to do absolutely nothing and RELAX this week. I also did things that kept me warm, such as enjoying hot tea, reading and snoozing on the couch under blankets and taking longer than normal showers with relaxing scented (lavender, all day baby) soap and lotion.

I’m only one and a half weeks into this hormonally intuitive eating, but I’m excited to give this a try for a few months and see how I feel. I’m already enjoying the new challenge of meal planning around certain key nutrients AND I feel that incorporating new types of exercises into my workout routine will keep things interesting.

3 thoughts on “Nutrition and the female hormonal cycle”

  1. It had honestly never occurred to me to take this kind of approach, but it makes total sense that your body will need different things across the cycle, and that this will relate to what type of exercise your can handle. Definitely something I’m going to be giving some thought! Thanks for sharing!


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