What to Eat on Your Period, Before, and After to Increase Energy

Did you know there are hormonal changes happening all throughout your menstrual cycle (way beyond just “that time of the month”) that are affecting everything from your energy and motivation to your brain function and mental capacity…  awareness of these phases, and knowing what to eat on your period, before, and after to best support your body can make a world of difference for your energy, brain power, and how you feel overall.

I didn’t know much about how it all worked until well into adult years…

Agh, when I think about all the things I never knew about my body until I was in my 30s I cringe… 

And then I get mad. 

I learned about the menstrual cycle the same way I imagine most women do… as this inconvenient, totally embarrassing shameful thing that happens to girls once a month. 

The truth is though, there’s so much more to our cycles than just “that time of the month” (rolls eyes). 

We women have an entire rhythm all our own. 

This is the equivalent of what we’re doing in our monthly menstrual cycle — we completely ignore it. 

Because it was never introduced to us. 

Meet your Menstrual Cycle – an infradian rhythm

Your menstrual cycle is an infradian rhythm, which is a cycle that reoccurs more or less often than a day. Yep, they never covered this part in that infamous “talk” in fifth grade.

Pregnancy is an infradian rhythm. So is migration, hibernation. They all follow a natural cycle that’s set by nature and follows a pattern other than 24 hours.

Think of it like our circadian rhythm… one we’re all much more familiar with. Our circadian rhythm is the one that follows the sun – like our daily body clock.

Our menstrual cycle is a monthly (usually about 28 days, give or take) body clock.

And it affects our brains, hormones, metabolism — virtually every part of our body, the same way our circadian rhythm does.

Just imagine if we ignored our circadian rhythm the way most of us ignore our menstrual rhythms… it would be like trying to start our day at 2am! Sometimes things just don’t work.

In a lot of ways that’s what we’re doing with our menstrual cycle and it’s leading to exhaustion and burnout.

When we can work with it, though harmony with our menstrual cycle can not only affect our health but will also make life easier. Think more ease and flow, less stress, better energy. All just by working with our body instead of against it.

The Menstrual Cycle and The Difference Between Women and Men

For most of us we get up, we do the same things each day, we do the same workout, we do the same job or activities. Then we come home, wrap up the day, wind down, go to bed, then wake up and do it all again.

This works great for men. The way men’s bodies work they run on a 24 hour cycle. They don’t have an infradian rhythm. So going for the same morning run, drinking the same morning coffee, and following the same daily routine suits their biology.

Women are more complex (think magic vs. maintenance here)… stay with me… 

  • Have you ever felt like your body just wouldn’t let you do your normal workout? 
  • Are there times you feel more creative and inspired than others? 
  • Have you ever caught yourself instinctively cleaning out the junk drawer? 
  • Do you ever have days when you can feel your energy is turned inward – maybe you’re more reflective or feel “in your head”? 

OK, now, when you have these moments try asking yourself — where am I in my menstrual cycle? And notice…. 

The menstrual cycle is a 4-phase cycle. Depending on where you are in that cycle, your biology and energy is more primed for different things (think running vs. yoga). Here’s what’s happening in each phase…. 

What to Eat on Your Period, Before, After – Support Energy in Each Phase of the Menstrual Cycle

Follicular phase

(morning, spring) 

This is the time just after your period has ended. It’s the time of new beginnings (think spring or early morning energy). It’s when we’re best supported for planning and initiation. This is a great time to brainstorm, start a new project, try something new.

What to Eat in the Follicular Phase (after your period)

Estrogen is rising in this phase and so is your energy. Complex carbohydrates like whole grains, sweet potatoes, and legumes can help sustain your energy levels and fuel more intense movement (this is a great time for a HIIT workout or Soul Cycle class!). Vitamin B-rich foods like eggs, leafy greens, and avocados can help promote a balanced mood.

Ovulatory phase

(mid-day, summer)

This is when you’re ovulating (and also your most fertile) which means you’re also at your most attractive, most magnetic. This is the best time to connect and be visible. It’s when higher intensity workouts may feel really good and energizing. Communication and connection skills are on point so it’s a good time to make that pitch.

What to eat in the ovulatory phase

Continuing to eat foods to support energy production will be helpful in this phase too, as well as increasing fiber. Complex carbohydrates like sweet potatoes, squashes, whole grains, and legumes.

Luteal phase

(afternoon, fall)

This is when energy begins to shift more inward. We can become more focused, detail-oriented. It’s a good time to finish projects, tie up loose ends, get analytical (ie. analyze data or clean out your closet). Workout wise this is a better time for something more low key, like walking or yoga with some strength training.

What to eat in the luteal phase (before your period)

During the luteal phase progesterone levels rise, which can increase your appetite and resting metabolic rate. Try eating heartier meals with added protein and fat, and lower carbohydrate to keep your blood sugar levels balanced. Foods rich in magnesium can be extra helpful at this time, like pumpkin seeds, cashews, and dark chocolate. Also avoiding inflammatory foods like refined carbohydrates (breads, cakes, cookies), as well as limiting caffeine and alcohol, which can trigger menstrual cramps. 

Menstrual phase

(night, winter)

This is when we’re designed to rest and reflect. Our right and left sides of the brain are most interconnected and we have the most access to our intuition. It’s a good time to make decisions, journal, meditate, and reflect on what’s going well and what’s not so you can adjust. Movement is best kept gentle – walking and yoga are good here. Listen to your body.

What to eat on your period (menstrual phase)

Foods that are rich in iron, like red meat, poultry, fish, lentils, beans, and green leafy vegetables, can help replace iron lost from bleeding. Vitamin C helps you absorb iron as well. Protein-rich foods like fish, meat, and beans can help ease cramps and prevent anemia from blood loss if you may be vulnerable to that.

Working with Your Menstrual Cycle to Increase Energy & Productivity

When we connect to this rhythm and use it to enhance our energy and our lives, magic happens. And burnout doesn’t.

THIS is how we protect our energy. And harness it to do the most good.

Obviously we can’t plan everything around our biological clock. But we can be strategic with it and organize some of the big things that are within our control. 

Here’s a few examples of what following the cycle looks like in real life….

  • Block off time just after your period (follicular phase) to brainstorm new ideas for work.
  • Plan more dinner with friends, nights out, and events during the first two weeks of your cycle (follicular and ovulatory).
  • Go to a networking event during ovulation (your energy at that time will draw people to you).
  • Take a kickboxing class during the ovulatory phase.
  • Tackle any at home organization projects (like cleaning out the junk drawer) in the luteal phase.
  • Opt for gentle yoga, meditation or skip the workout during the menstrual phase.
  • Review goals, assess your progress, and make adjustments based on what you want during the menstrual phase.

Cool, right? 

I can’t stop thinking about how different the experience of “the talk” would be if it was about THIS vs. how to hide a pad in your sleeve and get to the bathroom without anyone noticing. 

If we learned how to listen to our bodies instead of feeling shame about them.

I’m holding a vision for something so much more for or daughters — for future of generations of all women.

We’re taking back the keys, ladies. The keys to our bodies that have been hidden from us for so long. Here’s to handing them to our daughters so they can unlock their magic, just like we are.

If you want to learn more about your menstrual cycle check out the work of Alissa Vitti, a fellow health coach and women’s health expert who’s at the forefront of this research and education. I haven’t read her new book In the Flow yet – it’s on my list. Her first book Woman Code is still one of my favs. 

P.S. If this fires you up like it does me and has you feeling inspired and wanting to reconnect with your own body and your own feminine super powers, this is what we do in my functional health coaching practice. Interested? Schedule a time to chat with me here.

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