Use your diet to help training through your menstrual cycle

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How to eat during your menstrual cycleArx0nt

What to eat, when

As your hormonal levels fluctuate through your menstrual cycle, symptoms and even tendency towards certain injuries can increase. For instance, as oestrogen and progesterone levels decrease, there's an increase in prostoglandins, which can drive an inflammatory response. So helping alleviate such symptoms by optimising your diet can help, and reduce the severity of symptoms. Read on for more details of each phase.

Phase one

From the first day of your period, considered day one of your cycle

Your hormone levels are at their lowest, triggering an inflammatory response. Your white cell count is also lower, increasing risk of illness. Boost iron levels with iron-rich foods like leafy green veg, beef, and beans. Include anti-inflammatory foods such as vegetables, nuts, seeds and salmon. Foods rich in omega-3s can also help alleviate symptoms – flaxseeds and chiaseeds, oily fish, walnuts. Your body is mainly using carbs for fuel, so up your carb intake before your longer runs.

Phase two

The Follicular phase begins after your period ends. Oestrogen levels start to increase in preparation for releasing an egg (ovulation). Ovulation occurs right at the end of this phase.

Your oestrogen levels rise but your progesterone is very low. You will probably find that your energy levels rise, so you can train harder but this needs to be supported by your diet. Include sources of collagen to aid soft-tissue recovery – kiwi fruit, berries, almonds and avocados. Add foods rich in vitamin C to help with muscle, tendon and ligament recovery. Consume protein after intensive sessions: eggs, cottage cheese, peanut butter or lean chicken.

Phase three

The luteal phase is often called the "high hormone phase", as there is lots of progesterone and oestrogen circulating around your body.

Hormone levels rise. You may feel less 'strong' and have an increased heart rate and appetite. For moderate exercise your body is using fats as its main fuel source, so increase your intake of healthy fats such as oily fish, unsalted nuts, seeds and avocados. If your run is over an hour, consider mid run carbs. Muscle breakdown may increase, so aid recovery with a protein-rich snack within 30 minutes of your run. Blood sugar levels may unstable, so reduce dips by including protein with every meal.

Phase four

The premenstrual phase, which happens just before you start your period.

Hormones decline sharply, with the inflammatory response causing PMS (pre-menstrual syndrome) symptoms. Near the end of this phase, your body switches from fats to carbs for fuel, so up your carbs. Counter cravings with protein-rich foods and slow-release carbs. Fruit, veg, eggs, nuts and other foods high in anti-inflammatories can help reduce symptoms. Avoid foods high in saturated fats, as these may worsen symptoms. Not sleeping? Try foods rich in melatonin, eg bananas and oats.

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