Our bodies, as ladies, go through a 28-day hormone cycle, consisting of two main phases - the follicular phase (days 1-14) and the luteal phase (days 15-next period). During these phases, our hormone levels fluctuate, affecting our energy levels, cravings, and even our ability to build muscle. As such, it's essential to fuel our bodies with the right nutrients to support each phase of the cycle. In this post, we'll dive deeper into the nutritional recommendations for each phase, including key nutrients that support blood sugar balance, fiber balance, hydration, electrolytes, and more. So let's get started!
It's been a little bit since my last post, so head back and read Part 1 if you need a refresher on what the female hormone cycle looks like. Today, let's dive into key nutrients that can support each phase. Everything listed below is merely educational content and not unique or personalized to YOUR specific needs. You might also find that incorporating the primary nutrition principles of the eMpower method (Eat the Rainbow + Balance the Big Three) is a first step to ensure you’re obtaining adequate nutrition to support your hormone cycle. Read more about supplements and my thoughts on these products here, if you need a reminder.
Onto basic nutrition for your cycle!
Blood sugar balance is essential to maintain energy levels and prevent mood swings during the hormone cycle. Eating balanced meals and/or combo-snacks (fat + carb, protein + carb) every 3-4 hours can help maintain blood sugar levels. Incorporating fiber-rich foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes also helps with bowel rhythm and to prevent constipation.
Iron is crucial for menstruating women as they lose blood during their period. It doesn’t take much to reduce either our absorption of or access to this particular nutrient. Specifically, sustained high cortisol levels can signal for the liver to pump higher levels of hepcidin, lowering the capacity for iron absorption. This is just one example of where incorporating iron-rich foods, such as red meat, poultry, seafood, beans, and dark leafy greens, and eating them alongside vitamin C-rich foods can help boost iron absorption.
Hydration and electrolyte balance are also essential during the hormone cycle. Sodium and potassium, in particular, help maintain fluid balance in the body. Ensuring adequate water intake helps prevent dehydration and bloating.
Magnesium is another key nutrient. We know it plays a number of vital roles system-wide, specifically regarding energy production. Did you know that it can help reduce muscle cramping, support energy production (ATP), and adrenal/stress support?
The balance of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids is crucial for anti-inflammatory support during the hormone cycle. Incorporating omega-3 rich foods such as fatty fish, chia seeds, and flaxseeds can help balance out the omega-6 fatty acids found in the majority of foods that we tend to eat already.
Branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) are vital components of proteins that support muscle recovery during exercise. For women, there are times of our cycle where muscle catabolism increases and it becomes more challenging for us to build/repair muscle due to our hormone balance. This is why including proteins, specifically foods with BCAAs, is recommended both before and within 30-minutes post-workout.
A number of other nutrients, such as zinc, nitric oxide, and salicin (found in willow bark) can support/reduce PMS symptoms. Symptoms might include hormone-induced headache, cramping, inflammation, and more. These particular nutrients should be discussed with your nutritionist to determine the best way to incorporate - whether it’s food-focused or in supplemental form.
It's important to note that every woman's hormone cycle is unique, and what works for one person may not work for another. Just like I did myself, I recommend tracking your cycle for at least 3-4 months and notice trends, tendencies, and timing of your personal cycle. Incorporate nutritional recommendations as possible during your cycle and notice what might happen, change, or occur.
Understanding our hormone cycle and the different phases can help tailor our nutrition needs accordingly. It's crucial to prioritize blood sugar balance, iron, hydration, magnesium, omega-3 to omega-6 balance, BCAAs, and other nutrients during the hormone cycle. By tracking our cycle, incorporating these nutrients into our meal planning, and being mindful of our nutrition needs, we can feel more empowered and in control of our health and well-being. Ready to get started on this journey? Book your *free* strategy session today.
Resources - Check out my BookShop
ROAR by Dr. Stacy Sims
Nancy Clark’s Sports Nutrition Guidebook by Nancy Clark, MS, RD
Plant-Based Sports Nutrition by D. Enette Larson-Meyer, PhD, RDN and Matt Ruscigno, MPH, RDN
The Hormone Cure by by Sara Gottfried