Welcome to a special Lumen edition on how to work out and eat according to your menstrual cycle. We have celebrity fitness trainer, Don Saladino, sit with Mia Dige, Metabolic Coach & Women’s Health Specialist, sharing valuable insights and tips on how women can synchronize their workouts and nutrition with their hormonal fluctuations throughout their menstrual cycle and ultimately boost their metabolism.
By understanding and leveraging their cycle, women can support hormonal balance and enhance their overall well-being.
Go ahead and watch their conversation or dive into the transcript - either way enjoy the time to explore how you can optimize your fitness and nutrition for each phase of your cycle.
Although it can vary for each woman, the average menstrual cycle lasts around 28 days, consisting of two main phases: the follicular phase and the luteal phase. The follicular phase begins with menstruation, followed by ovulation, and the luteal phase marks the period leading up to the next menstruation.
During the first half of the follicular phase, when menstruation occurs, it is beneficial to focus on consuming iron-rich foods such as red meat, lentils, liver pate, and spinach. These foods help replenish the body's iron levels, which may be depleted during menstruation.
Additionally, incorporating vitamin C-rich foods like bell peppers, broccoli, and citrus fruits aids in iron absorption. Regulating blood sugar is also crucial during this phase, as cortisol levels tend to increase. Opt for slow-absorbing carbohydrates and remember to stay well-hydrated.
In terms of workouts during the follicular phase, it is essential to listen to your body and be mindful of your energy levels. While every woman is different, many may experience discomfort, fatigue, or reduced motivation during this time.
Don advises scaling back on workout intensity and volume, focusing on compound movements—exercises that engage multiple joints—for maximum efficiency. By allowing yourself to relax and marinate in your workout session, you can still progress while being gentle with your body.
Lowering expectations and avoiding the pressure of "crushing" every session is key to maintaining a balanced approach to fitness.
In a society inundated with high-intensity workout videos and influencers pushing for maximum effort at all times, it's important to shift our mindset. Don reminds us that no one can give 110% in every training session, even seasoned professionals.
It's crucial to prioritize self-care and understand that progress can still be made with shorter, less intense sessions.
By letting go of the overwhelming noise and unrealistic expectations, you can embrace a more sustainable and holistic approach to fitness.
Working out and eating in harmony with your menstrual cycle can have a significant impact on your overall well-being. By understanding the different phases of your cycle and their corresponding hormonal changes, you can tailor your nutrition and workouts to support hormonal balance and optimize your fitness journey.
Remember, it's essential to be kind to yourself and listen to your body throughout the cycle. By embracing a balanced approach, you can cultivate a healthier relationship with fitness and nourish your body with what it needs at every stage of your menstrual cycle.
Mia: Welcome everyone, to a Lumen Talk today, a very special one on how to work out and eat for your cycle. So I am with experts, a real expert in fitness celebrity personal trainer Don Saladino.
Don: Thanks for having me on.
Mia: So Don and I are going to share some information and helpful tips on how you can basically work with your hormones and not against them during your cycle. So learning how to cycle sync your nutrition and workouts to balance your hormones, but also help you feel healthy and happy throughout your menstrual cycle. Don, you're ready? Let's go.
So for the average woman, the cycle is around 28 days, and it varies for each woman. Also, the symptoms we experience during each phase also vary. So we're gonna give general guidelines around nutrition and what hormones are fluctuating during each phase.
Now, there are two main phases to the menstrual cycle. We've got the follicular phase, the first half, and the luteal phase with ovulation in between. So let's start with the follicular phase, week one.
In week one, the first half of this follicular phase which is when women are bleeding, and this is a good week to kind of focus on iron-rich foods like red meat, lentils, liver pate, if you can stomach it, and spinach. These foods increase our iron, which we really need during this week. To optimize iron absorption, it's also important to remember to include vitamin C-rich foods like bell pepper, broccoli, and citrus.
Additionally during this phase, cortisol, a stress hormone, increases which may affect your appetite and blood sugar levels. Fueling up with slow-absorption carbs like beans, lentils, whole grains, peaches, plums, & apples will help to limit sugar cravings and regulate blood pressure.
As with all phases of the cycle drinking lots of water throughout is key throughout and helps fends off headaches, bloating and, ironically enough, water retention.
In regard to fitness and staying active during this week, every woman's different, but for the majority of us we are not feeling 100%, a little bit uncomfortable, maybe a bit tired, we don't feel like doing much. What is the key message around how we should recommend fitness?
Don: I recommended to back off on the intensity and volume. Scaling back and focusing on compound movements, which are multi-joint exercises, can give you a lot of benefits in a shorter session. It's important to relax, take your time, and lower your expectations. We often get overwhelmed by the pressure to crush every session, but consistency is more important than intensity.
Just getting in and moving is beneficial. Simply lowering your expectations and getting moving can help you feel better and maintain your progress. It's okay to do a shorter workout if you're feeling uncomfortable or tired.
Mia: Moving on to week two, the ovulation phase. This is when estrogen increases just before ovulation, leading to increased insulin sensitivity and fat burning potential. During this phase, it's recommended to consume starchy carbohydrates in the first half of the day to promote fat burn later on.
Healthy fats and fibers are also important to support the increase in estrogen. Omega-3 fatty acids found in oily fish, avocados, and nuts are beneficial. So what sort of fitness can we incorporate that really kind of supports this as our bodies becoming more efficient at burning fat and is more insulin sensitive.
Don : I think using the menstrual cycle as almost a gauge to back off at specific times during the month and put your foot on the gas is something that I've used to my advantage with a lot of my female clientele for the last you know 20 plus years. Resistance training, specifically, can increase the calories burned at rest and help with body composition changes. It's a misconception that women will get bulky from resistance training.
Mia: Moving on to week two, the ovulation phase. This is when estrogen increases just before ovulation, leading to increased insulin sensitivity and fat burning potential. During this phase, it’s recommended to consume starchy carbohydrates in the first half of the day to promote fat burn later on. Healthy fats and fibers are also important to support the increase in estrogen. Omega-3 fatty acids found in oily fish, avocados, and nuts are beneficial. Resistance training is a great way to promote fat burn during this phase.
Don: Resistance training, specifically, can increase the calories burned at rest and help with body composition changes. It’s a misconception that women will get bulky from resistance training. In reality, it’s challenging to put on significant muscle mass, and having more muscle actually increases calorie burn. Nutrition-wise, focusing on fibers and slow-burning carbohydrates can help stabilize energy levels and support overall hormone balance.
Mia: Okay, the next phase, so this is the luteal phase, the second half of our 28 days roughly. After ovulation, now is when progesterone is increasing, our estrogen has decreased. So we also see body temperature slightly higher during this week as well. So I think tying in with the fiber that we're promoting here, but also the fact that our body temperature is a little higher, drinking lots of water is a great place to start here.
Also, our blood sugar levels are destabilizing a little here. So again, going back to the slow-digesting carbohydrates that are full of fiber, adding those in also helps. Here, we've seen maybe some cravings increase hunger as well during this week, and that's okay.
Like you said, you're human and also you know, if you're hungry, it's the body saying, "Please feed me," right?
Protein is crucial during this phase. It helps to stabilize blood sugar levels and reduce cravings. So incorporating lean sources of protein like chicken, turkey, fish, tofu, or legumes into your meals can be really beneficial. And don't forget about the importance of healthy fats too. They help with satiety and hormone regulation. So including sources like avocados, nuts, seeds, and olive oil can be really helpful during this phase.
You mentioned earlier about strength training during ovulation, and it's true that as we age, we naturally lose muscle mass. During this week, when hormones are fluctuating, it's important to focus on preserving muscle mass. . So, where's a good place to begin with strength exercises?
Don: It really depends on what resources you have available to you. If you don't have access to a gym or dumbbells, don't worry! You can still do a bodyweight program. I often recommend a 15-minute workout routine that doesn't require any equipment.
During this phase, consistency is key in our training. We don't need anything too intense or high-impact. Restorative yoga or engaging in zone two cardio can be beneficial. Zone two refers to a heart rate range of about 120 to 150 beats per minute, which can be achieved through activities like a relaxed incline walk on a treadmill, a slow jog, or even incorporating restorative yoga into your routine.
Mia: Yeah. And also I think going back to metabolism, you know, it's really important to do everything we can nutrition wise and exercise wise to preserve that muscle mass because it's going to improve our metabolism. And it's going to improve our ability to shift into carbon and fat burn. So that's always something we need to bear in mind in every phase of our menstrual cycle.
Mia : In the final phase, which is the second half of the luteal phase before menstruation (week four), many of us may experience PMS symptoms like moodiness, fatigue, and difficulty sleeping. It's important to prioritize improving our mood and sleep during this week. Including foods that boost serotonin, known as the "happy hormone," can be beneficial.
Leafy greens, eggs, cashews, and tofu are great additions to our nutrition plan. We should also be mindful that cortisol, the stress hormone, tends to increase during this phase, which can hinder our body's ability to burn fat. If you're using intermittent fasting as a weight maintenance strategy, it's best to be cautious and avoid prolonging the fasting window too much, especially when cortisol levels are already elevated.
When it comes to promoting good sleep and fighting fatigue in week four, incorporating foods high in magnesium can be helpful. Dark chocolate, bananas, spinach, and pumpkin seeds are rich in magnesium. If you're not a fan of spinach, you can try adding it to your smoothies along with a banana to still get its benefits.
Creating a sleep-promoting environment and including serotonin-boosting foods in our nutrition is a great starting point.
Some women we do actually we can feel the stress we can feel the stress hormones increasing and we feel it feel a little bit agitated, a little bit anxious.
What can we do when it comes to exercise and stress when it comes to exercise and stress, what can we what should we be focusing on here because, again, there's a fine line right exercising to help alleviate stress and some exercise.
Don: When it comes to training, we often forget about the impact of training stress and the importance of finding a balance. There's a line we can cross where things become too much for our bodies to handle.
Our energy levels fluctuate, and it's crucial to be aware of that. Now, when people ask me about training while being sick, I usually suggest that light exercise can be beneficial. However, pushing too hard can overwhelm the body and hinder proper recovery.
You can simply go for a walk in your backyard, feeling the grass beneath your feet and enjoying the fresh air to soak up some vitamin D. It's important to note that some people may feel incredible and have the motivation to engage in training, and if it makes them feel better afterwards, I wouldn't discourage them from doing so. But for most women, it's important to take it easy during this week.
Going for nice, long, and relaxing walks can be a great option. Put on your headphones, multitask, and make a phone call to a loved one while you enjoy your walk.
Personally, my wife and I love taking a stroll to the beach. We can sit, talk, and cover a nice three-mile distance without pushing ourselves too hard. Our heart rates usually don't exceed 90 beats per minute. So engaging in exercise activities like that is what I hope most women can do at the very least.