How to Eat and Train around Menses
There are many ways to eat and train during the week of your period but most of us opt for either staying on track with planning as usual until we explode or chucking it all in the “F**k-it Bucket” while we stay home and eat like jerks. While both of these strategies are common, they may not be the best for your body or your health regimen.
Sliding way off the rails is most harmful to your progress. This creates an arduous and possibly dangerous loop of always having to “get back on the horse.” It’s not fun to have to muster all the discipline and resolve once every 4 weeks. After a week of being off-kilter, it usually takes another to get on track - only to be knocked off again right when you get in the groove. This is exhausting.
On the other hand, vigilantly staying on track is most harmful to your self-esteem. It’s not cool to feel like a failure. Never giving yourself a break or flexibility will lead to subpar performance and burnout on a macro scale. On a micro-scale, you will just feel like you are failing every month when your period comes around. It's silly to deny biology over and over again.
So how can we get through this time and land on top?
Ideally, we leave our moon time feeling refreshed and ready to jump back into action. We feel the time speed up and our motivation soar. But we can only feel this when we have been properly living in the groove. Otherwise, we will feel like our period itself is something to recover from.
Create some rules and rituals
One thing I like to do and instruct my clients to do is to save some special things for your moon time. Wear your favorite sweatshirt - not the rattiest one, but the one that feels like a hug when you wear it.
Create rules and rituals around the things that you do, even if they are minor. On the first day of my period, I am “allowed” to watch TV all day and in bed. I am allowed to eat as much food as I want and indulge a bit. I am not allowed to go on social media and I have to do a journal entry or draw. Honestly, as time goes on, I am gravitating more toward a screenless day or two during my period because I feel that the healing is more thorough with this practice.
You can get super woo and do incense or prayers, you can go in the opposite direction and watch TV all day. Whatever it is, it should feel like you get to do something special. Like you are getting always with something that is rare. Make sure your rituals are something you look forward to as a healing part of your process.
Reduce cramps through nutrition adjustments
It is so important to monitor your health and wellness through nutrition. When I talk about balancing hormones, my first plan of action is to clean up the diet. In general, if you are eating for menstrual health, you should NOT be eating a lot of refined sugar. Fruit is fine, but processed foods and foods with refined sugar will increase inflammation and make cramps, breast pain, and migraines much worse.
During your period, you should also be avoiding caffeine and alcohol. Both of these will increase inflammation and in the case of coffee, increase cortisol and stress. Avoid these during the first one or two days at least.
Seek out foods rich in omega 3 acids like flax seeds and fish. This greatly reduces inflammation and cramps. This is also a good time for carbohydrates as we will process them better versus in the luteal phase. Make sure to take car of gut health through probiotics and warm cooked foods. This is a time for rest at all levels - including the gut. We want foods that are easy to digest so have the kale and broccoli salads for before and after ovulation.
Adjust your workout
I used to take the first day of my period completely off, but I realized I was treating myself like I was sick instead of menstruating. I still advocate for this day to be a rest day but get some gentle movement in there to break up tension and physically release emotions from the body.
My main movement prescriptions are gentle yoga, walking, swimming, and mobility/self-massage techniques. If you do a lit of weightlifting, walking, mobility and self-massage are really great activities fro you to focus on during this time. I get many athletes telling me they would have a hard time taking “that many” days off but understand that no one is asking you to stop lifting for 5 days every month. It would be to replace those two hours of gym time with two hours of stretching, foam rolling, and massage from rolling on a tennis ball or softball for the first day or so. This spending the rest of the week lifting at sub max effort and including the same massage techniques.
For those of you that aren't competitive athletes, I still recommend some yin goals and low cortisol cardiovascular activity (aka: easy walking, swimming, or cycling). Get your blood moving but don't stress out. Yoga and gentle stretching are fantastic because you find tight places and actively release them.
Seek silence and reflection
There is the concept of The Red Trent in the Bible, but also many indigenous cultures and ancient traditions. Women often escaped to a sprite tent, far from the village to menstruate in peace. This is where women could privately and freely talk amongst themselves. Gathering advice, wisdom, and secrets of medicine and healing. This was also often the place where women birthed babies.
I advise all menstruating women to seek some solitude even for just a couple of hours. Making a promise to stay off your phone and away from social media is a nice way to really love yourself. We tend to think “relaxing” is watching TV or scrolling but all the colors, loud noises, flashing lights, and people talking to us is actually a recipe for stress. While it may be hard at first, finding activities that fill your mind and time in other ways is intensely rewarding and will help a lot of mental anxiety. Even if you pick up a book to read and end up falling asleep, this is still more productive for you during this time than scrolling on your phone. You may even end up with that “blissed out” feeling when you are on your period instead of stress!