Menstrual Cycle

by Michelle Smith in Education

Menstrual Cycle

          Quick Overview

An average cycle is 28 days. It has four stages with some overlap between them.

Day 1 is the start of the cycle, which is the first day of the period, the menstrual phase. Causing cramps, bloating, mood swings, tiredness to name but a few symptoms.

The Follicular Phase also starts on day 1 of the cycle and lasts until ovulation around day 14. Oestrogen rises during this stage and is the dominant hormone. You tend to feel more confident, happy, and motivated during this stage.

Ovulation Phase is the only time during the cycle that you can conceive. It’s around day 14 of the cycle.

Luteal Phase the final stage starting round day 15 and until day 28 or more depending on an individual. Progesterone is the dominant hormone. This is the stage you tend to feel tired, bloated, experience cravings and increased appetite.

So now we have a brief outline of the cycle lets look how each stage can affect our sleep patterns, exercise and nutrition.


Follicular phase oestrogen is the dominant hormone you tend to sleep deeper and longer due to oestrogen boosting your serotonin levels, the sleep regulating hormone. You may find with oestrogen coming to a peak from day 8 to 14 your physical energy is high so you may at times find it hard to switch off but once you do it’s a good night’s sleep.

From day 20 the middle of the Luteal phase oestrogen drops which brings down the level of serotonin. This can then cause insomnia, poor quality sleep, difficulty drifting off and waking up easily in the night leading you to feel tired and unrested the next day.


During the follicular phase you will find you feel fitter, stronger and more motivated due to oestrogen being the dominant hormone. So pick up that slightly heavier weight or push for some extra reps.

After ovulation we move into the Luteal phase. Oestrogen drops, our core body temperature rises. We can start to feel sluggish, bloated, tired and less motivated. At this point we don’t feel like exercise but it’s important we do; we just need to adapt and maybe lower the weights and take our sessions at a steadier pace. No personal bests or progressions within this phase.


As we have mentioned oestrogen is the dominant hormone during the follicular phase of the cycle. This hormone acts has an appetite suppressant. So during this stage is a great time to start a calorie deficit has you may find it easy to adhere to. Energy is high so keep carbohydrates at a good level to fuel this. Keep protein intake up to aid recovery of the muscles from them harder exercise sessions.

Has we reach week 3 of our cycle and enter the Luteal phase we tend to become more insulin resistant so be careful of your carbohydrate intake especially those refined sugary ones.

Week 4 is the last week and many of us also have the added effects of PMS. We tend to feel hungrier and may crave certain foods. Your core body temperature increases and so does your basal metabolic rate which explains the increased appetite. If you are on a weight loss journey you may find it a little harder to keep to a calorie deficit and maybe finding yourself on a bit of a binge cycle round this time. Try increasing your daily energy intake by 100-300 a day for this week only. Make the food choices nutrient dense, to give the body all the vitamins and minerals it requires to manage the food cravings, tiredness and possible bloating.

This is a general overview and we are all unique so tracking and monitoring your monthly cycle is a good idea. This way you can get a better understanding of yourself, your energy levels, moods and nutritional needs.

There are many apps you can download or simply keeping a dairy will help you.

Track, plan & be kind to yourself.