If you’ve ever wondered why chocolate cravings come with a vengeance, motivation shifts without warning, and your skin takes a monthly hit, this post is for you. And good news! You don’t need a PhD to understand how hormones impact all of the above. In fact, working in tandem with your body’s natural rhythms is equal parts science and intuition. To help get you started, we’re diving into the ebbs and flows of your menstrual cycle. More specifically, the second half of your cycle: the luteal phase.
Get ready to make peace with PMS and increase your energy. Trust us—once you sync your lifestyle with the rhythmic beat of your cycle, there’s no turning back. With our comprehensive guide, a healthy hormonal journey is only a scroll away.
Featured image by Riley Blanks Reed.
Luteal Phase Symptoms
If you track your cycle, the luteal phase begins after ovulation and ends once you bleed again. Lasting about 14 days, it’s characterized by rising progesterone levels. For better or for worse, common luteal phase symptoms run the gamut: breast tenderness, bloating, mood swings, irritability, fatigue, and heightened sensitivity to smells. Ultimately, keeping a pulse on these symptoms is key. After all, it’s the first step in cultivating hormonal balance.
A Menstrual Cycle Recap
Before we dig into the weeds of the luteal phase, let’s back up. The menstrual cycle is a complex, rhythmic process. It involves a series of hormonal changes and physiological events that prepare the body for conception. The cycle typically lasts around 28 days (although variations are common). Whether you’re besties with your menstrual cycle—or chatting about your period makes you squeamish—body awareness is empowering.
Two Main Menstrual Cycle Phases
The menstrual cycle is divided into two main parts: the follicular phase and the luteal phase.
First half: Follicular phase
The follicular phase begins on the first day of menstruation and lasts until ovulation (about 14-18 days). During this phase, follicles grow in the ovaries, each containing an egg. As these follicles mature, they produce estrogen. This thickens the uterine lining—in preparation for a potential pregnancy.
Second half: Luteal phase
As mentioned, the luteal phase follows ovulation and lasts until the start of your next menstrual period. After ovulation, progesterone rises. If pregnancy is in the cards, this hormone plays a crucial role in creating an environment for a fertilized egg.
How to Know if Your Luteal Phase Is Normal
Understanding the regularity of your cycle is a spyglass into the health of your luteal phase. For example, a normal luteal phase usually ranges from 10-16 days. If you aren’t currently keeping tabs, track your cycle. Do this for several months. Note the duration between ovulation and the start of menstruation. This can help you identify any irregularities! Common signs of a healthy luteal phase include:
- Consistent cycle length.
- Minimal PMS (tender breasts, intense mood swings, etc.).
- A basal body temperature rise after ovulation.
- Normal levels of cervical mucus.
Supporting a Healthy Luteal Phase
As a whole, supporting your reproductive health—and hormonal balance—is crucial for a healthy luteal phase. Below are tried-and-true tips for nourishing this phase of your menstrual cycle.
Eat with healthy hormones in mind
This goes without saying, but chronic stress is a hormone foe. It affects the regularity (and ease of) your menstrual cycle. Particularly during the luteal phase, incorporate stress-reducing activities. Our favorites? Meditation, yoga, and breathwork.
Before your period starts again, prioritize moderate-intensity exercises. Brisk walking, cycling, or swimming are great. Strength training, specifically, can help alleviate bloating and fatigue (common luteal phase symptoms). Ultimately, try to move consistently and stay hydrated. Your blood sugar will thank you, too.
Get quality sleep
Last but not least, sleep. It’s crucial for hormonal regulation. Aim for 7-9 hours of quality sleep to support overall reproductive health.
What foods should you eat during the luteal phase?
Diving deeper into nutrition, certain foods can actually help manage (read: minimize!) luteal phase symptoms. First and foremost, include lean protein: poultry, eggs, fish, non-GMO tofu, legumes, etc. These can mitigate PMS cravings and aid in satiation. Second, focus on fiber-rich carbs, like 100% whole grains, fruits, and veggies. These aid in digestive health and blood sugar balance.
Third, add healthy fats to your plate—avocados, nuts, and olive oil. These ingredients help with hormone production. Last but not least, don’t forget magnesium. Leafy greens, seeds, and dark chocolate can help alleviate bloating and mood fluctuations.
Cycle Syncing During Your Luteal Phase
To bring this full circle: your menstrual cycle isn’t just about a monthly, dreaded period. It’s a powerful, natural process that impacts your entire being. To foster a deeper connection with your body, say hello to cycle syncing. Ultimately, its premise is to live in tandem with your hormones. Here’s how you can do so during the luteal phase:
Tailor your exercise routine to match your energy levels. As mentioned, consider incorporating activities like pilates or strength training during the luteal phase. Save high-intensity workouts for the follicular phase.
Plan Social Activities
Indulge your increased social energy—and desire to network—during the follicular phase. Reserve the luteal phase for more introspective and low-key get-togethers (movie night, anyone?).
Increasing Energy During the Luteal Phase
Notice decreased energy before your period starts? You’re not alone. Fortunately, lifestyle changes can effectively manage your luteal phase symptoms. Aim to eat balanced meals and protein-rich snacks throughout the day. Stable energy comes from wholesome foods. Additionally, stay hydrated. From herbal teas to lemon water, hydration keeps energy levels up. If possible, get fresh air. An afternoon walk a day keeps the afternoon slump away. Last but not least, hone in on your sleep hygiene.
Making the Most of Your Luteal Phase
Now that you’re an expert on the second half of your cycle, it’s time to implement what you’ve learned. These lifestyle and dietary practices could be game-changing. Cheers to a happy and healthy menstrual rhythm!