We are often told that tracking and monitoring our menstrual cycle is important but it’s easy to forget why.

 

Here we have summed up some of the most important reasons for tracking your cycle, from helping to know when your period is coming, managing your symptoms to tailoring your food and training to each phase and spotting any potential menstrual dysfunctions and irregularities.  

 

Tracking your cycle will help you to learn more about YOU; everyone is different, so cycle length, symptoms, and bleed lengths can all vary from person to person.

 

How to track your cycle:

Firstly, we need to know how to track our cycles. You can monitor and track your cycle in a number of ways. The easiest options are in the FitrWoman app, or by using a calendar, in a diary or notebook.

 

The FitrWoman app is designed to help girls and women track their cycles, log their symptoms, and note down how they feel to enable them to learn more about their body, exercise and nutrition.

 

There are many reasons you may want to track your menstrual cycle, here are just six!

 

1.    Know which hormonal phase you are in throughout your cycle

 

At FitrWoman, we break the phases down to Phases 1, 2, 3 and 4. See our separate article explaining the different phases here. Knowing which phase you are in is important as it is linked with the altered hormonal profile at that time of the cycle and helps identify the effects those hormones may be having on your physiology.

 

Everyone is different but if you are tracking your cycle, you will be able to build up knowledge of your symptoms throughout your cycle as well as know when you are due to start menstruating, when you may experience pre-menstrual syndrome and when you’re most likely to feel energised and on top of the world!

 

2.    Know when your period is coming, to be proactive and prepared!

We’d definitely recommend always carrying your choice of sanitary protection in your bag. When you have recently started your period or have recently come off hormonal contraception, your cycle length can be irregular, so it is a great idea to always have products ready just in case. However, tracking your cycle can enable you to be prepared when it comes to sanitary products and feel in control.

 

You can also be proactive and prepared with regards to menstrual cycle symptoms; if you track your cycle this enables you to build your knowledge of when you may struggle with particular symptoms and by knowing when your period is due, you can plan your training and daily tasks around your symptoms and bleed to ensure you are as stress-free as possible on the days this will occur.

 

3.    Manage your symptoms and work with your natural physiology

By tracking your menstrual cycle you may be able to spot a trend when it comes to certain symptoms occurring in certain phases of your cycle. You can then proactively attempt to manage these whether that be through your diet or the type of exercise you undertake. For example, yoga, Pilates and low intensity exercise have been found to reduce symptoms such as lower back ache and period cramps, and oily fish intake is associated with lessened PMS.

 

Increasing one or two more pieces of fruit and vegetables into your diet may also help to mitigate the effects of increased inflammation in your body during phase 4 (days leading up to your bleed) and phase 1 (during your bleed/period).

 

4.     Tailoring your nutrition and exercise/ training to your hormonal phase

 

Your body has different nutritional requirements in different phases of your menstrual cycle and you may also wish to plan competitions/heavy training sessions around your cycle if you suffer badly from symptoms.

 

Many symptoms are believed to be caused by an increase in baseline inflammation which typically happens during phase 1 and 4 of your cycle. This can be improved by changing the food you eat including antioxidants such as fruit and vegetables, and anti-inflammatory foods (such as fish, nuts, seeds and berries). 

 

In the follicular phase (phases 1 and2), your body is better at using carbohydrates as a fuel and in the luteal phase (phases 3 and 4) it is better at using fats. Your metabolic rate also increases in the luteal phase so you may feel hungrier and need to fuel more! To help manage this, eating little and often can stop sudden cravings and reaching for unhealthy foods.

 

Meanwhile reducing caffeine, foods high in salt and ultra-processed foods can also help reduce inflammation and consequently symptoms too.

  

Over the menstrual cycle your body may need more recovery at certain times and is better suited to different types of training across the phases- for tips around this head to the FitrWoman app. Using this knowledge to your advantage can help you train smart and get the most out of your training.

 

In phase 1 and 4, where your body is experiencing high inflammation and is low in hormones progesterone and oestrogen, you may notice this impacts your recovery from exercise. You may need an extra day of recovery between hard sessions, oran increased focus on recovery strategies. You may also want to avoid high amounts of high intensity training in these phases if you feel particularly fatigued.

 

In phase 2, when oestrogen levels increase, your body may respond better to strength training and high intensity training as oestrogen facilitates the recovery of muscle tissues to help them build back stronger following the sessions.

 

In phase 3, where your body is better at using fat as a fuel, you may find you respond better to longer, endurance focused, steady-state training.

 

By tracking your cycle, you can plan your training based on the phase you are in, factor your cycle into any training log, and help optimise your performance.

 

FitrWoman contains many different nutritional and behavioural strategies in the app which you can use to help reduce different symptoms.

 

 

5.     Use your cycle as a vital sign of health

Your menstrual cycle is a key indicator of your overall health – men don’t have this luxury!

 

Missing a period or your cycle becoming elongated could be your body’s way of telling you that there is something wrong or out of balance. It could be caused by things such as increased psychological stress, over-training or under-fuelling.

 

If you track your cycle it will help you notice when your cycle is changing or is irregular and enable you to work out what is causing it.

 

Typically, optimising your fuel (looking at macro and micro nutrient intake as well as energy deficits across a day), reducing your training intensity and/or volume and taking more time for sleep and recovery can help restore a regular cycle.

 

A change to your cycle can also be caused by increased psychological stress. If you notice your cycle length changing but you are eating adequately and training sensibly it may be because you are particularly stressed in other aspects of your life. It is important to note that this might not be conscious psychological stress, depending on your coping mechanisms.

 

This could indicate a need to slow down and use some strategies to manage and reduce your stress levels such as going for walks, baking, painting, talking to friends and family, doing mindfulness or meditation, or whatever helps you feel better mentally.

 

6.    Identifying a possible menstrual dysfunction/irregularity 

 

Menstrual irregularities are incredibly common but often go undiagnosed or ignored.

 

Women often believe that it is normal if their menstrual cycle is painful and keeps them out of school/work/physical activity, but this is not true!

 

A ‘normal’ menstrual cycle should not cause crippling pain or stop you from carrying on with your daily activities.

 

There are many underlying causes that could be contributing to a particularly debilitating menstrual cycle such as premenstrual syndrome (PMS), pre-menstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), endometriosis, adenomyosis, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and ovarian cysts to name a few. All of which can be treated to help improve your symptoms.

 

By tracking your symptoms and cycle you may start to notice certain patterns emerging that could indicate a menstrual irregularity. It will also help when you go to your doctor to bring a record of your symptoms and cycle which will help them make the correct diagnosis more quickly.

 

Equally if you start to notice your cycle elongating (oligomenorrhea) or missing a cycle completely, keeping a record of when this started and how long it has gone on for is important once again to help the doctor with a future diagnosis.

 

And, if you miss your cycle for three consecutive months or more (for no known reason such as pregnancy) you should consult your doctor as you may be suffering from amenorrhea (an absence of menstruation or having a period)which, when caught early, is often easy to rectify through some simple lifestyle changes.

  

Be in tune with your body and start tracking your menstrual cycle with the FitrWoman app for free today. Click to download for iOS and for Android.

Do you have a question? Contact us now!

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