When it comes to working with our biological clocks, allow me to introduce the new kid in town; our infradian rhythm! Up to this point it was our circadian rhythm that was the more popular one as it is responsible for regulating our sleep-wake cycle and was associated with our having healthy guts, with boosting our memory and mood and with our immune system. But what about the infradian rhythm? Our infradian rhythm is connected to women’s hormones and is directly related to our menstrual cycle and can affect our lives in more ways than one. What is exactly is our infradian rhythm and why should we be aware of it?
What Is Our Infradian Rhythm?
The infradian rhythm measures a period of time that is connected to our menstrual cycle. In other words we could say that our “menstrual cycle is considered a monthly infradian rhythm”, and it influences most of our bodily functions including our brain, immune system, metabolism, reproduction, and even our stress response.
How Exactly Does It Influence Us?
To elaborate on the above, the infradian rhythm is responsible for creating a 25% change in our brain chemistry over the period of a month and among the processes affected is our metabolism and cortisol levels. But with a few tweaks in our lifestyle we should be able to work with our bodies in accordance to this cycle.
If we should imagine that our 28-day cycle is split into four parts that our based on our menstrual cycle then our lives should look something like this.
# Phase 1: This period lasts between seven to ten days from the moment our period stops. Our hormones are behaving during this phase and it is recommended that we tailor our food to include plenty of veggies and light grains such as oats. Go for an early morning walk or even a lunch-time exercise session can be beneficial.
# Phase 2: This is the ovulation phase and it usually lasts three to four days and it’s signified with a sharp increase in estrogen as well as the luteinizing hormone (LH) which controls the functions of the ovaries. It is believed that women would feel especially active during this phase, and their cravings will go towards fried carbs, so beware. Your body actually needs raw foods during this phase so bring on the light grains, and if you want to treat yourself to some chocolates, alcohol, or even more coffee this is the best phase for it. You can do trampoline exercises as well as dance classes.
# Phase 3: This is called the luteal phase and it follows the ovulation phase and lasts for 10 to 14 days. Your hormones are at their peak now including estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, and cortisol, and they will drop to their lowest just before your period. You probably have the tendency to want to finish up on projects. You are craving comfort foods at this stage so fill up with healthy options such as sweet potato and pumpkin. It is recommended to exercise mid-day or later in the day by doing pilates, and strength training, but tone down the cardio.
# Phase 4: This is your menstrual cycle phase which lasts between three to seven days and where estrogen will be at its lowest. To maintain your energy and mood concentrate on a diet that consists of high-protein foods and healthy fats, you are also encouraged to include some wild rice, mushrooms, seaweed and watermelons to the menu. Go for a walk or practice gentle yoga but not during the morning.
It is believed that if you follow your infradian rhythm in terms of diet as well as exercise you will be able to stabilise your bodily functions, energy and mood, as well as curb your cravings which will help in maintaining your weight. It is said that the US women’s football team train according to the infradian cycle, while others try to schedule their more arduous tasks during their ovulation phase to avoid burn-out. More research is probably needed on the subject but it wouldn’t hurt to start here!