Centr Team

From menstruation to menopause: how to eat & train at every stage

Centr Team

We know hormones can impact just about every part of a woman’s life – mood, energy levels, appetite, sleep. So shouldn’t your hormones also influence your health and fitness choices?

Research is only just beginning to scratch the surface when it comes to understanding how your menstrual cycle and the stages of menopause impact physical performance.

Let’s take a look at what we know so far, so we can get better at listening to our bodies and learn how to be our best selves at every life stage.

It’s important to note that hormonal fluctuations related to menstruation, perimenopause and menopause are highly individual and variable. Always listen to your body and talk to a doctor if you have concerns about your hormones.


Strength training should be a priority at every stage of your life.

Training and your menstrual cycle

Your hormone levels rise and fall during your menstrual cycle. (Unless you are taking an oral contraceptive – more on that below.)

Estrogen (oestrogen) levels, for example, peak during the follicular phase, which begins on the first day of menstruation and ends with ovulation. During the luteal phase, which begins after ovulation, estrogen release slows down and progesterone levels rise.

These hormonal shifts impact everything from your mood to your energy levels and body temperature. But the symptoms of these hormonal changes are far from consistent, which explains why some have to drag themselves out of bed when they get their period, while others experience a surge in energy.


Period blues? Research shows that cardio exercise (like a HIIT Strength session with Ashley) is an effective way to boost your mood.

While research in this field is still limited, one study found that the menstrual cycle did not affect strength in athletes, another found that subjects showed a higher gain in muscle strength and size when training in the follicular phase when compared to the luteal phase.

For now, the only definitive statement that can be made about menstruation and fitness is that your energy levels and capabilities are likely to vary during your cycle.

Until the research catches up, tracking your own menstrual cycle – taking note of how you feel and perform – is your best bet for unlocking your ideal routine.

While we can’t tell you exactly which kind of exercise to do at each stage of your cycle, certain types of training can help you to deal with common symptoms.

  • Feeling down? Try cardio exercise, which research says is the most effective kind for improving mood.
  • Painful period? In news that will surprise no one: treatment for period pain is also a fairly new area of research. But there is decent evidence (and plenty of anecdotal accounts) that exercise can significantly reduce the feeling of painful cramps. Try going for a walk or some light stretching or yoga to ease cramps.
  • Fatigued or flat? Exercise helps your body to create more energy! Try a challenging but low-impact session like yoga with Tahl or Pilates with Sylvia.
  • Feeling great? The hormonal swirl of your cycle means your energy will surge at certain points. Take advantage of it and tackle those tough workouts!

What about if you're on the pill?

There are two main types of oral contraceptive pills: those which provide a steady supply of both synthetic progesterone and estrogen, and those that supply the body with synthetic progesterone only.

The steady supply of hormones means you may not have the same symptoms or fluctuations in nutritional needs. A 2020 study showed that taking the pill that contains combined synthetic hormones resulted in female athletes having one consistent level of performance.

Is gaining muscle more difficult when on the pill? A recent study indicated that it impairs muscle gains in young women, but the sample size was small, and more research is needed to make any definitive statements.

If you have any questions or concerns about your oral contraception, including its impact on your performance, we recommend making an appointment to discuss it with your doctor.

Planning nutrition during your cycle

According to Centr nutrition expert Angie Asche, if you’re eating well to fuel your training and listening to your body and appetite, you don’t necessarily need to change your meal plan at different points in your menstrual cycle.

However, these nutrition tips from Angie could give you a boost.

During the luteal phase (from ovulation to menstruation), she suggests that you:

  • Listen to your body and add a small snack (100-200 calories) to balance energy levels if required.

  • Focus on healthy fat sources to cater for increased fat oxidation, like nuts, seeds, avocado, and fatty fish.

  • Increase protein intake, as your body is also burning through protein during this phase.

  • If you’re struggling with PMS symptoms, consuming food rich in magnesium and omega 3s can help.


If you’re low on energy, try adding nutrient-dense low-GI carbs to your diet – like the ones in our No-bake Cranberry Bar.

During the follicular phase, Angie recommends that you “eat plenty of iron-rich foods like red meat, salmon and green leafy vegetables as you are losing blood”.

Getting enough iron if you’re vegan or vegetarian

If you are menstruating each month, you run a higher risk of anemia (anaemia) if you’re not consuming adequate iron in your diet.

“It’s an unfortunate fact that iron is more easily absorbed (because it has better bioavailability) from animal food sources than it is from plant-based foods,” Angie says.


Combining iron-rich foods with vitamin C – like the combo of lemon and chickpeas on this plant-based sandwich – aids mineral absorption.

So how do you make up for the iron shortfall on a plant-based diet? Try Angie’s tips:

  • Prioritize iron-rich plant foods including legumes, soy products, seeds, leafy greens, and whole grains.

  • Enhance iron absorption by consuming iron-rich foods alongside a source of vitamin C. For example, you could have a glass of orange juice with dinner.

  • Consume adequate plant protein through each phase of your cycle. The meal plans on Centr have you covered here!

When you reach perimenopause

At this stage – which begins in the early-to-mid 40s for most – you hit the hormone roller coaster.

The decline of progesterone and estrogen is not a straight line, which can lead to symptoms including brain fog, insomnia, mood swings and period changes or irregularity.

“An elevated core temperature means you’ll need to focus on fluid and electrolyte intake to replenish what you lose through sweat – especially when you’re training,” says Angie.


With estrogen-rich edamame, salmon for omega 3s and plenty of veg, this power bowl is the perfect combo for perimenopause symptoms.

Angie’s nutrition advice for perimenopause:

  • Reduce caffeine and alcohol consumption, as well as spicy foods, to help to regulate your core temperature.

  • Consume foods high in estrogen (e.g. soy, tempeh, edamame, flaxseeds) to reduce the severity of hot flashes.

  • Increase your intake of plant foods such as legumes, nuts, seeds, fruit and vegetables.

  • Ensure regular intake of omega 3s to help counter any decline in cognition.

When you reach menopause

You’re officially menopausal when it has been 12 months since your last period.

If strength training isn’t already a key part of your training routine, this is the time to make it a priority! Hitting the weights is a must for bone health and can help to prevent the age-related loss of muscle mass.


Centr Fusion blends fitness and mindfulness in a hybrid program that will boost your mood and your strength.

One of the main concerns Angie sees in her work with menopausal athletes is increased belly fat. “This occurs due to the triple whammy of decreased estrogen, increased insulin resistance and the decline in muscle mass,” she says.

For all of these reasons – so you can continue training, to support good bone health, to avoid gaining excess fat – prioritizing your nutrition becomes even more important.

Angie recommends keeping these nutrition tips in mind during menopause:

  • Be mindful of the carbohydrates you consume. Eating a lot of refined carbs can spike your blood glucose – the aim is to keep those levels stable.

  • Be sure to eat high-quality protein at each meal and post-workout to help prevent muscle loss.

  • It’s essential that you consume adequate vitamin D and calcium. Talk to your doctor or a dietitian if you’re concerned you’re not getting enough.

Remember, every person will experience menstruation, perimenopause and menopause differently. By paying attention to your hormonal phases – not just your reps and weights – you can develop your knowledge on what works best for you, and when.

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