As part of our cycle series, we’re taking a closer look at the 4 different hormonal phases of the menstrual cycle and how you can live your best life, no matter where you’re at in your cycle. Last week we covered the first phase, A.K.A your period, and this week we’re moving on to phase 2—the follicular phase.
Hormonally speaking, this is a pretty sweet time. Your period has been and gone along with any PMS-type symptoms that came with it and life is pretty good. If we had to pick a favourite time of the menstrual cycle - it would be the follicular phase.
Here are 5 reasons why we love this time of the month (and you should too).
The follicular phase follows on from the end of your period, and is roughly days 7-13 of a regular 28 day cycle. If your cycle is longer or shorter than this, or varies from month to month, your follicular phase will be shorter or longer than this, whereas the luteal phase will always be around 12-14 days.
It’s called the ‘follicular’ phase, because this is when your pituitary gland releases Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH), which stimulates and matures the follicles in your ovaries, which produce oestrogen as they grow.
One follicle grows larger than the others and becomes ‘the dominant follicle’ which continues to grow and mature, ready to be released during ovulation.
While your ovaries are working hard developing follicles, the uterus reacts to the oestrogen being produced by rebuilding the cosy lining that was shed during the last period; ready for a potential embryo to implant and grow should conception take place this cycle.
Here’s what’s so great about this time of the month...
1. Your mood, confidence, energy & libido are all on the rise
With oestrogen and testosterone rising throughout the follicular phase, it’s generally a pretty sweet time.
Oestrogen has a nice relationship with one of our key neurotransmitters: serotonin, meaning the rise of oestrogen also works to boost your mood, sleep, memory and even digestion.
Rising oestrogen levels also give your energy levels and brain power a good boost; and testosterone increases your motivation, libido and general get-up-and-go drive in life.
You can thank this oestrogen-testosterone power combo for helping you feel more confident, outgoing and assertive during this phase of your cycle.
2. There's no better time to eat carbs...
Another wonderful function of oestrogen is its influence on insulin sensitivity. With oestrogen as the dominant hormone in the follicular phase, it's also the time of the month where you are most insulin sensitive.
This means that your body is better at metabolising carbohydrates and using them for energy at this time of your cycle, and produces less insulin to do so.
So, if there’s ever a good time to treat-yo-self with some good carbs, it’s the follicular phase. You have our total permission.
3. ... Or push yourself in a workout
Your increased carbohydrate tolerance in this phase also makes it easier for your body to use glycogen for fuel during exercise and hit higher peaks of intensity.
If HIIT training is your jam–this is the best time of the month to go hard at it. You will likely find yourself more motivated to train and feel really good when you do.
However, if you are upping the intensity and training in the anaerobic zone, keep your workouts reasonably short—around 30 minutes or less.
Training at a high intensity beyond this is going to deplete your glycogen stores, stress your adrenals and force cortisol (your main stress hormone) to come to the party which your sex hormones certainly don’t want.
4. Your immune system is at its strongest
You’re less likely to get sick time of the month, and may even find existing or chronic health conditions more bearable in the follicular phase of your cycle.
Oestrogen up-regulates the function of immune cells and encourages them to do their jobs well. This means that as oestrogen rises in the follicular phase, your body's natural ability to fight off the bad guys does too.
Your body wants to protect you from all foreign invaders and keep you as healthy as possible should you be about to fall pregnant.
In comparison, the immune system is slightly suppressed in the ovulatory phase to prevent immune cells from attacking sperm or a newly fertilised egg. This is one of nature’s amazing moves to keep us going as a human race.
5. It's just the best time to get stuff done
The follicular phase is really just a great time all round. With increased energy, brain power, assertiveness, resilience, exercise and carbohydrate tolerance, this is hands down our favourite time of the month—make sure you make the most of it!
Brainstorming, problem solving and decision making will all be strengths of yours during this phase, as will productivity and stamina. This is a great time to start new projects, make big decisions and even take on a little additional workload.
Maximise on your increased confidence by making the first move, speaking up in meetings or having that difficult conversation you’ve been avoiding.
Signs of hormone imbalance in the follicular phase:
If your follicular phase isn’t the easy, breezy sweet time we’ve just described, you may want to explore your hormone health.
Particular signs of hormone imbalance to look out for at this time are:
- Low energy levels and fatigue that persists after your period finishes;
- Low moods or mood swings;
- Hormonal acne.
Looking for extra support? Try Period Pal - every woman's best friend to support a balanced, regular and drama-free cycle.