11 May The beverages that help you each week of your cycle
There’s no way around it: You’ve got to drink around eight cups of something every day. So, why not fill your cup with beverages that help support you during each week of your menstrual cycle?
Plenty of research shows that certain drinks you love (such as herbal tea, cocoa and lemonade) contain ingredients that ease period pain, boost energy, curb anxiety, help you reverse water retention and improve your mood. Fortunately, these drinks are easy to find and require virtually zero skills in the kitchen to whip up!
Read on to find out which beverages can make Week 1, Week 2, Week 3 and Week 4 of your menstrual cycle even better….
Week 1: Chamomile tea for cramps, peppermint tea for energy
Day 1 (first day of your period) t0 Day 7
If you’re bothered by menstrual pain in your Week 1, sipping one to two cups of chamomile tea throughout the day could help reduce discomfort. That’s the word from a 2005 study from the U.K.’s Imperial College London that found chamomile increase your body’s level of glycine—an amino acid that calms uterine spasms, quieting menstrual cramps.(1)
Looking for a boost in energy during your period? You can turn to caffeine, such as black tea or coffee. However, avoid drinking these within an hour of consuming iron in food or a supplement since these beverages contain compounds that block iron’s absorption, which can drag down your energy even further.
For a caffeine-free energy-boost, sip peppermint tea. Research shows that stimulating compounds in peppermint (menthol and menthone) activate brain areas that wake you up.(2)
Week 2: Caffeine for a turbo-boost, chamomile for calm, green tea for focus
Day 8 to ovulation (which is Day 14 in a 28-day cycle)
Thanks to spiking estrogen in your Week 2, your energy is high—and if you want your energy even higher, drink caffeine. Coupling a stimulant with this peaking hormone during your Week 2 will push your mental and physical pep into a whole other stratosphere. In fact, it’s smart to be careful about just how much caffeine you consume: Drink too much and you could end up antsy and on edge, which can actually slow down your productivity. So, pace yourself.
Are you sensitive to Week 2’s high-hormone energy spike and experience anxiety, the jitters and other unwelcome effects on these menstrual cycle days? You can usher in calm by drinking one to three cups daily of chamomile tea, which contains naturally soothing compounds that can curb edginess. Sip it while listening to lulling music or nature sounds to spur even greater relaxation.
Tip: Spiking estrogen in your Week 2 can make it more difficult to concentrate by over-exciting your brain.(3) So, when you need to focus longer, sip green tea. It contains a small amount of caffeine (roughly a quarter of what you’d get in an eight-ounce cup of brewed coffee), plus a dose of the calming amino acid l-theanine—and research shows this duo works together to keep your brain alert while also calm, so it’s easier to pay attention.(4)
Week 3: Small caffeine sips for fatigue, peppermint for gas
Begins day after ovulation and lasts 8 days
On your Week 3 cycle days, progesterone is rising steadily—and one common side effect of this sedating hormone is that it can make you tired, tired, tired. You might assume that guzzling a gallon of caffeine all at once is the perfect antidote for this hormone-fueled fatigue, however, a 2004 study found that drinking small doses of caffeine spread throughout the day is more effective at helping you feel awake.(5) Researchers suspect that these tiny sips counter the fatiguing chemical adenosine as it builds up throughout the day.
Bonus: Caffeine is a mild diuretic that helps your body shed excess fluid you’re retaining on these Week 3 cycle days—also due to rising progesterone.
Want a caffeine-free way to more energy? Brew a cup of peppermint tea. Not only is this refreshing-tasting herb naturally stimulating, it has another useful Week 3 benefit: It helps your body expel trapped gas—yet another common side effect of elevated progesterone—by relaxing smooth muscle in your intestines.
Week 4: Cocoa and lemonade for mood, chamomile for sleep, green tea for energy
Final 6 days of your cycle
It’s no secret that during your premenstrual Week 4, you can be more prone to feeling angry or frustrated. That’s a result of plunging estrogen as it reduces levels of mood-regulating brain chemicals. Fortunately, there’s a fast and easy way to cool a fiery temper: Drink lemonade, cocoa or another beverage sweetened with real sugar (not a sugar substitute). Sugar in food provides energy to the brain in the form of glucose, which is important since a 2010 study found that this sweet fuel is needed to control areas that manage emotions. When you “gas up” with sugar, it’s easier to pause, take a deep breath and relax.(6)
Tip: Try limiting your sugary drink to just one per day—for those big premenstrual emergencies—since too much of the sweet stuff can cause down moods by triggering insulin to spike and fall, leading to a sugar crash.
Having trouble sleeping during your premenstrual Week 4? You’re not alone. Sleep problems are primarily caused by plunging estrogen, which decreases the production of sleep-regulating brain chemicals (such as serotonin), makes you more sensitive to noise, light and anything else that can wake you up, and can spur worries that make it difficult to turn off churning thoughts. One way to get to sleep faster and enjoy deeper, longer sleep: Sip chamomile tea about two hours before bedtime (giving you enough time to empty your bladder). Its naturally relaxing compounds help release emotional and physical tension, so you can fall asleep faster and get sounder sleep.
If plunging premenstrual estrogen is sapping your energy and you’re craving a caffeinated pick-me-up, opt for green tea over black tea or coffee. Large amounts of caffeine on pre-period days can trigger premenstrual irritability. Green tea has a small amount of caffeine that won’t bring your mood down, but will keep your momentum up.
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(1) Yulan Wang, et al., “A metabonomic strategy for the detection of the metabolic effects of chamomile (Matricaria recutita L.) ingestion,” Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 53 (2005): 191-196
(2) Mark Moss, et al, “Modulation of cognitive performance and mood by aromas of peppermint and ylang-ylang,” The International Journal of Neuroscience, 118 (2008): 59-77
(3) S. Solís-Ortiz, M. Corsi-Cabrera, “Sustained attention is favored by progesterone during early luteal phase and visuo-spatial memory by estrogens during ovulatory phase in young women,” Pyschoneuroendocrinology, 33 (2008): 989-998
(4) Anna C Nobre, Anling Rao, Gail N Owen, “L-theanine, a natural constituent in tea, and its effect on mental state,” Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 17 (2008): 167-168
(5) James K. Wyatt, et al., “Low-dose repeated caffeine administration for circadian-phase-dependent performance degradation during extended wakefulness,” Sleep, 27 (2004): 374-381
(6) C. Nathan DeWall, et al., “Sweetened blood cools hot tempers: physiological self‐control and aggression,” Aggressive Behavior, November 9, 2010