Dieting and Your Period
Your period can be a crazy time of hormonal imbalances, cravings, bloating, pain and just straight up annoying, but it can also affect your fitness plans. In this blog post, I’ll cover the basics about dieting and your period, and when in your monthly cycle you’re most likely to get the best results. “As hormone levels naturally change, women’s bodies experience increased drive to eat during certain phases that are then offset by a decreased drive to eat during other phases,” says Pamela Keel, PhD, a clinical psychologist at Florida State University.
Not only do the classic PMS symptoms affect you emotionally, they can also limit your performance when it comes to your workouts. For some basic knowledge to understand how your cycle works, check out Women and Weight Loss.
Remember that Day 1 is the first day of your period. That’s the early follicular phase. The late follicular phase is when your period is ending, bloating is alleviated, and your body is prepping for ovulation. The Luteal Phase is the time from ovulation to the end of the cycle where the body is prepping for potential fertilization and implantation by thickening and nourishing the uterine wall.
Here are a few things to know and how to make these peaks and valleys work for your fitness plan:
Early Follicular Phase (Days 1 to 4): During this stage of your cycle, your energy is probably at its lowest level. Stick to light exercises like yoga, walking, or stretching. Your appetite should also be less voracious, so try to adjust your eating habits to match your energy needs. (You might feel satisfied with smaller meal portions and fewer snacks.)
Late Follicular Phase (Days 5 to 15): Your energy should be ticking up, so try to increase your workout intensity and frequency. Here’s where you’ll want to add weights at least 2-3 days a week. As your hunger ramps up, try to satisfy it by adding extra protein to your meals.
Luteal Phase (Days 16-28): You tend to have more energy—and also more cravings for energy dense foods—during this stage of your cycle. Try to further up your exercise frequency and intensity, and increase your weights as you go. You may find that morning 5-miler is easier now that it was a week or two ago, and you’ll be stronger and more likely to breakthrough plateaus. You’ll probably eat a little more than you did earlier in your cycle, so consider adding 200 calories to your daily intakes during the first 5 days of this phase. Just make sure those extra calories come from healthy fats (avocado, olive oil, nuts) and protein, not carbs.
This is a good time to cycle your intake a bit. Bring your calorie intake much lower during the two weeks immediately proceeding your period, when hunger levels are lower and cravings less frequent. Then increase your calorie intake back to a maintenance level during the week before and during your period.
During the last four days of your cycle, eating some dark chocolate can help satisfy your cravings. Avoid starting a fat-loss plan during this phase because you may not see results and it will put you at risk for backsliding.
In short, listen to your body! If your hunger spikes, try to satisfy it with healthier foods. And when you have extra energy, work in more exercise and try to increase your weights. A period tracker app can be helpful in determining your fitness and nutrition plan.
One of the biggest complaints women have regarding their menstrual cycles is bloating. It’s not unusual for some women to gain 5-10 pounds of fluid during their cycle. Manage bloating by:
- Avoid salty foods
- Drink more water than usual (minimally 1/2 your body weight in ounces, i.e., 140 lbs-drink 70 oz., but come closer to a gallon when you are noticing bloating.
- Sip some herbal tea
- Season your foods with oregano, which is helpful in reducing bloating.
Thanks for reading my blog about diet and your period! If you’ve found this information helpful, please share!
“This Diet Tailored To Your Menstrual Cycle Could Help You Lose Weight.” Prevention, 3 Aug. 2016, www.prevention.com/weight-loss/this-diet-tailored-to-your-menstrual-cycle-could-help-you-lose-weight.
ShannonClarkFitness. “4 Ways Your Menstrual Cycle Affects Your Workouts.”Bodybuilding.com, 30 Mar. 2015, www.bodybuilding.com/fun/4-ways-your-mentrual-cycle-affects-your-workouts.html.