Nerissa Shea @nerissa_sheafitness
Image by Coffee Bean from Pixabay
A hot topic these days among the fitness and wellness space with every Tom, Dick & Harry jumping on the bandwagon of trying to sell you this diet or that diet and telling you that doing X will help you with Y.
The truth is EVERY SINGLE PERSON is different and when it comes to women and their menstrual cycles, that is no different.
The average menstrual cycle is 28 days.
Does that mean your menstrual cycle is 28 days? Maybe, maybe not.
This is why I HIGHLY recommend tracking your cycle.
There are SO many apps out there for that.
There are 2 phases to the menstrual cycle: Follicular Phase & Luteal Phase.
Follicular Phase: Day 0 – 14/15 (approximately)
Luteal Phase: Day 15 – 28 (approximately)
The two MAIN STARS of the hormone show are Estrogen & Progesterone.
The Follicular Phase (FP) sees estrogen rise, usually peaking around ovulation time – day 14 (ish) so in this phase, we experience what is called: OESTROGEN DOMINANCE.
1. Aids muscle repair
2. Anti–catabolic (anti-catabolic properties are those which protect muscle mass in the body from being broken down)
3. Acts as an antioxidant during exercise – it reduces muscle damage
4. Potentially see the highest strength just before ovulation.
There are 3 estrogens but the one that plays the largest role in appetite is ESTRADIOL.
When estradiol is higher in the follicular phase (day 1 - 14), appetite is usually lower.
It also increases our satiation after meals.
We think hmmm…. okay, I am actually full & satisfied.
The Luteal Phase (LP) sees progesterone rise, usually peaking around day 25 (ish) so in this phase, we experience what is called: PROGESTERONE DOMINANCE.
1. Reduced insulin sensitivity (but this can be mitigated through exercise)
2. Potentially catabolic.
3. Decreased strength can sometimes occur mid-luteal
4. Weight gain, low mood
5. Increased temperature
Progesterone increases hunger but we also see when estradiol (one of the estrogens) goes down in this phase, this also increases appetite and leaves us feeling less satiated after meals.
Are you someone who finds themselves hungrier in the week (ish) leading up to your period?
STOP BEATING YOURSELF UP AND FIGHTING IT, now you know that there is a valid reason for that.
Everyone is different but a common trend that I experience and that quite a few of my client’s experience is that cravings tend to increase in the run-up to their period.
That feeling of insatiable hunger.
Think - ‘NOT ENOUGH CHOCOLATE IN THE WORLD WILL SATISFY ME’.
Although there is a possible 8 – 16% increase in Basal Metabolic Rate (the number of calories required to keep your body functioning at rest) this usually equates to only about 100 – 200 calories.
Definitely not enough to satisfy all my cravings anyway, personally. I could eat an entire house made out of chocolate!
When it comes to Nutrition & the Menstrual Cycle, it is hugely important to tailor this to suit your needs. Some people are ravenous the week before their periods and other people have no appetite.
It is not a one size fits all situation here and it is crucial you do not fall into the self-fulfilling prophecy of telling yourself you have all these symptoms when perhaps, you don’t!
Some options for Nutrition during this time –
If you are tracking/dieting:
You could increase your calories during this phase, either by approximately 100 - 200 or up to maintenance OR do nothing, maybe sticking to your calories is fine & you do not feel in any way restricted.
If you are NOT dieting:
Honor your hunger & honor your bodies preferences.
Some options for Training during this time –
Periodise (excuse the pun) your training – maybe increase your training days in the follicular phase and decrease them in the luteal phase. Perhaps take a de-load week during PMS whereby training day frequency and load is reduced.
Some people do not need to do this at all and can train fairly consistently throughout the month!
You do YOU boo!
The research into the Menstrual Cycle is still quite scarce.
It is a hard topic to review because each woman is so magnificently unique.
I do recommend becoming more in tune with your body though, and try to work with it and not against it but be mindful of the placebo effect.
Just because someone outlines their symptoms, don’t instantly jump to thinking you have that too!
Be inquisitive with yourself and then, above all, be compassionate!
Riding the hormone monster wave isn't always easy and the least you can do is be accepting of yourself, in all your glory, with all your ups and downs and potential feelings of wanting to stab everyone around you, sometimes...
Lots of love,
Your compassionate (but on some days of the month, irrational) coach,