I don’t like roller coasters; they make me throw up. And the menstrual cycle, for me, is a roller coaster of hormones rolling all the way up before crashing down, altering the normal rhythm of life. For you and for so many other women, it may mean different things. For women suffering from PMS (Premenstrual syndrome), this monthly process can be dreadful, while others may be more focused on resisting intense food cravings and less on pushing past the pain.
We can all agree that during our period, we worry about our weight, our calorie intake and if we’re burning any of the calories we crave. Here is all you need to know to better understand the biological changes happening during your cycle and how you can work around it.
Do you burn more calories during your period?
The long and short of it is, no, we don’t burn any extra calories during our period. As much as we want that to be true…
Studies have shown that during the follicular phase (menstruation up until the preovulatory phase), estrogen levels increase, leading to reduced appetite. At the same time, our energy expenditure (BMR) reduces, which means we don’t burn any extra calories than the normal amount needed for our body to function at rest.
Approximately 2 weeks before menstruation during the luteal phase (from ovulation up until the beginning of another menstruation), Progesterone is at its highest peak, which means energy expenditure increases and can result in the body burning more calories. The amount of calories burnt in this phase has not proven to be significant, but, the rate at which our body burns calories depends on various factors such as age, diet, lifestyle, etc. Naturally, these are differ for every woman.
Don’t count on your period burning calories — here’s why burning more calories on your period is a myth
Studies carried out showed insignificant variation in the Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR), which is the number of calories our body needs to carry out activities such as breathing, blood circulation, brain activities, etc. During menstruation, the RMR can fluctuate in both phases (luteal and follicular), but not enough to prove that we burn more calories during our period. If, during your period, you reduce your food intake and increase your exercise, you will definitely burn more calories, but that would be true of any time you do this. There is no scientific proof that menstruation causes our bodies to burn more calories.
Why do you have food cravings during your period?
Feeling hungry during your period is normal, so no need to panic. Over time, sexual hormones have caused fluctuations in appetite. Our menstrual cycle involves two important phases.
The follicular phase runs from your menses (bleeding) to ovulation. And the luteal phase begins with ovulation and ends before your menses. During the luteal phase, our bodies produce more progesterone than estrogen, which increases our appetite (especially for sweets, carbohydrates, and fatty food 🍬🍕🥯!!). This is why right before or even during our menses, we crave all the chocolate, chips, cookies, etc we lay our eyes on. Well, now you know it’s not you, blame the progesterone.
Do you need more calories on your period?
Food is life, food brings comfort, and personally, I love eating. So, what better time to sneak in a few more calories into our diet than when we’re menstruating? Unfortunately, that may not be the best idea.
During menses (bleeding) and the follicular phase, the amount of energy our body requires drops and Estrogen levels are higher, which tends to reduce appetite to accommodate for the need for less energy.
In the two weeks before the actual bleeding takes place (the luteal phase) your progesterone levels are higher and will increase your appetite, due to the body’s need for more energy. So there is good news! In that week or two before our period, we can justify the extra calories with our increased progesterone levels. (Another tip we love for getting ready for your period is trying period panties like Ruby Love and Modibodi, which can make the days leading up to your start less stressful)
You may burn more calories in the two weeks before your period starts
To continue on that optimistic note, in the two weeks before your period, ovulation (where your body releases new, mature eggs) and the luteal phase (where the uterine walls thicken to prepare for pregnancy) occur.
During this period your BMR increases, causing the body to use more energy and calories. At the same time, the increase in progesterone levels stimulates appetite and makes us feel hungrier. Both of these combined increases our energy expenditure, meaning that a few more calories can be burnt in this phase! But again, these variations are rather insignificant, so don’t fully depend on your period to burn calories – physical exercise will always help you burn a lot more.