Women - menstrual cycle, weight, and fitness matters

jemhh
jemhh Posts: 14,273 Member
edited March 2016 in Health and Weight Loss
Hey ladies!

We get a lot of threads with titles like “TOM--gained a pound!” or “PMS and can’t stop eating!” This is my attempt to create a reference thread about those issues. Please add any info (especially good websites/resources/articles) that you may have about this subject.

Menstrual cycle basics

If you would like a much longer and well-illustrated explanation compared to the summary below, I urge you to watch this video. In general, though, your menstrual cycle has four phases:
  1. Menstruation phase - This phase starts on the first day of your period and lasts from 3-7 days for most women. This is when your body sheds its uterine lining if you are not pregnant.
  2. Follicular phase - This phase also starts on the first day of your period and lasts for around 13 days for a woman with a 28 day cycle. (Note: 28 days is an average but many women have different cycle lengths.) That means that the beginning of this phase runs concurrently with your period. This is when several of your eggs is maturing and getting ready for the next phase. Your body also starts to rebuild its uterine lining at this point.
  3. Ovulation phase - This phase happens around the midpoint of your 28 day cycle. This is when one of the eggs that was maturing is released from its ovary and makes its way into your fallopian tube where it hangs out for a day. (Side note: If you get pregnant, your pregnancy is dated from the first day of your last menstrual period, not from the date of conception or ovulation.)
  4. Luteal phase - This phase starts the day after ovulation. Your egg either meets and joins up with a sperm and fertilization occurs or it does not and simply disintegrates. If fertilization occurs, the fertilized egg makes its way to the uterus where it implants in the uterine lining. If fertilization does not occur, your progesterone levels eventually drop off, which triggers the shedding of your uterine lining. And thus another menstruation phase is born.

What does that have to do with losing weight?

Simply put, the hormonal changes (changing levels of estrogen and progesterone) that you go through during your menstrual cycle can cause you to retain water weight at both ovulation and leading up to your period. Water retention, or bloat, is commonly listed as a symptom of PMS, and it tends to peak on or around the onset of the menstrual phase. That means that a woman with a 28 day cycle could find herself retaining water every two weeks.

Now, water retention doesn’t occur for every woman and some women may find that they tend to retain water more at one point than at another but it is significant because a woman who has not previously tracked her weight may find it alarming or discouraging to see her weight loss stall (or reverse) every other week. For this reason, I am a big proponent of daily weigh-ins, as I believe that they help people understand the natural ebb and flow of their bodies’ weight cycles. If you know what to expect, you are less likely to be freaked out when it happens.

But why do I get PMS hunger? What should I do about it?

For the in-depth why, I suggest reading Lyle McDonald’s research review of this paper. It’s comprehensive but well-written and understandable. Here’s a quotation from the article:
The major increase in energy expenditure occurs also during the luteal phase (when hunger is increased) with increases of 2.5-11.5% having been reported.

So we are talking a 45 to 207 calorie expenditure increase for a woman whose normal daily energy expenditure is 1800 calories per day. On its surface it might not sound like a lot. But when you consider that you are trying to lose weight and are eating in a deficit of 250+ calories per day, you should be able to understand why that extra expenditure makes you feel so much more hungry. To me, at least, it makes sense that if you increase your deficit by 20-80% or more, you are going to feel more hungry.

As for what to do about the increased hunger, I suggest either decreasing your calorie deficit or eating at maintenance. Most women find that their hungriest period lasts only 2-3 days. Making the conscious choice to eat a bit more for 2-3 days a month can prevent an extreme hunger-fueled binge. If you are really bothered by this idea, you could even reduce your calorie goal the rest of the month to make up for eating more at this time. A reduction of 36 calories per day over 25 days would “make up for” an increase of 900 calories total over 3 days.

Before I close, here are a few articles/resources that I find helpful when it comes to the subject of being female and trying to lose or maintain weight and how being female may or may not affect your training.

* http://www.bodyrecomposition.com/research-review/impact-of-the-menstrual-cycle-on-determinants-of-energy-intake-reseach-review.html/
* http://breakingmuscle.com/womens-fitness/period-periodization-harnessing-the-power-of-your-cycle
* http://breakingmuscle.com/womens-fitness/what-really-causes-irregular-menstrual-cycles-in-female-athletes
* http://www.ohsp.co.uk/influence-of-menstrual-cycle-on-strength-training-and-timing/
* https://www.t-nation.com/training/hormone-cycle-and-female-lifters
* http://www.strengtheory.com/gender-differences-in-training-and-diet/#axzz3kRAhKHG5
* http://www.strengtheory.com/do-women-need-to-train-any-differently/
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Replies

  • Cynsonya
    Cynsonya Posts: 668 Member
    Great post! Thanks for taking the time to do this <3
  • benzieboxx
    benzieboxx Posts: 253 Member
    Awesome post! I agree this should become a sticky.
  • jemhh
    jemhh Posts: 14,273 Member
    Thanks, ladies!

    As I said, please post more resources if/when you find them. One area that I am not really "in the know" about is how much all of this changes at menopause. I haven't started experiencing any of that yet and haven't really read up on it a whole lot so I would be happy to be educated :lol:
  • ElizabethOakes2
    ElizabethOakes2 Posts: 1,038 Member
    Golden! Thank you!
  • Sweetiepiestef
    Sweetiepiestef Posts: 343 Member
    Ty!
  • Lounmoun
    Lounmoun Posts: 8,427 Member
    Very nice!
    I'm going to bookmark this.
  • WakkoW
    WakkoW Posts: 567 Member
    Bump
  • CooCooPuff
    CooCooPuff Posts: 4,374 Member
  • shaken2010
    shaken2010 Posts: 167 Member
    Awesome post
  • diannethegeek
    diannethegeek Posts: 14,776 Member
    Great resource! Bumping.
  • kshama2001
    kshama2001 Posts: 25,571 Member
    This is great. Thank you! Does anyone have tips for how to deal with the emotional aspects of PMS? I do feel physically hungrier, so eating a bit more is good. But I also tend to get very depressed and apathetic, which leads to an "I don't care about anything" attitude. It makes it so hard to stay on track. It's so strange because logically I know what's happening, but I still have trouble controlling it.
    jemhh wrote: »
    Does this feeling last just a few days or longer? I don't get depressed or apathetic. Instead, I get crabby (crabbier than usual :flushed: ) and very small things irritate me for 2-3 days. Lately I have found that putting voice to this feeling makes it better in a way. Last month I said to my husband "I am just feeling so crabby and everything and everybody is annoying me!" and he said that I didn't seem crabby or irritated at all. That's a big change from the past when I would just try to hold it in and then would act out instead and, believe me, he would say if I was acting it too.

    Sometimes I get depressed; sometimes I get crabby. Either way, exercise helps. I'm drawn to cardio for depression and lifting weights for crabbiness.

    My OH teases me a lot, which I usually find charming, but when I'm feeling bad premenstrually I warn him that I'm a little fragile, and he stops for a few days.
  • jaynee7283
    jaynee7283 Posts: 160 Member
    Great post. I was luteal last week and feeming for every piece of food I could fit in my mouth during waking hours. Normally it's not that bad, but the past two months my PMS has been horrible to deal with.

    I showed a slight gain in this morning's weigh-in, but I know it was a combination of 1) recovering from a digestive illness LAST weekend, and 2) being luteal all last week. Having said that, I count it a success that today's weigh-in was still lower than it was two weeks ago before I got the stomach bug and dropped 3 pounds in 3 days, even if it was higher than last week pre-luteal.

    But yeah, I never thought I'd say this, but I'm REALLY looking forward to menopause.
  • kshama2001
    kshama2001 Posts: 25,571 Member
    jaynee7283 wrote: »
    Great post. I was luteal last week and feeming for every piece of food I could fit in my mouth during waking hours. Normally it's not that bad, but the past two months my PMS has been horrible to deal with.

    I showed a slight gain in this morning's weigh-in, but I know it was a combination of 1) recovering from a digestive illness LAST weekend, and 2) being luteal all last week. Having said that, I count it a success that today's weigh-in was still lower than it was two weeks ago before I got the stomach bug and dropped 3 pounds in 3 days, even if it was higher than last week pre-luteal.

    But yeah, I never thought I'd say this, but I'm REALLY looking forward to menopause.

    @Francl27 made some dietary changes recently which reduced her premenstrual food appetite considerably.