Your Hormones, Fitness, Food and More
Even though the ovaries are no more powerful than the female mind - just as men are not controlled only by instinct - all our behavior is also influenced daily by our hormones. This makes it even more important to know our own cycle and to use this knowledge in relation to Food, Mood and Fitness.
Many women lose a little weight during their menstruation and that’s due to an increase in metabolism and excretion of water and fluids. This is associated with the drop in estrogen and progesterone levels during this phase, as pregnancy has not occurred.
A drop in hormones may have you feeling relaxed and calm the first week of your cycle.
Even if one or the other prefers to withdraw from sports activities during the period, sports can still be beneficial. Physical exercise can reduce muscle cramps and pain. At the beginning of a new cycle estrogen and progesterone levels are at their lowest. But they begin a gradual rise during your period. You may notice that you have more energy to be active than in the previous weeks.
Research has found that estrogen acts like an appetite suppressant, so even if you crave carbohydrate-rich foods, you can also burn them more easily during this time!
Near the end of your period, estrogen increases which will likely boost your mood, energy, verbal communication skills, and ability to learn new things. The most important male sex hormone, testosterone, also plays an important role for women and their mood during this phase. You may also notice a change in romantic desires as testosterone is increasing around ovulation.
You will likely feel stronger and more capable in your workouts during this time. This is a great time to focus on strength and harder workouts. You’ll build more muscle faster, thanks to rising estrogen.
Now, at the time of ovulation and afterwards, the body produces more progesterone, the corpus luteum hormone. At the same time, the blood sugar level rises so that the embryo is well supplied with sugar in case of a possible pregnancy. In the late follicular phase, when estrogen is at its highest, you will feel less appetite. In the luteal phase the energy level decreases, but your appetite increases. Cravings for specific foods are typical signs of the coming so-called premenstrual period.
You might feel more sluggish and tired around the time of ovulation. This is due to rise and decline of estrogen levels and the rise of progesterone after ovulation.
One way to boost energy and mood during this time is to partake in physical activity. Find time in your schedule to exercise, perhaps in the morning before your energy level decrease as the day goes on.
An increase in appetite has been observed near the end of some women‘s cycles. That’s totally normal, metabolism actually rises 5-10%. It‘s recommended that you eat a balanced meal to avoid low blood sugar which is more common during this phase. Also, eating more protein has been shown to be beneficial during the luteal phase as progesterone has catabolic (muscle-wasting) effects in the body.
Irritability and moodiness are also common during this phase as estrogen levels decrease and progesterone levels rise. You might feel slightly more tired and fatigued, that‘s associated with higher progesterone. Progesterone is also known as the body's own Valium and, when metabolized, has a calming effect on the organism. Use this phase to slow down a little.
Hormone fluctuations during this phase have an effect on coordination and body temperature leading to poorer fitness performance.
Daysy 2.0 - Your personal fertility tracker (incl. app DaysyDay)
Daysy is an intelligent fertility tracker that lets you get to know your very own menstrual cycle.
1) Asarian L, Geary N. Sex differences in the physiology of eating. Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol. 2013 Dec;305(11):R1215-67.
2) Asarian L, Geary N. Modulation of appetite by gonadal steroid hormones.
Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 2006 Jul 29;361(1471):1251-63. Review.
3) Barr SI, Janelle KC, Prior JC. Energy intakes are higher during the luteal phase of ovulatory menstrual cycles. Am J Clin Nutr. 1995 Jan;61(1):39-43.
4) Bisdee JT, James WP, Shaw MA. Changes in energy expenditure during the menstrual cycle. Br J Nutr. 1989 Mar;61(2):187-99.
5) Buffenstein R, Poppitt SD, McDevitt RM, Prentice AM. Food intake and the menstrual cycle: a retrospective analysis, with implications for appetite research. Physiol Behav. 1995 Dec;58(6):1067-77. Review
6) Chung SC, Bond EF, Jarrett ME. Food intake changes across the menstrual cycle in Taiwanese women. Biol Res Nurs. 2010 Jul;12(1):37-4
7) Dalvit-McPhillips SP. The effect of the human menstrual cycle on nutrient intake. Physiol Behav. 1983 Aug;31(2):209-12
8) Dye L, Blundell JE. Menstrual cycle and appetite control: implications for weight regulation. Hum Reprod. 1997 Jun;12(6):1142-51. Review.
9) Eckel LA. The ovarian hormone estradiol plays a crucial role in the control of food intake in females. Physiol Behav. 2011 Sep 26;104(4):517-24
10) Gorczyca AM, Sjaarda LA, Mitchell EM, Perkins NJ, Schliep KC, Wactawski-Wende J, Mumford SL. Changes in macronutrient, micronutrient, and food group intakes throughout the menstrual cycle in healthy, premenopausal women. Eur J Nutr. 2015 Jun 5. [Epub ahead of print]
11) Johnson WG, Corrigan SA, Lemmon CR, Bergeron KB, Crusco AH. Energy regulation over the menstrual cycle. Physiol Behav. 1994 Sep;56(3):523-7
12) Li ET, Tsang LB, Lui SS. Menstrual cycle and voluntary food intake in young Chinese women. Appetite. 1999 Aug;33(1):109-18.