By Taylor Robbins, C.S.C.S
If you’re a female and want to achieve fat loss, you’re in for a treat, because I bet you have had strange weight fluctuations, cravings, and even strength gains at weird times based on your “time of the month” and this article will help you understand your period and how to control your weight loss strategy.
Although you know all about this stuff, I’ll cover the basics of your period first within the different stages and then make some recommendations after the explanation.
There are 4 stages to the menstrual cycle:
Stage 1: The Follicular Phase (right after menstruation: day 0-14)
During this stage, your estrogen levels are on the rise getting you ready for ovulation. This is important because estrogen is needed to release your egg. Progesterone is normal during this phase so you wouldn’t be feeling any water retention, not yet at least.
Interestingly, your metabolism is at a level along with your insulin sensitivity to allow you to take in more carbs. WHAT…did I just say eat more carbs? Well, women are more insulin sensitive than normal during this time, so you can get away with eating more carbs because your body can process them and turn them into glycogen instead of fat. Of course, if you’re overweight already, this added insulin sensitivity is marginal and therefore doesn’t give you a ticket to ice cream and doughnuts. You still need to moderate carbs if you’re overweight.
Stage 2: Ovulation (day 14-15)
You already know, but this is your fertile time of the month, so unless you use protection, be ready for some baby making during these pivotal 24 to 48 hours.
Here the metabolism is still on the climb, so you may notice getting more hungry and having more food on your plate.
Now, there is a lot of research on this, but women tend to have more strength during this time of the month. In fact, your squat and heavy lifts may go up these days.
Stage 3: Luteal Phase (day 16-28)
After you ovulate, the whole world starts to crumble for you. You are going to feel like your body is fighting you like a tired 2 year old after a sugar crash leaving Disneyland. You won’t feel yourself and your emotions are sensitive to light triggers. Be aware that your friends and family think of you as a Dr. Jekyle and Mr. Hyde.
Because of hormones at play, your body now wants to utilize fats for energy. So, as before you were utilizing carbs for energy more, now fatty acids are a more readily form of energy. That means…take advantage. If fat wants to die, let’s kill them all. Increase the intensity of your workouts, try doing more high intensity intervals, and keep carb intake low so that those fats get targeted. Please decrease carbs during this phase so you can maximize fat burning processes.
Your metabolism will be at its highest peak during this phase. This is also why cravings come on hard. You are low in serotonin during the luteal phase, and we get a serotonin release when we ingest sugars and carbs. This is why you crave chocolate and ice cream…you want more serotonin to feel good.
Practice your will-power and eat lots of veggies and protein as you will need essential vitamins and nutrients from those foods so you don’t lack in serotonin or are as hungry.
There are times where you get excited at seeing progress and then get bummed when you all the sudden put 3-5 lbs on. This usually happens from having higher levels of progesterone during this phase. This causes the large intestine to hold onto excess water. That’s why your lower stomach is bloated.
Take a breath, wait a week, and all that weight you randomly gained should come off plus some.
Stage 4: Menstrual Phase- (day 28 back to beginning)
During this phase you are starting to feel more like yourself again. Progesterone starts to drop again back to resting levels so your water retention goes away. That protruded stomach you’ve now had for a few days goes down and people stop asking you if you’re pregnant.
Additionally, your metabolism goes back down as well, so you shouldn’t have as many cravings and as strong for that matter. You won’t feel starved and life should feeling pretty good.
Overview of Lessons Learned:
- During your follicular phase, you can get away with eating more carbs, assuming you are in a healthy weight already and don’t have too much excess fat. If you still have excess fat, the insulin sensitivity jump you get won’t be enough for you to take in more carbs.
- When you ovulate is the time you should try and lift some heavier weights as you will have strength improvements during this time of the month. Also, your metabolism will be on the climb, so you may notice more hunger. If you lifted hard, don’t be affraid to reward yourself with some more carbs post workout.
- The luteal phase is the time to take in less carbs and up the intensity of your workouts to take full advantage of your body being in a fat burning state.
- The luteal phase brings sugar cravings. When this happens, go ahead and indulge, but have a moderate amount. Also, do 2 minutes of an isometric squat to contract your quads and glutes. This allows GLUT-4 (a protein in the cell) to translocate to the muscle cell surface, thus opening a door to the cells allowing sugars to be stored as muscle as opposed to fat cells.
- The luteal phase brings water retention so don’t freak out with weight gain, it’s just water.
- The menstrual phase has your metabolism come back down so don’t overeat.
I hope you females learned some things about your body here, and men…read this to understand her better.
If you need help with your diet, training, or anything to get the body of your dreams, apply for a fat loss strategy call below. We would love to help you out.