Enter your search term below

Nutrition And The Menstrual Cycle - How To Regain Control Of Your Healthy Eating

What has the largest effect on our hormones? The menstrual cycle!

A woman's appetite, food preference and adherence to a healthy eating plan can be hugely influenced by hormones. What has the largest effect on our hormones? The menstrual cycle! Therefore, it is well worth knowing how your menstrual cycle may be affecting your eating patterns and what to do to regain control of your healthy eating. 



Phase 1: The Menstrual Phase

(aka the period)

 

Healthy fats including avocado, olive oil, nuts and seeds

 

During the menstruation phase, period pain and menstrual symptoms may affect how you feel and adherence to a healthy eating plan. There is evidence that eating an anti-inflammatory diet may reduce period pain (1). This includes foods high in healthy fats such as olive oil, nuts and seeds and oily fish and vitamin and mineral rich fruits and vegetables. This also involves reducing consumption of inflammatory foods such as those processed, high in trans fats, saturated fats and sugars and alcoholic beverages. 

In this phase you are likely to see better appetite control due to an increase in insulin sensitivity and therefore better stability of blood sugar. This is a great time to initiate new dietary behaviours or tighten up nutrition goals as you see these improvements in appetite. Working on healthy eating habits in this phase may give you a good 2 week run of improved nutrition choices before you start to get appetite dysregulation issues again. This may help motivate you and increase chances of long term behaviour change. 

 

Basically...

You may want to eat an anti-inflammatory diet to help ease period pain. Appetite regulation hugely improves, this is a great time to start working on healthy eating habits. 



Phase 2: The Late Follicular Phase

(aka a week or so after your period, pre ovulation)

 

Healthy carbs including fruit and wholemeal bread and crackers 

 

In this phase you continue to have improved insulin sensitivity and an increased ability to burn carbohydrates for energy. This allows you to have stable blood sugar and high levels of energy which you can take advantage of during high intensity exercise. For this reason you can increase carbohydrate intake and effectively use it to fuel your exercise. You are in the best position for great appetite regulation so you are less likely to get triggered to binge. 

Your hormone shift in this phase favours muscle building and recovery. For that reason if you’re an active person I would push it in the weights room and make sure you are having enough protein in your diet to aid that rapid repair and muscle growth. 

 

Basically...

This is a great time to increase carbohydrate intake and push your exercise. Make sure you are eating enough protein to support muscle growth and repair. 



Phase 3: The Early Luteal Phase 

(aka the week or so before PMS week, post ovulation)

 

Healthy proteins including oily fish, oats, red meat, chicken, eggs and nuts 

Hormonal changes in the luteal phase can increase cravings for sweet food. Blood sugar is less stable and this can affect appetite and energy levels. However, the severity of this hormonal impact differs from woman to woman (2). 

One study suggests increasing fat and protein in the latter half of the cycle (luteal phases) to keep you on track as they help with satiety and managing increased cravings caused by hormone shifts (3). Metabolism also increases by a small margin (100-300 kcal) at this time so attempting to restrict food intake is going to be that much harder here. Instead embrace your appetite and allow for some extra nourishment. 

In this phase insulin resistance increases and therefore your ability to handle carbohydrates reduces and your body shifts to using more fat for fuel. For this reason, decreasing carbohydrate intake slightly can be helpful. Reduce if from processed carbohydrate foods though, bananas and potatoes are still good for you!

 

Basically...

Appetite control may start to get harder and energy requirements are actually increased. Increasing fat and protein intake can help with both of these issues. Decrease carbohydrates slightly. 

Phase 4: The Late Luteal Phase

(the week or so before your period, PMS week)

 

Nutrition with menstrual cycle woman eating chocolate 

Research has shown that food intake naturally increases in this premenstrual phase and more so in women who have premenstrual syndrome (PMS) symptoms. This could be due to mood disturbances in the week before your period that lead to more emotional (or F it style) eating. Interestingly, studies show that eating chocolate in the premenstrual week increases adherence to a weight loss diet (3). This means that if cravings are coming for you, you might as well work with them so that they are more easily managed.  

In this phase you will still have increased energy needs, less stable blood sugar and hormones favouring an increase in appetite. Decrease carbohydrates slightly, ideally from processed sources and up your protein and fat intake to manage appetite and cover your increased energy requirements. 

Sodium retention increases in this phase and that means water retention. Don’t weigh yourself in this phase. Especially if you’re feeling emotional too, just don’t! Increasing potassium containing foods such as potatoes, spinach, bananas, shellfish etc. and limiting sodium can help with this. Honestly, I wouldn’t worry about it though, this is not affecting your health or much about your appearance, it will pass. 

 

Basically...

Food intake will naturally increase. Allow yourself some of the food you are craving, it can help you stay on track in the long run. Slightly decrease overall carbohydrate and slightly increase fat and protein to help your appetite. There may be water retention in this phase, don’t worry about it!

 

Let’s Sum it Up

Hormones and the menstrual cycle can hugely affect our diet. Eating for your cycle could help you to have an easier time whilst supporting your body's needs. In the menstrual phase (period) eating an anti-inflammatory diet could reduce period pain. Appetite regulation is easier here and in the following week, so this is a great time to work on healthy eating habits.

In the late follicular phase (week after period) you may want to increase carbohydrate and really push your exercise intensity. Make sure you have enough protein to recover.

In the luteal phases (the week before and the week of PMS time) appetite regulation starts to drop and energy requirements increase. Increasing fat and protein intake can help with this. Your ability to handle carbohydrates starts to drop so reduce carbohydrates slightly in this phase. Only from nutrient void, processed foods though! Having said that in the late luteal phase (PMS week) having some chocolate may actually help to keep you on track. Listen to your body!



References 

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7353339/ 
  2. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27527001/ 
  3. https://academic.oup.com/ajcn/article/104/1/15/4569669

Looking for more information on keeping your body happy and healthy? We've got lots of great articles you can check out. Plus you can subscribe to our newsletter for articles in your inbox plus special offers, details on our upcoming events and the LiveFit Festival!

VIEW MORE ARTICLES

About the author

DediKate Team

DediKate has been designed to enable people to achieve their health and fitness goals, without having to spend too much time or energy! Our focus is on looking and feeling your best and never giving up!

DediKate has a supportive community of women who are working to make exercise a consistent part of their lives. Everything we do at DediKate is about educating and leading a healthy lifestyle long term – no quick fixes. 

DediKate is made up of a wonderful group of qualified health and fitness professionals whose aim is to provide our members with the skills and motivation required to meet their health and fitness goals. Our team at DediKate is led by our Founder and CEO Kate Ivey, she has brought on 9 Personal Trainers, a Nutritionist, a Pregnancy and Postnatal Expert and an Exercise Specialist. 

DediKate has become a one stop shop for those who want to improve their physical, mental and nutritional health!

others you may be interested in

WOMEN AND EXERCISE - WHAT TYPE IS RIGHT FOR YOU

When it comes to working out for a women, there’s a few things you should consider before deciding on what type of exercise you do. Finding the right one for your body is important and you’ll be surprised how your monthly cycle can play quite a key role.

Read more

JOIN THE SQUAD!

Subscribe to get news & announcements on LiveFit events first plus there's also Exclusive Subscriber ticket offers, Special offers from our brand partners, Healthy recipes, Workouts and so much more! It's free!