Monday, December 19, 2011

Weight loss and your menstrual cycle.

Cycle Class at a Gym Category:Gyms_and_Health_...
Some points in your cycle favor diet, others respond better to exercise. Learn how to work with your cycle so it can't
sabotage you any more.
Image via Wikipedia
Your period can be your worst weight loss enemy or your best friend. The key is understanding your cycle and knowing how to work with it.

Early cycle & water retention:  The day your period begins is considered Day One of your cycle. At this moment, you are  still a little bloated up with fluid retention that's accumulated during the premenstrual days, but it's about to get better. Drink lots of water to dilute the chemicals in your body that are triggering the retention and you'll see plenty of water weight drop off over the next few days. Some women find that the water retention is worst in the days leading up to the onset of menses. Other women find it peaks on Day One and continues for a few days afterward. Either way, the key is to drink lots of water and avoid or ignore your scale during this period.

First half of your cycle: For about 14–15 days after your period begins, you are in the follicular phase of menstruation. Your body is preparing for the release of an egg. This is the period when you will find it easiest to lose weight. Estrogen and progesterone levels are at their lowest, and though estrogen levels will rise during this period, progesterone will stay low. What does that mean to you? Less appetite = easier to stay on plan. Fewer mood swings = greater ability to focus on goals. One study has even shown that the stomach empties more slowly during this phase, so you feel full longer. Maximize this phase by  focusing on your diet. Keep your calories well under your goal as many days as possible to "bank" calories for the more difficult phase that's coming. Try to postpone any "cheating" you feel tempted to do, because the temptation is going to become so much stronger later in the cycle!

English: Diagram of the menstrual cycle (based...
Understand your cycle. Estrogen triggers water retention and fat storage
but increases your stamina to work out effectively.
Progesterone causes hunger, cravings,
Second half of your cycle: After you've ovulated, about halfway through your cycle, things get a little tougher. Progesterone levels begin to rise. Over the next two weeks, you will be hungrier. At the very end, as progesterone diminishes relative to estrogen, your cravings will become more intense, and your mood swings will make those cravings even more difficult to resist. During the 2-3 days before your period, you'll be faced with intense cravings for carbs, sweets and/or fats, along with powerful emotional responses AND water retention (caused by dropping progesterone levels). The result? You'll inevitably step on the scale, see a gain when you were expecting a loss, cry a river, and eat a whole box of Ding-Dongs. Oops.

How to handle that progesterone? Let's try to do it differently. Let's say you're hungry, and having powerful cravings. You ask yourself if this could be PMS-related and check your calendar. Yup, period is coming. You've made sure to stock your kitchen with easy, filling, high-protein choices to satisfy the hunger (rotisserie chicken, lean deli sandwich choices, protein shakes or bars, eggs, turkey breast.) You've been banking up some calories for this day, and you've already looked up the calories in your  favorite snacks & chosen something that's not too destructive to indulge in when the going gets truly rough. You avoid the scale for a few days, or ignore the chaos you see there. And you make yourself work out! This is your secret weapon:

The upside to this high-progesterone period is that progesterone triggers the body to burn fat more readily during exercise. During the second two weeks of your cycle, you will become less tired & less sore from exercise, so you'll be able to work out at a higher intensity (especially right around ovulation). And your body will give up the fat more readily to fuel your workout. In a lovely reciprocal relationship, exercise also helps keep PMS symptoms at bay, so working out may reduce your cravings.

And one more piece of good news: Fat cells are not the inert materials we once thought they were. Fat, and particularly belly fat that lives behind the abdominal wall rather than outside it, is an estrogen factory. This may be one reason why, in perimenopause, the body starts storing belly fat. The drop in estrogen makes the body want to create more. Estrogen is a Catch-22 though. Estrogen encourages the body to store fat, and that fat creates more estrogen. Losing body fat can help break the estrogen cycle.

Enhanced by Zemanta