Though it might seem strange to start this topic with the second half of the menstrual cycle, it’s these two weeks which trip up most women when it comes to their diets.
During the second phase of the menstrual cycle, women are likely to experience an increase in their Basal metabolic rate (BMR) of 100-300 calories. That’s the equivalent of a Quest protein bar (160-200 calories) and 200 grams of apple (104 calories).
And whilst this might seem great for fat loss at first, ignoring this increased demand for energy can prove detrimental to women who are seeking to stay in a calorie deficit. And this is where many diets get it very wrong. By not accounting for the extra caloric requirement during this period of the menstrual cycle, women are put under even more pressure on top of their already heightened hunger signals, which often result a person binging.
This is why going onto a maintenance level of calorie intake during this time of the menstrual cycle can be extremely beneficial. Not only does ‘maintenance calories’ help reduce already heightened craving and huger signals, but the natural increase in BMR is likely to keep the female in a desirable caloric deficit without it becoming too difficult to manage.
Once again, this is something men do not need to account for, as their physiology does not experience such drastic changes from week to week or even month to month. However, as you can see, when it comes to diet and exercise, women need to plan and adapt a lot more to succeed in their goals as they are working with what can be seen to be 4 different physiologies all within a 4 weekly cycle.
These variations in physiology are why starting a diet at the right or wrong time can prove to be an instant success or a ticket to mega-struggleville, and why I wouldn’t recommend starting a diet at this time of the menstrual cycle. Trying to introduce a calorie deficit when BMR is at its peak and the cravings and hunger woman already have to battle with when dieting are at an all time high is a recipe for discomfort, frustration and succumb to the temptation of old habits.
Starting a diet on the first day of menstruation and maintaining it for the first two weeks of the menstrual cycle is a much more sensible approach to dieting for females. Starting a diet at this time allows a female to start her diet and maintain her diet in a time where she has more energy, feels emotionally more positive and does not have the grapple with her increased caloric needs, hunger and cravings.
This is yet another reason why dieting can be easier for men, and why many men struggle to understand the frustration many women face. Unlike women, men are able to maintain the same calorie deficit day to day or week to week without facing the increased hunger, cravings and stressors women face 2 our of every 4 weeks.
Due to all the physiological differences women experience during various times of their menstrual cycle, I always recommend women get into the habit of comparing their weight, body composition measurements, training volumes, weights and programs to those 4 weeks prior. As each week of the menstrual cycle is so unique, it’s simply unfair, unrealistic and often demoralising to compare a females performance in the gym as well as their composition from week to week.
This article was originally published to the Konquer Fitness Community on February 14th.
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