Menstruation is a woman’s monthly bleeding, also known as her “period”. When you menstruate, your body expels the monthly accumulation of the uterine lining (womb). Menstrual blood and tissue exit your body through your vagina after flowing from your uterus through the tiny opening in your cervix. The uterine lining thickens during the monthly menstrual cycle in preparation for pregnancy. If you do not become pregnant, your oestrogen and progesterone levels begin to decrease. Finally, low levels of oestrogen and progesterone signal your body to start menstruating.
The monthly hormonal cycle that a female’s body goes through to prepare for pregnancy is known as the menstrual cycle. Your menstrual cycle gets measured from the end of one to the start of your next period. Hormone levels (oestrogen and progesterone) typically fluctuate during the menstrual cycle, causing menstrual symptoms. The menstrual cycle is complicated and governed by numerous glands and the hormones produced by these glands.
Menstruation, the follicular phase, ovulation, and the luteal phase are the four phases of the menstrual cycle. Menstrual difficulties include heavy or painful periods and premenstrual syndrome (PMS). Knowing when a woman’s menstrual cycle is most likely to conceive can help her get pregnant.
According to the study, the menstrual cycle considerably affects basal metabolic rate. Menstruation causes a fall in basal metabolic rate, which drops to its lowest point roughly one week before ovulation and rises until the start of the next menstrual cycle.
Understanding the connection between blood glucose levels during the second half of your cycle is essential. You may experience some insulin resistance. If you have a wearable device like BIOS from HealthifyPRO 2.0, you might see that your blood sugar levels are off the mark at least one week before your periods. Luteal phase insulin resistance can lead to hyperglycemia. An increase in progesterone can also increase food cravings. Wrong food intake and fewer activity levels can increase weight and affect women with diabetes and PCOS, who face challenges with their reproductive cycle. Sometimes, forcing yourself to exercise and eating a meal full of fibre and protein can help you better. Tracking your sugar levels with BIOS can help you to manage these days better.
During the menstrual cycle, fluctuations in oestrogen and progesterone hormones affect glucose metabolism and insulin sensitivity. Research says that oestrogen enhances insulin sensitivity while progesterone causes insulin resistance.
Many female health difficulties can connect to poor blood sugar control and insulin resistance. These include polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), skin health, menopausal symptoms, infertility, weight control, and menstrual disruption. “Metabolic syndrome” is a grouping of disorders that increase your risk of heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes.
Exercising while on your period may seem counterintuitive, but it can help relieve menstrual symptoms. First, however, we need to look for limitations and exceptions.
Phases of the Menstrual Cycle
The menstrual cycle contains four distinct phases:
The menstrual cycle begins with the menstrual phase. It’s also the time when you get your period. This phase begins when an egg from the previous cycle has not got fertilised. Because no pregnancy has occurred, hormones oestrogen and progesterone levels fall. As a result, the thickened uterine lining that usually supports a pregnancy is no longer required, so it sheds via your vagina. Research shows that your uterus excretes a mixture of blood, mucus, and tissues during your period.
The follicular phase lasts from the first day of your period until you ovulate (there is some overlap within the menstrual cycle). The process begins when the hypothalamus signals the pituitary gland to release the follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH). This hormone stimulates your ovaries to produce 5 to 20 tiny sacs called follicles. Each follicle carries a developing egg. Only the healthiest eggs will reach maturity. (In rare cases, a lady will have two mature eggs.) The remaining follicles will get absorbed by your body. The mature follicle causes an increase in oestrogen, which thickens the uterine lining. This further generates a nutrient-rich environment in which an embryo can develop.
According to the data, rising oestrogen levels during the follicular period cause your pituitary gland to release luteinising hormone (LH). This is what initiates the ovulatory process. Ovulation occurs when your ovary releases a developed egg. The egg moves down the fallopian tube toward the uterus to be fertilised by sperm. The ovulation phase is the only time you can become pregnant during your menstrual cycle. Symptoms of ovulation include:
- A modest increase in basal body temperature
- The thicker discharge has the texture of egg whites.
If you have a 28-day cycle, ovulation happens around day 14—precisely in the middle of your menstrual cycle. It lasts roughly 24 hours. If the egg does not consummate within a day, it will expire or dissolve.
The corpus luteum develops after the follicle has released its egg. This structure secretes hormones, primarily progesterone and a trace of oestrogen. The increase in hormones keeps your uterine lining thick and ready for the implantation of a fertilised egg. If you become pregnant, your body will create human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG), the hormone detected for pregnancy testing. It aids in the maintenance of the corpus luteum and the thickness of the uterine lining.
According to research, if you do not become pregnant, the corpus luteum shrinks and resorbs. Therefore, this causes a drop in oestrogen and progesterone levels, resulting in the commencement of your menstruation. The uterine lining sheds during menstruation.
If you do not become pregnant during this stage, you may encounter premenstrual syndrome symptoms (PMS). These are some examples:
- Breast bloating, swelling, discomfort, or tenderness
- Alterations in mood
- Headaches and weight gain
- Shifts in sexual drive
- Food cravings
- Sleeping difficulties
The luteal phase lasts between 11 and 17 days. The average duration is 14 days.
The HealthifyMe Note
Between adolescence and menopause, a woman’s body undergoes multiple changes each month to prepare for a future pregnancy. The menstrual cycle refers to this succession of hormone-driven occurrences. An egg grows and gets discharged from the ovaries during each menstrual cycle. As a result, the lining of the uterus thickens. Without pregnancy, the uterine lining sheds during the menstrual cycle. The cycle then begins anew. The duration of each phase varies from woman to woman and can fluctuate over time.
Menstrual Cycle and Its Effects
The hormone levels in a person’s body alter throughout the menstrual cycle. Oestrogen levels rise during the first 14 days of an average 28-day cycle (known as the follicular phase), drop during ovulation (around day 14), and then rise again. (the period following ovulation is known as the luteal phase), and then fall back to baseline during the final days of the cycle as your period approaches.
Many studies have indicated that energy intake and expenditure were higher for some women during the luteal phase (post-ovulation) than during the follicular phase (preceding ovulation). These studies discovered that energy intake (what you eat) increased by roughly 100–500 calories per day, while energy expenditure (what your body burns) increased by about 100–300 calories per day.
The HealthifyMe Note
Periods and menstrual cycles impact almost every aspect of our lives, including how we feel emotionally, how much exercise we want to do, and what we want to eat. But did you know they may also have an impact on your metabolism? For example, your period may influence how quickly you digest meals and burn calories.
Resting metabolic rate (RMR) accounts for up to 75% of 24-hour energy expenditure. As such, it is essential for energy balance and weight management. An appropriate energy prescription to maintain energy balance over time is based on an accurate estimation of RMR. Hence, researchers must precisely monitor metabolism. However, many factors, such as age, nutrition, and daily activities, affect the menstrual cycle and metabolism differently in different people. Furthermore, ovulation may not always coincide with each month (if it occurs). Therefore, finding a solid, universal answer to how the menstrual cycle impacts metabolism will take years, with numerous scientists striving to unravel these complicated linkages.
Calorie burn during a period can vary greatly depending on the individual. Some people may burn more calories than others, but the average number of calories burned is somewhat similar for everyone. Data on the effect of the menstrual cycle on metabolism are inconclusive. Although there are significant intra-individual changes in RMR during the menstrual cycle, no clear pattern appears to exist. It could just be your body and hormones at work if you feel hungry and sluggish at particular times of the month.
The menstrual cycle had a considerable effect on basal metabolic rate. Menstruation causes a fall in basal metabolic rate, which drops to its lowest point roughly one week before ovulation and rises until the start of the next menstrual cycle. RMR was 0.99 kcal/kg/h +/- 0.16 kcal/kg/h.
Do You Burn More Calories During Menstruation?
Our menstrual cycles impact all aspects of our lives, including our metabolism. Our bodies require 100–300 more calories during the luteal phase (the week before our period is due). It has long been established that there are cyclical fluctuations in body weight and changes in water and electrolyte metabolism during the menstrual cycle. The lack of control over food intake complicates most previous investigations. A recent study found that calorie intake can increase by 12-38 per cent from the follicular to the luteal phase.
Our hormone levels are at their lowest during our menstruation. As a result, oestrogen and progesterone levels fall, which means we recover faster during exercise. Also, this makes an extra set of exercises or a post-workout run much more manageable, but it doesn’t guarantee that we’ll accomplish the extra work or burn the extra calories. However, this is because our Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR)—the number of daily calories required to stay alive—increases by 10–20% throughout this time. So it’s no surprise we want to eat more pasta or cut that additional slice of cake.
Furthermore, some studies state that in addition to alterations in plasma VLDL levels, acetoacetate and hydroxybutyrate levels are higher in the luteal phase of the cycle than in the menstrual phase. The rise in ketone body concentrations in fasting luteal samples could be attributed to an increase in energy demand. Furthermore, there is a substantial body of evidence indicating an increase in basal metabolic rate and energy consumption during the luteal phase. Lysine, alanine, glutamine, glycine, and serine levels were found in lower concentrations in the cycle’s luteal phase than in the menstrual phase.
In naturally cycling eumenorrhoeic women, the female hormones oestrogen and progesterone fluctuate regularly during the menstrual cycle. These hormones regulate many other physiological systems besides reproduction, and their actions during exercise may affect exercise performance. Furthermore, the late follicular phase, characterised by a pre-ovulatory increase in oestrogen and decreased progesterone concentrations, is likely to promote improved cycling time trial performance. Therefore, future research should incorporate this menstrual phase.
Variations in endurance performance during the menstrual cycle may be primarily due to changes in exercise metabolism caused by fluctuations in ovarian hormone concentrations. According to the research, oestrogen may improve endurance performance through modifying carbohydrate, lipid, and protein metabolism, while progesterone frequently appears to work antagonistically.
Measures to Optimise Exercise Whilst on Periods
While you don’t burn more calories when you’re on your period, working out during the various phases of your menstrual cycle does alter your body. Here’s how to get the most out of your workouts throughout your menstrual cycle and what to avoid.
Menstrual Period Phase 1 (Timeframe: 3-7 Days)
Perhaps the thought of spin classes or star jumps makes you cringe, yet the menstrual cycle is the best time to do HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training). Because your oestrogen and progesterone levels decline during the menstrual cycle, HIIT will be the most efficient fat-burning workout.
Phase 2: Follicular Phase (Timeframe: 7–10 days)
Because your oestrogen levels are rising after your period, you’ll soon feel physically fit again. Oestrogen aids muscle growth, pain tolerance, faster recovery, and increased stamina. So take advantage of the follicular phase and challenge yourself.
Ovulatory Phase (Timeframe: 3-4 days)
Your oestrogen levels are at their highest before you start experiencing PMS, making it the ideal time to work out. Now that your body is fully ready for fat loss, medium weights and greater reps are the way to go. When you feel more energised, you may also feel more social. Remember to warm up for a more extended period, stretch appropriately, and relax well. Because your muscles are delicate, especially after a hard workout, you’ll need time to heal and avoid injury.
Luteal Phase (Timeframe: 10–14 days)
The luteal phase comes with hunger, headaches, larger and painful breasts, and other symptoms. We all know that PMS is when our bodies begin to prepare us for our periods again. As a result, you may feel weary, bloated, and lack the enthusiasm to go to the gym. In addition, during the luteal phase, your core body temperature rises, making exercising difficult due to the excess body heat. Avoid the need to say no by opting for a gentler activity such as swimming, yoga, or a morning jog. Even walking will benefit your mind and body.
Menstruation and Blood Sugar Levels
Because oestrogen and progesterone regulate both your menstrual cycle and blood glucose levels, changes in your blood sugar levels may frequently be related to a particular moment in your monthly cycle. When oestrogen and progesterone levels are high, they affect insulin, a hormone. Your blood glucose levels may rise if your body grows more resistant to the effects of insulin. Four key hormones influence your menstrual cycle: oestrogen, progesterone, LH, and FSH. Each hormone has a unique effect on blood sugar and insulin sensitivity.
Here are some suggestions for reducing food cravings:
- Maintain consistent mealtimes and prevent eating throughout the day.
- If you require a snack, choose low-fat, low-carb options that are less likely to cause blood glucose spikes.
- Exercise regularly throughout the month to lower your blood glucose levels and control your mood.
Menstruation and Nutrition
Eating nutrient-rich foods like healthy fats and proteins is essential when you’re on your period. You should also consume plenty of low-glycemic-index vegetables and fruits to stabilise your blood sugar while providing your body with essential fibre and antioxidants. You’ll lose iron and zinc as you bleed, so replenish your body with kelp, nori, and seafood. And, as always, healthy stews and soups are a sure bet. Choose more nutritious snacks such as fruits and vegetables or low-sodium foods to avoid bloating. Eat fewer processed foods and less salt.
Self-Care During Periods
By doing some simple things, you can feel better during your period.
Menstrual cramps are normal and can begin a day or two, if not a few days before the period. They occur due to uterine muscle contractions caused by the release of a hormone known as prostaglandin—a normal and expected part of the menstrual cycle. While some women have mild symptoms, others have nausea, diarrhoea, headaches, and dizziness. You should see your doctor if you have severe symptoms because they could signify something more serious.
If your symptoms are mild, the following home remedies may help relieve period cramps and reduce pain:
- Put a heating pad or a hot water bottle on the lower abdomen or back.
- Take a hot bath.
- Massage your stomach.
- Consult your doctor before taking any over-the-counter pain relievers, muscle relaxants, or anti-inflammatory medications.
- Simple exercises such as yoga, walking, or swimming can help increase the blood flow and thus ease the pain.
Various studies have demonstrated that the menstrual cycle hugely impacts our bodies. It highlights the importance of accounting for these metabolic changes in future metabolomic studies involving premenopausal women, especially in studies with multiple time points. Menstrual cycle and metabolic health are inextricably linked. You can reduce PMS symptoms like bloating, headaches, nausea, and so on while managing the long-term side effects of unbalanced hormones like diabetes and PCOS with a combination of diet, nutrition, exercise, and period care. Listening to your body when on your period about what exercise routine to follow can help relieve cramps and PMS symptoms.