When we eat, walk, exercise, or even simply breathe, our bodies burn calories as fuel. So why should it be any different for your body when it needs to power you through your period? Does that time of the month boost your resting metabolic rate?
In short, the answer is yes. Let me explain.
Think back to Health Science 101 for a moment: Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR), simply put, is the number of calories needed to keep our bodies fully functioning at rest. The female basal metabolic rate (BMR) goes up before your period even starts. Specifically, your BMR spikes directly after ovulation, meaning you will burn more calories at rest in preparation for your impending period. However, once menstruation begins, the BMR “resets to a normal level.”
One might think that our bodies would be a calorie-burning inferno during the week of menstruation; however, our BMRs are actually at their peak 1-2 weeks prior to its start instead.
This is called the “luteal phase,” or the “ovulatory phase.” This phase is when our BMRs are at their highest levels during the cycle.
How can we leverage this to our advantage? Well, studies show that exercising during this time can burn more fat than any other part of the menstrual phase. The hormone progesterone stimulates the use of fat as an energy source. This is a good time for activities like yoga and strength training. Whether you are trying to lose weight or maintain it, exercising during your luteal phase can make a difference over time.
When the hunger pangs crescendo the week before period onset, it is because our body knows we need a little extra fuel to function in the coming week. So how many extra calories do we actually burn before it starts? Generally speaking, and of course everybody is different, your body burns 100 to 300 more calories the week before. However, giving into specific cravings laden with salt, sugar, and refined carbs might just exacerbate symptoms associated with that time of the month. What can you do if you are looking to avoid overeating? Fill up on fiber-rich foods and avoid salty foods to avoid that gross, bloated feeling.