Let's take a close look at the four phases of your menstrual cycle (which for the majority of women is around 28 days).
And we know that they eat MORE following ovulation, when plasma progesterone is raised, and it seems the same is true for human beings.
Take a look at the graph below, which shows estrogen peaking at day 11 of the menstrual cycle:
And this is the important part: this large review
found that in 37 groups of women, 27 of them had a higher energy intake in the luteal phase in comparison to the follicular phase.
And this is the point: estrogen peaks in the late follicular phase as you can see, meaning estrogen helps you eat less.
But the luteal phase (when estrogen drops off) is when you can expect to eat more.
Which isn't as much of a surprise if you know it's coming!
4. Understand that you will eat more calories in the luteal phase
Whether you like it or not, you're consuming more calories here!
And you're perfectly normal and human for doing so.
Whilst it isn't always the case, it's a pretty strong blanket rule; research
shows women can eat as much as 90-500 extra calories in the luteal phase.
So if you're wondering why you eat more at this stage of your cycle, you might now know more about why!
But this is where a lot of body transformation female plans fail: they don't account for this.
Considering most weight loss diets are set at a 500 calorie deficit, and that deficit might be getting swallowed up by extra food cravings and consumption in the luteal phase; you can see why women can spin their wheels on certain weight loss plans.
Now I must point out that women can burn more
calories in the luteal phase --- between 89-279 -- but the fact is your calorie deficit might not be as large as you think.
And we're looking at two weeks here in the luteal phase; no insignificant amount of time! Stalling progress in this period can mean that only 50 per cent of the month counts towards weight loss.
This isn't encouraging if you're not aware of it, and doesn't exactly inspire a woman to keep dieting.
5. Understand that you will specifically crave higher calorie sweet foods in the luteal phase
This isn't spread enough as critical weight loss for women information, but it will make sense to so many of you.
For starters, when progesterone is elevated in the luteal phase, it's harder for women to burn fat.
This is because it negatively disturbs
how fat is broken down in body fat tissue. And it gets worse: this is when a woman's desire for dietary fat increases
And this is when losing weight becomes difficult; fat is the most nutrient dense macronutrient at 9 calories per gram.
And carbohydrates can get an extra run here too; research
shows a woman's intake can increase in the luteal phase, but it doesn't
So women crave more fats and carbohydrates in the luteal phase; but it gets even more specific, too!
has discovered that women simply prefer sweeter tasting foods and smells during this stage.
So, if you're constantly reaching for sweet tasting foods in the luteal phase, science says you have an excuse!
Basically, you'll get hungrier in the luteal phase. And you're totally normal (and human!) for doing so.
So don't beat yourself up about it.
6. Understand that you'll crave more chocolate in the luteal phase
Yep, you read that right!
I'm hoping you're punching the air in acknowledgement that you now have scientific reasoning for wanting to eat a block of chocolate during this phase!
Research suggests that women tend to have a desire for chocolate more
in the luteal phase, and can obviously more
calories during this time.
And survey research
reveals the same information.
Sure, we can put this down to the aforementioned research that finds women crave carbohydrates and fat more. But it seems like there's more to it ..
show that chocolate has very specific qualities that might be desired by women in the luteal phase. I'm talking about its:
And I know there's been a fair bit of bad news in this article, but here's the good news that will give you an excuse for eating chocolate in the luteal phase: research
suggests there doesn't seem to be any other substitute that can satisfy a woman's chocolate craving!
So any pretend sweets that anyone tries to dish up, just politely tell them "no", pull out your block of chocolate, and point them to this research!
Oh, and you want one more grand excuse?
A lady's preferences for sweet SMELLS are also increased in the luteal phase!
So, women not only crave more foods higher in carbohydrates and fat but their sense of smelling out nice tasting foods like chocolate is increased!
How are you meant to say no?!
I hope by this point this knowledge has solidified just how hard it is for you women to lose weight.
So don't compare yourselves to other men (or women at different stages of their cycle) when weight loss is your goal.
It's counterproductive and not a good strategy!
7. Ensure you plan for the luteal phase in your diet by adjusting your calories
I mentioned that women can eat an extra 90-500 extra calories in the luteal phase. So this is powerful information when it comes to dieting.
Let me say that the game is not over by and it doesn't mean you can't lose weight successfully. It just means we just need to account for it.
And we do that by adjusting our calories in the luteal phase.
We start by adding 300 calories. If it's not quite cutting it, we can go to 500 calories.
This means your chocolate and other cravings can all be part of your diet.
For example, 12-16 squares of milk chocolate yields around 400-530 calories, which might just be what you need. 9 squares gives you around 300 calories.
There might be some days where you require less, or even better, none at all.
But this means you'll be setting your calorie intake to roughly your total daily energy expenditure, which is the amount of calories you burn everyday.
This means you won't be losing weight, but won't be gaining it either.
It's a sure better strategy than just giving it to cravings without an understanding of how much you're eating and feeling like a failure because of it. By:
1. Understanding why you crave more calories in the luteal phase
2. Adjusting your calories to allow for it
3. Means you'll develop more self-compassion and go easier on yourself, which translates into a much smoother dieting experience, strategy, and thus result.
Further to this strategy, scientists add the following:
- Start with a calorie deficit on days 1-11 of your cycle when cravings shouldn't be as hard (and sticking to a nutrition plan is easier).
- Consider slightly increasing your carbohydrates and fats 5-8 days before menstruation begins to match your desire for extra calories (as opposed to failing to battle through your calorie deficit).
The amount of days in the luteal phase that cravings occur will vary from woman to woman. So, pay attention to yours and adjust accordingly.
8. Join a body transformation program that understands weight loss for women
Workout Meals 360 is a full-service fat loss workout plan for females (and males) looking to get into the shape of their lives.
Workout Meals understands how hard it is to have all your meals ready, know how many calories to eat per day, get everything right in the gym, and stay on track for weight loss.
This is why Workout Meals 360 was born; we give you a chef, a nutritionist and a personal trainer for constant support to ensure you get your best chance at weight loss success.
Time and time again we see people fall short because they don't have all the missing pieces; Workout meals 360 combats all of that, so you can just lose weight and get on with your life!
9. Make protein your best friend
Protein should be the macronutrient you consume the most of when dieting.
You need around
2 grams per kilogram of bodyweight per day for weight loss success.
Stick to leaner sources like chicken breast, lean steaks, kangaroo and others for the majority of your diet.
Here's five facts about protein you can't afford to forget:
1. It keeps you fuller than carbohydrates and fat
2. It has fewer calories than fat (and the same as carbohydrates)
3. You burn more calories eating protein (via thermogenesis) than fat or carbohydrates.
4. Research shows higher protein leads to better diet satisfaction
5. It helps you recover and preserve the muscle you've built.
10. Understand that you don't have to do cardio if you don't want to
Here's a common mistake lots of people make when fat loss is the goal: "Alright, weight loss starts tomorrow! I HATE running, but I'm going to start with 5 kilometres..."
Here's the good news: you don't have to do cardio if you don't want to!
shows that whether or not you create a calorie deficit from diet, or from diet AND exercise, the fat loss results are the same.
Read that sentence again.
So you can still eat less and lose weight without worrying so much about cardio.
Don't forget this either: weight training is superior for muscle growth and thus a stronger and more "toned" looking physique.
11. Understand you'll have setbacks, tough days...but hang in there!
Weight loss isn't always smooth sailing.
And for women, as we now know more about, it's everything but that.
As a woman, you'll have a harder time than men losing weight. But everyone is human (even wonder woman) and you're not to get discouraged.
You must remember that we all have bad days, fall off the wagon, eat too much pizza or donuts, and feel like we've failed.
But we haven't. It's just a normal set back that everyone faces. And you can always pick up again the next day.
Remember your small amount of treats daily within your macronutrient allowance, and cheat meals when you need them (but making sure you don't end up in a surplus).
Stick to a diet that you can adhere to long term. Because whilst the fat loss industry tries to tell you results come quickly, the truth is it's a long game.
Just like anything else worth doing.
So, there are 11 weight loss tips for women that you can put into practice as outlined, ensuring you get your best chance at succeeding with your weight loss goals!
Helms ER, Zinn C, Rowlands DS, Brown SR. A systematic review of dietary protein during caloric restriction in resistance trained lean athletes: a case for higher intakes. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2014 Apr;24(2):127-38. doi: 10.1123/ijsnem.2013-0054. Epub 2013 Oct 2. PMID: 24092765.van Baak MA. Meal-induced activation of the sympathetic nervous system and its cardiovascular and thermogenic effects in man. Physiol Behav. 2008;94:178–86.Soenen S, Westerterp-Plantenga MS. Proteins and satiety: implications for weight management. Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. 2008;11:747–751. doi: 10.1097/MCO.0b013e328311a8c4.Westerterp-Plantenga MS, Lemmens SG, Westerterp KR. Dietary protein - its role in satiety, energetics, weight loss and health. Br J Nutr. 2012 Aug;108 Suppl 2:S105-12. doi: 10.1017/S0007114512002589. PMID: 23107521.Wilmshurst P., Crawley J. C. W. The measurement of gastric transit time in obese subjects using Na and the effects of energy content and guar gum on gastric emptying and satiety. British Journal of Nutrition. 2007;44(1):1–6. doi: 10.1079/bjn19800003.Carbone JW, Pasiakos SM. Dietary Protein and Muscle Mass: Translating Science to Application and Health Benefit. Nutrients. 2019;11(5):1136. Published 2019 May 22. doi:10.3390/nu11051136Hoffman JR, Falvo MJ. Protein - Which is Best?. J Sports Sci Med. 2004;3(3):118-130. Published 2004 Sep 1.
Strasser B, Spreitzer A, Haber P. Fat loss depends on energy deficit only, independently of the method for weight loss. Ann Nutr Metab. 2007;51(5):428-32. doi: 10.1159/000111162. Epub 2007 Nov 20. PMID: 18025815.
Anderson JW, Grant L, Gotthelf L, Stifler LT. Weight loss and long-term follow-up of severely obese individuals treated with an intense behavioral program. Int J Obes (Lond). 2007 Mar;31(3):488-93. doi: 10.1038/sj.ijo.0803423. Epub 2006 Jul 4. Erratum in: Int J Obes (Lond). 2007 Mar;31(3):565. PMID: 16819530.
Davidsen, L., Vistisen, B. & Astrup, A. Impact of the menstrual cycle on determinants of energy balance: a putative role in weight loss attempts. Int J Obes 31, 1777–1785 (2007). https://doi.org/10.1038/sj.ijo.0803699
Poppitt SD, Prentice AM, Goldberg GR, Whitehead RG. Energy-sparing strategies to protect human fetal growth. Am J Obstet Gynecol. 1994 Jul;171(1):118-25. doi: 10.1016/s0002-9378(94)70087-7. PMID: 8030686.
Hatsu, I.E., McDougald, D.M. & Anderson, A.K. Effect of infant feeding on maternal body composition. Int Breastfeed J 3, 18 (2008). https://doi.org/10.1186/1746-4358-3-18
Buffenstein R, Poppitt SD, McDevitt RM, Prentice AM. Food intake and the menstrual cycle: a retrospective analysis, with implications for appetite research. Physiol Behav. 1995 Dec;58(6):1067-77. doi: 10.1016/0031-9384(95)02003-9. PMID: 8623004.
Owen JA Jr. Physiology of the menstrual cycle. Am J Clin Nutr. 1975 Apr;28(4):333-8. doi: 10.1093/ajcn/28.4.333. PMID: 1091131.
Sowers MR, Jannausch ML, McConnell DS, Kardia SR, Randolph JF Jr. Endogenous estradiol and its association with estrogen receptor gene polymorphisms. Am J Med. 2006 Sep;119(9 Suppl 1):S16-22. doi: 10.1016/j.amjmed.2006.07.002. PMID: 16949384.
Dye L, Blundell JE. Menstrual cycle and appetite control: implications for weight regulation. Hum Reprod. 1997 Jun;12(6):1142-51. doi: 10.1093/humrep/12.6.1142. PMID: 9221991.
Johnson WG, Corrigan SA, Lemmon CR, Bergeron KB, Crusco AH. Energy regulation over the menstrual cycle. Physiol Behav. 1994 Sep;56(3):523-7. doi: 10.1016/0031-9384(94)90296-8. PMID: 7972403.
Bisdee JT, Garlick PJ, James WP. Metabolic changes during the menstrual cycle. Br J Nutr. 1989 May;61(3):641-50. doi: 10.1079/bjn19890151. PMID: 2758017.
Wade GN, Gray JM. Gonadal effects on food intake and adiposity: a metabolic hypothesis. Physiol Behav. 1979 Mar;22(3):583-93. doi: 10.1016/0031-9384(79)90028-3. PMID: 379889.
Hansen, F. M., Fahmy, N., & Nielsen, J. H. (1980). The influence of sexual hormones on lipogenesis and lipolysis in rat fat cells, Acta Endocrinologica, 95(4), 566-570. Retrieved Dec 6, 2021.
National Research Council (US) Committee on Diet and Health. Diet and Health: Implications for Reducing Chronic Disease Risk. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 1989. 6, Calories: Total Macronutrient Intake, Energy Expenditure, and Net Energy Stores. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK218769/
Li ET, Tsang LB, Lui SS. Menstrual cycle and voluntary food intake in young Chinese women. Appetite. 1999 Aug;33(1):109-18. doi: 10.1006/appe.1999.0235. PMID: 10447983.
Bowen DJ, Grunberg NE. Variations in food preference and consumption across the menstrual cycle. Physiol Behav. 1990 Feb;47(2):287-91. doi: 10.1016/0031-9384(90)90144-s. PMID: 2333344.
Hetherington MM, MacDiarmid JI. "Chocolate addiction": a preliminary study of its description and its relationship to problem eating. Appetite. 1993 Dec;21(3):233-46. doi: 10.1006/appe.1993.1042. PMID: 8141595.
Hill AJ, Heaton-Brown L. The experience of food craving: a prospective investigation in healthy women. J Psychosom Res. 1994 Nov;38(8):801-14. doi: 10.1016/0022-3999(94)90068-x. PMID: 7722960.
Michener W, Rozin P. Pharmacological versus sensory factors in the satiation of chocolate craving. Physiol Behav. 1994 Sep;56(3):419-22. doi: 10.1016/0031-9384(94)90283-6. PMID: 7972390.
Danker-Hopfe H, Roczen K, Löwenstein-Wagner U. Regulation of food intake during the menstrual cycle. Anthropol Anz. 1995 Sep;53(3):231-8. PMID: 7486882.