Why women have pre-period cravings and what to do about it
First of all, it is helpful to understand what is going on during the cycle, simply for AWARENESS. When we are aware, we are better prepared to deal with it…with more self-compassion.
So here is what is going on 4-7 days before period:
🎈progesterone increases body temperature and our BMR (calories we burn at rest) increases by 150-300 kcal
🎈this does not help as drop in estrogen causes the drop in serotonin and dopamine (those responsible for happiness and good mood) – and we get much hungrier than 150 kcal. We may get 100500 kcal hungrier! And we want not just any food, but super-palatable high-sugar high-calorie food.
🎈progesterone causes some degree of insulin resistance one consequence of this is that blood sugar may become unstable. This can cause blood sugar levels to fall, also stimulating hunger and cravings and… affecting mood and energy levels!
🎈so our mood is attacked from 2 sides: drop in estrogen and blood sugar fluctuations
🎈we react to sodium intake with unorthodox amount of water retention
🎈sleep is often interrupted during the late luteal phase as well. Melatonin gets more inhibited by the impact of even small amounts of light, and this can prevent women from sleeping well
🎈lack of quality sleep = harder to lose fat (blood sugar fluctuations, bad mood, less rational behaviour)
🎈if that all was not enough,
meals digest more quickly we do not stay full as long and are more likely to overeat
And here are the latest evidence-based solutions:
1️⃣address blood sugar fluctuations
🍩protein intake should be adequate always (if you struggle with weight loss), but during luteal phase it is especially important: protein improves satiety and fullness (I assume you know what protein sources are, if not, ask questions under the post)
🍩higher fat, lower carb diet helps with insulin sensitivity
🍩try a bit of fruit with every meal to avoid blood sugar lows (fructose refills liver glycogen and this, anecdotally, helps to reduce hunger)
🍩but beware that eating fruit alone (as well as any other carb), without protein or/and fat source may result in blood sugar spike in some people, leading to crush soon. This crush will cause tiredness, cravings, hunger.
🍩resistance training (if possible during those days) and walks (better in the wild) - both are natural insulin sensitisers and mood enhancers
2️⃣Address mood to reduce cravings of high-calorie palatable foods
🐙Mindfulness…Yes. Do it! Pay for @headspace or EatRightNow apps
🐙Sleep – make sure lights are dimmed a couple of hours before bed and screens are ‘yellowed’ (there are apps for this)
3️⃣To chocolate or not to chocolate
🍫Have a bit of chocolate, after a balanced meal. Only purchase the amount you eat in one go (those small G&B chocolate bars, for a example). I am serious, this is important – don’t expose yourself to temptation, if you are in risk group
🍫If on diet, maybe increase calories to maintenance level to allow for what you crave
🍫Science says: limiting foods makes us crave these foods more, so think twice before ‘I am not eating chocolate full stop’. Willpower is a limited resource, and your brain will win sooner or later. Some end up in a full-blown binge.
4️⃣And if you do feel like you overdid the calories, and see an immediate increase on scales, don’t freak out – this is water retention
5️⃣ To minimise water retention reduce sodium, increase potassium
6️⃣ Supplement with Magnesium, not only it is a natural insulin sensitiser and mood enhancer, it may also reduce symptoms of PMS, cramping and menstrual migraine. Get quality expensive magnesium glycinate and take minimum 300-400g a day