Periods are like double-edged swords, but do you burn more calories on your period?
Sure it helps you with reproductive health and does some inner cleansing, but it also has some painful side effects. Well, sometimes the pain is for good. Your reproductive system gets a much-needed cleanse, and your body prepares for the next menstrual cycle.
It is pretty shocking, but periods are still taboo (more or less) around the
world. Lots of people don’t know much about periods or menstrual hygiene. The worst case is people knowing completely wrong things about the period. And if that wasn’t enough, there are tons of misinformation and half-truths surrounding periods, like the entire thing about periods and losing weight.
Losing weight during period is a pretty common belief. Some believe that your bodies burn more calories on your period and help in your weight loss journey. But is it true? Do you burn more calories on your period? Here is your science-backed answer to that question. Let’s see what it says.
Do You Burn More Calories on Your Period?
Technically yes, but also no.
Confused? Don’t be. This means you burn more calories, but not as much as you think. It is a pretty small amount.
How many calories you burn depends on your metabolic rate. Your metabolism rate can be explained with two terms, RMR and BMR. RMR is your resting metabolic rate. This tells you how many calories your body needs to burn when resting. RMR is needed to keep your organs functional. BMR is the basal metabolic rate. BMR tells you how many calories your body needs to burn to stay alive.
Unfortunately, there is next to zero proof of you burning noticeably more calories during your period. Your metabolic rates fluctuate throughout your period, but the number of calories you burn is very small. This is usually around 100-300 calories. That many calories you can easily get from your small snack pack. So when you technically burn more calories during your period, the amount is very small.
Interestingly, a small study conducted in 2015 indicated that the increase in RMR in women happens during their luteal phase and not during their actual period. So you’ll be burning more calories during your luteal phase. Your RMR (and BMR) hits the lowest point when you start bleeding. This makes your calorie-burning level return to pretty much the normal state.
Why Do You Feel More Hungry During Your Period Then?
If you aren’t burning calories, you shouldn’t feel hungrier right? But most women report feeling hungrier than usual when on their period. There are three major causes for this–hormonal, neurological, and cultural.
Hormonal changes cause a lot of urges and cravings when you’re on your period. When you start getting closer to your menstrual cycle, your hormone levels change. Both Estrogen and Progesterone hormone secretion changes levels.
Progesterone is responsible for your intense food cravings, especially for sweet food. This change is why you feel hungry. It can cause weight gain during your luteal phase and your period.
The increased hunger you feel during your period is mostly neurological. When your luteal phase starts, your RMR and BMR increase. So your body burns calories faster, and you feel more energetic. Your brain translates this faster BMR and RMR into calls for more food. It sends your body signals to get more food, which translates into your hunger. So you get more food cravings than usual.
Another reason is your evolutionary response. Your brain automatically translates food as a source of energy. Since the hormone fluctuation sends your entire system into a frenzy, your brain tries to keep up with it by getting more energy. So it sends a hunger signal to your body, and you get the extra cravings.
Cultural elements can influence your cravings too. Usually, being hungry when you’re on your period is normalized and not really frowned upon. You can eat without being judged for the most part. Sometimes media can influence your cravings, too, like how chocolate is marketed as comfort food for people on their period.
Do You Burn More Calories Before Your period?
Technically yes. Women burn more calories before their actual period starts. According to a Pubmed review (published in 2020), your body goes through a small but significant increase in RMR during your luteal phase. And increased RMR means faster calorie burning. So technically, your body burns more calories during this phase.
The luteal phase is when the rise and drop of the two major hormones (estrogen and progesterone) starts. Your progesterone level dips, but the estrogen secretion gets a boost. This hormone is linked with metabolism issues. Menopausal women have a low estrogen level and suffer from metabolic issues and obesity. So when your estrogen level boosts, your RMR boosts too. This boost can be anywhere from 10%-20%. With this increased rate, your metabolism starts performing at its peak. Your body burns more calories and does it faster because of the increased RMR.
The luteal phase lasts upto 2 weeks, so chances are you’re burning more calories starting from two weeks to your period. Crazy, right?
Should You Take More Calories During Your Period?
That depends on what source they’re coming from. Your urge to eat more during your luteal phase has probably skyrocketed now, but you must be careful to avoid weight gain. A higher metabolism rate will burn a bit more calories but eating junk food or too much-processed food will land you right back on square one.
Most cravings you’ll get during your period are your body’s way of asking you for more nutrition. Try to focus more on natural and fresh produces instead of junk foods. Incorporate more iron sources in your diet. This can be from red meats, shellfish, or organic meats like liver.
You can consider taking extra supplements like magnesium, calcium, and a little collage. Another important point to mind is your hydration. Make sure you drink lots of water and other liquids to keep yourself hydrated.
Do you burn more calories during your period? As fun as it would be, you don’t. Your hormone changes help your metabolic rates to hit their peak during the luteal phase (starting from around 14 days before your period). You burn a bit more calories, but that’s as low as 100-300 calories. When your period starts, your BMR and RMR return to normal, and your metabolism also becomes relatively normal.
The extra calories you’re taking during the luteal phase should be coming from natural and fresh produces to avoid weight gain. You can also try out supplements if you want. Make sure your hydration is on point, and you’ll be good to go!