Menstrual Cycle Sabotage: Hormones & Dieting [E08]

Menstrual Cycle Sabotage: Hormones & Dieting Cover Photo
Have you ever felt like your hormones are killing your progress on keto... or any other diet you try? If you feel like your menstrual cycle wrecks your metabolism, eating habits, and weight, this episode is for you. Join us to learn how monthly hormonal fluctuations can impact your dieting efforts, along with strategies to avoid the common traps women often experience. Stop blaming your hormones and start working with them instead!

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Hey there, Tasha here. Before we jump in to today's episode, I have some exciting news. My brand spanking new book, Keto: A Woman's Guide and Cookbook–which is a reference guide, cookbook, and jam packed resources to help women fine-tune their approach to keto–has been available for pre-order for a couple of months now. And I wanted to share with you just really quick what some of the readers have been saying.

Nina says, "This book has everything I've been looking for and more. I never fully understood the keto diet until tortious book. It's not eating bacon and deep frying and butter. It's finding what works for your body. Macros can be so confusing, but Tasha breaks it down without all the nutritional jargon. It was easy to understand and all of the free resources she provided were beyond helpful. I finally know how to make keto work for me. Thank you so much, Tasha, for making a book that everyone can enjoy." I love hearing that!

And here's what another Amazon reviewer, T Wunder had to say. "I'm only about a third of the way through, but I have to give this book a five star review now. I've stumbled around and tried keto before with some success, but this book explains everything and backs it all up with the research the author used. It's also easy to read and you feel like the author is your cheerleader. This is going on my shelf along with The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Living as my expert guides." So first off, thank you so much for taking the time to leave those amazing reviews of Keto: A Woman's Guide. What I love most is that these reviews were actually submitted when I first released my book, both for my publisher asked me to do an expanded edition, complete with our recipe section and more visuals. Pretty incredible, right?

So if you're getting started doing keto and want to step by step, no nonsense guide to make keto work for you, or you've been doing keto for a while and want to hone in on the strategies and tactics that drive even better results. Or you're tired of one size fits all keto books, not giving you enough depth and detail to understand how and why you might need to tweak things–this is why I wrote the book. Keto: A Woman's Guide and Cookbook will help you get laser-sharp focus on strategies that work for weight loss, improved fat burning, and hormonal balance. And it will also let you know what tactics you can stop wasting your time on. To be honest, when I wrote this book, I included all the things I wish I knew before starting keto. I wish I had something like this when I was getting started and trying to figure it all out or even after I started and wasn't making the progress that I wanted. So here's the deal. If you're a woman doing keto or know someone who is. I want you to head over to Amazon, Barnes and Noble Books a million or your preferred online retailer and pick up a copy. Pre-orders help retailers know that there is interest in a title. So it really helps get the book CNN search results online and end up on the shelves and physical stores. And once you get your coffee. If you could take the time to leave a quick review on Amazon, letting me know how the book has helped you, I would appreciate it more than you'll ever know. OK. Let's go ahead and dive into today's episode.

Welcome back. And thanks for tuning in. Right now, I'm holding on to something very special to me.

It's near and dear to my heart because I've devoted so much of my time researching, writing blood, sweat and tears literally when I first held this in my hands. I burst into tears. I was just so overwhelmed with excitement, seeing it all come together. Proud of what I accomplished and anxious to set it off into the world. It's my new book, Keto: A Woman's Guide. My publisher recently sent me an advanced copy and I'm just so incredibly happy with how it turned out and really, really grateful for the opportunity to write about my passion and share it with the world.

So in celebration of the upcoming release of my book, I'm going to spend this episode and the next few episodes talking all about hormones. Because hormones can and will affect your dieting efforts, whether you like it or not. And what better way to celebrate a keto book dedicated to women than by talking about our menstrual cycles, right? I don't know if it stems from the fact that I love biology and science or if it comes from having some erratic periods and just not having my period for extended chunks of time throughout my life due to PCOS when I totally should have been having it. But I love, love, love period talk. I can talk about menstruation and periods until I'm blue in the face. And honestly, I really do think more people should talk about menstrual health because it's an important, vital sign. If something is off with your cycle, that is a clue that something else may be off with your health, but the menstrual cycle can also give us insight into our dieting efforts. Yes, for real hormone levels and the phase of the menstrual cycle can affect metabolism, eating habits, insulin sensitivity, and even your weight. So that's what we're gonna be talking about today, how your menstrual cycle can affect your dieting efforts.

In other words, how fluctuations in female hormones can sabotage your diet. I promise it's not all doom and gloom. Once we understand what's going on with our bodies, that awareness can help us navigate the usual pitfalls and traps. But even more importantly, it can help us come up with an effective game plan. During these times. Cool? Cool. If you aren't familiar with the textbook version of the menstrual cycle, I'm just going to break it down really quickly into easy to understand and digest phases. I don't want this to be over complicated. I want this to be actionable. OK?

Now overall, the average menstrual cycles, about 28 days, give or take. OK, and it's broken up into two main phases, separated by ovulation. So the first half of the menstrual cycle before you ovulate is the follicular phase. I'm just going to refer to this as the "first half" of the cycle so it doesn't get too technical. I don't want to lose you. The first half of the cycle starts when you start your menstrual bleed. Estrogen rises and this is the dominant hormone. About 14 days into your cycle (remember, we're talking averages), ovulation occurs about 14 days into your cycle, and then you move into the second half of the cycle. Which is what I'm just gonna call it, the "second half" of the cycle. It's also known as the luteal phase.

OK, post ovulation as the second half of the cycle. This is where the lining in your uterus builds up to support a pregnancy and progesterone becomes the dominant hormone. That's the simplified, easy peasy menstrual cycle. First phase, high estrogen. Then you ovulate. Second phase, high progesterone. And if you don't get pregnant, the cycle starts all over again. First phase, ovulation, second phase, every 28 days. OK, this is a watered down version. I know, but this is a podcast, not a university class. And for our discussion, this is totally sufficient. Now, why is this important? The very first reason that this is important is because your metabolic rate fluctuates depending on where you're at in your menstrual cycle. The phase of your menstrual cycle affects your metabolic rate. The first phase of your cycle, your metabolic rate actually drops, OK, and it doesn't increase until the second half of your cycle. So when you start your menstrual bleed, all the way up until ovulation, your metabolism is actually slower. You're burning less calories, expending less energy, and that means your energy needs are also lower.

So this is something to keep in mind. If you're trying to lose weight and thinking you are in this pretty constant calorie deficit 24/7. When realistically you aren't burning as many calories during this phase of your cycle. All right. So there's a couple things that you can do. First of all, you can adjust your calories, your energy intake. And if you're thinking about playing around with your intake, this is a way that you could do it. Targeting the first phase of your cycle where you're eating less energy dense foods during this time, knowing you're not really burning as much energy, adjusting your goals as you go. Remember, "calories in and calories out" still apply to keto and every other dietary pattern. OK, so the other thing besides just dropping your calories would be increasing your physical activity and increasing your calorie burn or the "calories out" portion of that. I don't love further reducing your calories if you're already eating at a calorie deficit. I would much rather see people opting for physical activity. I think I think that would be a huge win here, in my opinion. OK, so low metabolism, first phase, higher metabolism, second phase. Are you with me?

OK, here's the crazy part though: that increase in metabolism in the second phase is almost always cancelled out by what happens to your appetite during the luteal phase, the second half of your menstrual cycle. During this time your appetite goes through the roof.

OK. And as your metabolic rate increases and your body preps for pregnancy, you eat a whole lot more, whether you're aware of it or not. Increased calorie consumption and food cravings go wild during this time. OK, so not only can you just cancel out that increase in metabolism, you can actually exceed your needs with excess intake and it can happen on the regular every month for a couple weeks. Your appetite is going wild and crazy because you don't want to just eat more food. You want to eat sugary fatty, high calorie desserts and all of these things that are not really friendly to your waistline. These are all at an all time high. OK, so your body starts burning a little more energy, which in turn signals you to increase your food intake. Whether you realize it or not, whether you're really paying attention and you're aware of it or not, OK, and if you're not careful, this can lead to eating way more than you want to. All right. This is the time when people have the hardest time sticking to their diets… I shouldn't say people… when women, females have the hardest time sticking to their diet. OK, this is when you give up on your planned eating. This is when you have that insatiable urge to eat candy and chocolate and ice cream and you just like, give it all up because nothing else really matters.

Those cravings are so strong and you're so hungry all the time. And this is exactly why I think keto can be so great for women during this time in their cycles, because the increased appetite control and hunger suppression can really help battle this monthly phase where he would normally be bingeing and indulging and all of the things you're actively trying to avoid.

Adding another layer of dieting difficulty to all of this is the increased impulsiveness experienced during this time of the cycle during the second half of your menstrual cycle. Impulsive behavior increases as estrogen drops even with the best intentions. You have an increased desire to eat all the sugary fatty foods in sight, major, major food cravings and impulsive behavior as on the rise. This can be a recipe for disaster if you're trying to watch what you eat, and especially with that strict, rigid mindset where you feel like you're cheating if you deviate from your plan, if you were to eat something that's not quote unquote "clean" or something. Right. So this time of a month, the last half of your cycle when you want to go off the rails, maybe this can be when you experiment with some of the keto compatible treat foods and goodies that you may be avoiding because you're trying to be really strict with keto. Give yourself a little flexibility, have some keto desserts, bake something using keto compatible sweeteners, pick up a nice high quality dark chocolate.

OK, opt for some of those low carb ice creams that you can find at the stores. You know there are so many killer keto sweets and goodies you can stick with keto and still have your treats. OK, so if you find yourself struggling to maintain whatever dieting efforts are making, let yourself have some wiggle room. Nourishing your body and eating health promoting foods is a life-long effort. OK, so eating keto may be temporary for you, it may be long term, but you're always going to need to fuel your body. And giving yourself flexibility to not be super hard core, rigid, black and white, clean versus dirty when it comes to your food can help you build a much stronger relationship with your with your meals, with food. OK, it's not the enemy.

So the flip side of this is if you're trying to get started and really want to optimize your start date, choosing a time when you're a less impulsive can be really ideal. So you're less impulsive in the first half of your cycle before you ovulate, maybe start your dieting efforts or any kind of changes that require impulse control during your period or soon after. The ability to control your impulses and really follow through with your efforts can be a huge confidence boost and win for you while starting your diet or other changes during the second phase when impulses run high.

Maybe you're setting yourself up for an uphill battle, making things a little tougher to get off the ground, right? So leading up to your period, think PMS, irritability, food cravings, increased appetite, all of these things that you would be fighting against to start keto or change your way of eating. And honestly, that's probably not the best time to get things rolling.

Start whenever, you know, you don't have to use this as a reason to postpone or as an excuse to not get started. But I'm just letting you know if you're struggling, there might be a deeper hormonal connection. It's not you. It's not your fault. This is all beyond your control. And you can't change these things. You can just change how you respond and react, OK? So don't hate your hormones, work with them.

The take home here is that the best time to start your diet or any changes in your eating habits are the first phase of your menstrual cycle before ovulation. Give yourself permission to have keto friendly desserts and treats when the food cravings and impulses strike in the second half of your cycle.

Now you might be wondering why I didn't just suggest going off of keto during times when your food impulses are high. If you're having all these cravings and giving yourself permission to be flexible, why not just eat whatever you want? Well, of course you can do that.

OK. I 'm not your boss. But I do think that keto or low carb diets are optimal for women interested in weight management during this time. As I already mentioned, there is increased appetite control, decreased hunger. So it really does help to squash some of those hormonally-driven eating impulses and food cravings.

But also, and perhaps more importantly, insulin sensitivity and carb metabolism drops during the second half of the cycle. So at rest, you're not able to effectively and efficiently bring carbs, or sugar, into the cell to burn for energy, basically. And in turn, this promotes fat storage. OK. Anyone who has insulin resistance knows all about this. You know exactly where I'm coming from. Right. But for women just in general who have their menstrual cycles, they're basically experiencing a form of insulin resistance during the second half of their cycle. Not necessarily at a clinical level, but just in general, less able to metabolize carbs to use effectively for immediate energy. Your carbs are more likely to be stored as fat during this time. So if you aren't able to burn carbs for energy and they're more likely to promote fat storage during this time, it makes sense to keep them low during the luteal phase, during the second half of your cycle.

So that's why I suggest keeping it keto low carb during this time, because if you do let your impulses and cravings dictate what you eat, opting for the sugary sweets and desserts, you're even more likely to fuel weight gain, specifically fat gain during this time.

Keeping it keto during the second phase of your menstrual cycle can help you manage your appetite and mitigate the impaired carb metabolism and decreased insulin sensitivity. So it's just better from a body composition perspective and in a weight management context in general for women to keep your carbs low during the luteal phase or the second phase of your menstrual cycle. There's athletic exceptions to this, but that is a whole nother can of worms to open up, so I'll just stay focused on general, premenopausal women for now. OK.

Finally, I want to talk about changes in body weight related to your menstrual cycle. I'm sure there is lots of ladies out there listening already that know your weight can fluctuate depending on where you're at in your cycle. In general, your weight tends to go up with water retention toward the end of the second half of your cycle right before your period. OK. So we know this. We know our weight is going to shift based on our periods. OK. And there are some hormonal things at play making this all happen despite any weight loss efforts or not. So I think it's just important to touch base on this if you are focusing in on the number on your scale, not to let this throw you off too much.

OK, let's just do a quick body image check instead of getting caught up with whether or not our body is carrying a little extra water. Because this little bump in weight, it really does affect women. It can drive negative thoughts about your body. It can give you anxiety over your appearance and really mess with how you see your body. OK, that number on the scale going up can really skew your perception of your body size. OK. And it's not the all important end all be all. That number does not define your self worth. You are so much more than that.

Instead of worrying and stressing about the number going up, here's what I want you to do. Instead, use logic and self care. Tell yourself, "Oh, just water. Wait. No biggie." Then look in the mirror. Shoot the finger guns at yourself. Smile and say, "I'm so proud of myself for not letting the scale bother me today. I'm beautiful and I love my body." Or whatever kind of positive affirmation works for you. They really do work. OK. Focus on the positive. Imagine how much better your day would go if you started off with a little self-love instead of reinforcing this idea that you're not good enough. OK. Because you are. So that's what you do. Just brush it off and love yourself up because you do deserve it.

Thank you so much for tuning into this episode of the Ketogasm podcast. You are awesome. I really hope the show's added value to your keto journey. Making big changes to your eating habits can be a little tricky, but if you're taking the time to listen and learn about keto, you're well on your way. You got this. Be sure to visit Ketogasm dot com for the show notes with full transcripts, references and resources to help you out, including a totally free course called Hello Keto. It's helped over seventy five thousand people start keto with confidence. I'll see you in the next episode. Bye!

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Hello, and welcome to our exciting new episode of Easy Keto with Tasha! Today’s episode is all about the ladies and our favorite monthly visitor. You guessed it; we’re tackling the dreaded menstrual cycle. 

I’ll even let you in on a little secret. I LOVE period talks. Maybe it’s my background in biology, or maybe it’s the fact that I’ve had a long battle with my period due to PCOS. Whatever the motivation might be, I can talk periods until I’m blue in the face.

Keto: A Woman’s Guide and Cookbook

Given that today’s episode is dedicated to women, it’s only right that I mention my new book, Keto: A Woman’s Guide and Cookbook. This book is a completely in-depth resource, guide, AND cookbook created specifically for women interested in keto. Beginners and veterans alike will find deeply-researched information to help tailor their diets for success.

And the best part? It’s available for preorder NOW! You can reserve your copy at whatever online retailer you prefer. Don’t forget to leave a review on Amazon once you get your copy; believe me, I read each and every one!

Menstrual Cycle Sabotage

Menstrual health acts as an important vital sign indicator for women. It is no secret that issues with your menstrual cycle can be a sign that there is a bigger health issue. However, menstruation can also provide insight into our dieting efforts! That’s right. The phase of your menstrual cycle and your hormone levels can affect metabolism, eating habits, insulin sensitivity, and even your weight!

The fluctuations in female hormones don’t just cause you to cry or experience gnarly breakouts; these hormones can be actively sabotaging your diet efforts! Thankfully, as we develop our awareness of our bodies, we can learn how to stop this hormonal undermining in its tracks.

The Standard Menstrual Cycle

The average menstrual cycle lasts 28 days.

Each menstrual cycle is broken down into two phases. These phases are separated by ovulation.

Follicular phase: This is the first half of your cycle. The follicular phase begins the first day of your menstrual bleed (aka your period) and before ovulation. Estrogen rises and acts as the dominant hormone of this phase.

Luteal phase: This is the second half of your cycle. It occurs after ovulation. Your uterus builds up it’s lining to promote pregnancy. Progesterone is the dominant hormone in this phase. 

If you do not get pregnant during this cycle, then your body will rinse and repeat. On average, this entire process lasts 28 days, though it is not unusual for cycles to be anywhere between 21 and 35 days. 

These phases are important for more than just the hormonal changes occurring in your body. I’ve highlighted five ways that your menstrual cycle can affect your keto diet progress.

#1: Metabolic Rate Fluctuation

Depending on where you are in your menstrual cycle, your metabolic rate will fluctuate. During the follicular phase, your metabolic rate drops and your metabolism slows. Your body’s energy needs are lower, so you end up burning fewer calories and expending less energy. During the luteal phase, your metabolic rate will increase and your metabolism will speed up.

People tend to maintain a constant calorie deficit when trying to lose weight. However, women don’t burn as many calories during the first phase of their cycle! To handle this change, you can try adjusting your calorie intake. 

Even better than taking on a bigger deficit, you can ramp up your physical activity during this time. This will allow your body to keep burning more energy. If you’ve been wondering about the best time to start working out, just start with your next cycle!

#2: Changes in Eating Habits

The luteal phase speeds up your metabolism once more; unfortunately, it also brings an increased appetite. In this phase of your menstrual cycle, your body starts preparing for a pregnancy. You also start eating a lot more.

With increased food consumption and major cravings, the second phase can be a slippery slope. It is very possible to exceed energy consumption. Your faster metabolism tells your body to consume more food; before you know it, you’ve exceeded your actual energy needs.

The luteal phase can be very difficult for women trying to diet. However, this is all the more reason to stick to keto during this time! Instead of falling victim to carb-heavy cravings, keto will continue to work as an appetite suppressant and keep hunger controlled. 

#3: Menstrual Cycle Impulsiveness

It can be hard enough fighting food impulsiveness on a regular day. Lucky for us, women also get to experience the increased impulsiveness that comes with the second half of their menstrual cycles. 

As estrogen drops, impulsiveness increases. With this impulsiveness comes the desire to eat all the sugary, fatty foods. Not only does this make it difficult to stick to keto, but it also sets you up to be disappointed in yourself if you can’t stick to it. Instead, trust yourself and use this time to try some of the keto-friendly treats available. Don’t get stuck in a black-or-white mentality; allow yourself some flexibility, so that you can build a stronger relationship with your meals.

Starting Keto During Your Menstrual Cycle

While you can realistically start your diet whenever you want, it can be helpful to evaluate the menstrual cycle phases. If you haven’t started keto yet, it helps to take note of the luteal phase impulsiveness. It can be hard to make the switch to low carb even with a slow taper. By starting during or soon after your period, you can avoid the menstrual-related impulsiveness for a while. Not only will this help you control your impulses, but it will also allow you time to build your confidence in your diet. 

#4: Insulin Sensitivity & Carb Metabolism

Insulin sensitivity and carb metabolism drop during the luteal of your menstrual cycle. This drop will cause your body to start promoting fat storage. This occurs due to your body not being as effective at bringing carbs to your cell to burn as energy. 

When your body is unable to metabolize carbohydrates to use immediately as energy, these carbs end up being stored as fat. Instead of falling into this second phase trap, keep your carbs low after ovulation! 

By keeping your carbs low and sticking to keto, you can avoid the pre-period binge that is most likely to be stored as fat. Keto will help you manage your appetite, avoid impulsiveness, and lessen the effects of impaired carb metabolism and decreased insulin sensitivity.

#5: Changes in Weight

Last but not least, your menstrual cycle can cause changes in your body weight. We are all aware that weight fluctuations and periods go hand-in-hand. This tends to occur due to water retention during the luteal phase, right before your cycle starts over.

Most likely, if you are seeing your weight go up around this time, it’s due to your body storing extra water. And your body will do this regardless of if you are excelling in your diet or not!

Don’t get caught up in the stress of seeing the scale go up a bit. Don’t psych yourself out or start thinking you’re failing. You’re not! 

How to Deal With Unwanted Water Weight:

  • Remind yourself that it is JUST WATER!
  • Shoot yourself the best finger guns that ever existed
  • State your favorite positive affirmations
  • Repeat: “I’m so proud of myself for not letting the scale bother me today. I’m beautiful, and I love my body.”
  • Start your day off with self-love
  • FOCUS ON THE POSITIVE!

Resources

Keto: A Woman’s Guide and Cookbook
Gaining Weight on Keto [E07]
The Easiest Way to Start Keto [E01]

Timestamp

0:00 – Keto: A Woman’s Guide and Cookbook
4:30 – Episode Intro
5:26 – Menstrual Cycle Sabotage
6:48 – Standard Menstrual Cycle
8:25 – Metabolic Rate Fluctuation
10:50 – Changes in Eating Habits
13:05 – Impulsiveness
18:01 – Insulin Sensitivity & Carb Metabolism
20:07 – Changes in Weight

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Now if you’re feeling extra loving, I would be incredibly grateful if you left me a review over on iTunes, too. Those reviews help other people find my podcast and they’re also fun for me to go in and read. Just click here to review, select “Ratings and Reviews” and “Write a Review” and let me know what your favorite part of the podcast is. Thank you!

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