Whether or not you are one of those women who religiously tracks her cycle, we could bet you have a strong inkling when your period is on its way. You may feel a bit bloated. You might experience a bit of breast tenderness. And, most likely of all, we could bet you are suddenly struck with some pretty intense cravings.
They may not be as strong or as strange as pregnancy cravings, but PMS cravings are the real deal. The penchant for greasy food or heavy carbs is totally natural, as is a change in general hunger levels. If you’re anything like us, you’re probably wondering what gives.
The first thing to address is hunger levels. While you may have super intense cravings during your period, it’s unlikely that it’s the phase where you are hungriest. In fact, your luteal phase, not your menstrual phase, is actually the part of your cycle where hunger is ramped up the most. These few days after ovulation – about halfway through your cycle – is when your body is aiming to thicken and build up your uterine lining. Because your body is focused on building this cushion in your uterus, it needs more energy from nutrients to facilitate the extra activity.
Additionally, your resting metabolic rate actually increases during your luteal phase. While you won’t be suddenly burning 5000 extra calories a day, you can actually expect to burn up to 10 percent more calories than normal. The radical rise and fall in progesterone and oestrogen during the luteal phase is partly behind this increased calorie expenditure. Unfortunately, however, it’s not like you’re going to drop a few pounds during the luteal phase, as the increased appetite will likely lead to increased calorie consumption, which, as you might imagine, will cancel out the extra burn.
Now, about those cravings. When you’re transitioning from your luteal phase into your menstrual phase, you unfortunately experience a huge drop in both oestrogen and progesterone. While that in and of itself doesn’t make you hungry, their plummet also causes a dip in the happy chemicals: dopamine and serotonin.
But why the cravings, you ask? Well, funnily enough (and sadly for our waistlines), both carbs and fat actually make your body happy. So it naturally follows that as the chemicals in our bodies trigger a mood dip, we’d reach for things that provide instant gratification.
While it may feel satisfying in the moment to reach for a bowl of carbonara or that pint of ice cream, you’ll actually end up feeling worse in the long run if you rely on unhealthy foods time and time again to get you through a decent stretch of each month. Because most of these comfort foods are high in carbs or refined sugar, eating them will cause blood sugar spikes and crashes that will only make your energy and mood levels worse.
So, instead of making things worse, why not indulge those cravings in the healthy way. Instead of steaming plates of mac-and-cheese, order our Lasagna. Rather than picking up that Ben & Jerry’s, try The Dragon Bowl. You can satisfy all of your cravings while still being kind to your body. Talk about two birds with one stone!