A new six-month study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition proves that premenopausal women lose more weight when they tailor their eating and exercise habits around their menstrual cycle.
And they’ve shown just how signficant the difference can be:
Of the 31 women who completed the entire 24-week trial, those who dieted and exercised in sync with their menstrual cycle ended up losing 14.3% of their body weight versus 8.3% who didn’t sync up dieting and exercising with their cycle (a nearly 9.5-pound difference) and they lost 1.1 inches more from their waists.
Here’s how the researchers discovered this:
They assembled 60 women and randomly assigned them to two groups: One group consumed 1600 daily calories and completed a general workout routine designed specifically for weight loss by registered clinical dietitians. A second group also consumed 1600 daily calories and exercised, but they were given instructions about how to tailor their eating and exercise habits according to their menstrual cycle. These included the following:
- From Day 6 to Day 15 (the days after you period through ovulation), eat more protein (30% of your total intake). As the researchers explain, on these days, rising estrogen helps you build more muscles from resistance exercise, so the added protein (also a muscle-builder) helps to maximize this hormonal benefit. That’s key since having more muscle helps you burn more calories when at rest.
- From Day 16 to Day 28, continue to eat a higher amount of protein. This will help you feel fuller, which will rein in your appetite that’s intensified due to progesterone on these cycle days.
- From Day 16 to Day 28, eat more healthy fat (such as avocado and peanut butter) to fulfill your cravings for fatty foods due to progesterone.
- From Day 24 to Day 28, eat a little chocolate (you can add as much as 200 calories to your initial 1600 calorie diet) to satisfy premenstrual cravings for sweet foods, especially chocolate.
- From Day 1 to Day 5 (your period days) do one light activity daily, such as walking, yoga or stretching.
- From Day 6 to Day 15, do circuit and weight training two days per week and alternate with cardio and interval training two to three days per week. This routine capitalizes on the way rising estrogen helps build more muscle in the first half of your cycle.
- From Day 16 to Day 28, alternate strength training with cardio. This helps capitalize on the way the combination of estrogen and progesterone helps your body burn up to 30% more fat during aerobic exercise on these days.
It’s interesting to note that while most studies have participants who drop out along the way, there were significantly fewer dropouts in the group that used cycle-related diet and exercise tips than the control group who used traditional dieting and exercise, suggesting that the faster results motivated women to stick with the cycle-related weight loss plan longer.
All in all, these are simple cycle-related tweaks most women can follow that make a big difference in how quickly you drop unwanted pounds. And now thanks to this study, we know they’re proven to work–and just how much you can lose when you stick with it.
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