Hormones do a lot for us: they regulate our sleep, sex drive, appetite, mood, and more. But they also play a major role in weight loss. Did you know that at certain times during your monthly cycle, different exercises are more effective for weight loss than others? You can use your hormones to lose weight by capitalizing on the changing levels of two key hormones involved in your monthly cycle—estrogen and progesterone—and tailoring your diet and exercise plan each week to work with their fluctuations, not against them.
First of all, if this is sounding kind of “woo-woo” and you’re thinking “Hey! I’m in control of my weight no matter what happens,” you are correct. But we think that taking into account very real aspects of one’s health can be empowering. When we’re armed with more information on how our bodies work as women, we can make more powerful choices to be our healthiest, best selves.
How To Make Your Hormones Work For You
We were inspired to delve into the topic of making your hormones work for your weight loss by Hormone Horoscope, an app and website that’s become somewhat of an obsession at the Team GHU office. It was created by Gabrielle Lichterman and uses science-based research to educate women on how their cycles affect everything from their sleep to their weight. The information is based on the average 28-day menstruation cycle, but everyone is different and you should always consult your doctor about weight loss needs specific to your own cycle. And if you’re currently going through menopause, read on because at the end of this article we’ll dish out some tips for keeping the weight off during menopause.
Week 1 (Begins on the First day of Your Period)
Recommit To Your Fitness Goals
It might sound counterintuitive, but getting your period actually marks an ideal time to begin a new weight loss program or recommit to one that’s fallen by the wayside. This is because during the first week of your menstrual cycle, estrogen begins to slowly increase, which starts to give your energy level and mood a nice boost.
Rising estrogen during this time of your cycle also offers an excellent excuse to strength train. This is because an increase in estrogen helps weight training be more effective at building muscle—so grab your dumbbells and get to work.
Aim For Smaller, Healthier Meals
One more awesome side effect of an estrogen-dominated week? It acts as a slight appetite-suppresant. Utilize this natural, built-in boost of willpower to prepare lighter, more nutritious meals packed with veggies and lean protein. If the cookies aren’t calling to you super strongly, use this time to ditch them—you’ll want them by week 4, so just hold on!
Keep Stress Levels Low
Peaking estrogen and extra energy make it easier to workout during your second week, but they’re also likely to make your stress response more intense. Keep chaos at bay by meditating, reading a book, or simply taking time to unwind. Chronic stress can make it harder to lose weight, so if you can’t find time to meditate for your sense of peace, do it for your waistline!
Use Extra Energy To Get In Tough Workouts
Combat stress and utilize your high energy levels to do HIIT workouts (High Intensity Interval Training). Just be careful not to push yourself too far, because this extra energy can sometimes make overuse injuries more likely.
Make Cardio Your Friend
Progesterone begins to increase during this time in your cycle, giving you a fat-blasting boost. As Lichterman says about doing cardio during your week 3, “the combination of estrogen and progesterone burns up to 30% more fat during aerobic exercise throughout the third week—and most of the fourth week—of your cycle.”
Eat Extra Fiber
Week 3 can leave many women with digestive issues, particularly constipation, bloating, and water retention. Combat constipation by eating whole fruits and veggies that contain fiber, and beat bloat and water retention by staying hydrated—dehydration can actually make water retention worse, as counterintuitive as it may sound.
Allow For Treat Time
Rising progesterone will give your appetite a boost, so allow yourself pre-portioned treats to help deal with food cravings. “Everything in moderation” should be your go-to motto now, so if you want to treat yourself to a bit of dessert, do it. Better to have a cookie once in a while and stay on track with your healthy diet the rest of the time than to deny yourself treats 24/7 and go on a week-long binge later. Healthy fats and more protein-packed meals can also help to satiate a revved up appetite and keep strong cravings at bay.
Be Good to Yourself
Most women find their pep and endurance to be lower during Week 4 as plummeting estrogen has a noticeable affect on mood, so don’t be afraid to call up a friend for moral support in your weight loss journey or go a little easier on yourself. Choose less intense forms of exercise than you would in earlier weeks; even a light jog or walk with friends can do wonders for both your weight and your mood.
How To Lose Weight During Menopause
So what if the days of a 28-day cycle are behind you and you’re entering that not-so-fun time of life when hot flashes and mood swings creep in? Yep, menopause can bring with it some unpleasant side effects, one of which can be weight gain. BUT, there are things you can do to prevent menopausal weight gain, including the following:
- Strength Train, Strength Train, Strength Train. Do we sound like a broken record yet? Good! Because the BEST thing you can do for your body as you age is strength train. Building muscle is the key to a revved up metabolism and burning more calories at rest. If you want to lose weight, you’re going to need to build muscle.
- Get familiar with HIIT. High Intensity Interval Training helps you burn fat faster, especially stubborn belly fat.
- Check your diet. No matter how much you’re working out, if you’re not eating a healthy diet with a fair share of veggies and protein, you won’t be able to lose weight, build muscle, or stay healthy. Be wary of processed foods now more than ever—many harmful chemicals that are included in processed or packaged foods can contain endocrine disruptors that can actually throw your hormones more out of whack.
- Get your hormone levels checked. You can find out more about your body’s levels of estrogen and progesterone at this time in your life by having your doctor test your levels with a simple blood test. Use this knowledge to empower you and then learn how to balance your hormones naturally to lose weight.
- Prioritize Sleep and Stress Management. It sounds clichéd, but it’s science based: stress can make losing weight harder, and sleep loss can wreak havoc on your hormones, giving you a more ravenous appetite the next morning than if you were well-rested. Practice self-care and prioritize your health.