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Food Cravings

Across the menstrual cycle there is a shift in metabolism along with changes in energy requirements.

What phase of your menstrual cycle do you experience food cravings?

Food cravings are most likely to be experienced the week before your period. Sometimes your appetite may change, and you might also crave high carbohydrate foods or sugar/chocolate.

Causes of food cravings during your menstrual cycle

There is a slight increase in total energy requirements during the luteal phase and therefore you may recognise increased hunger to compensate for this.

Another theory is related to the changes in serotonin throughout the cycle. Serotonin levels have been found to be lower during the luteal phase, however, carbohydrates can increase serotonin by increasing the uptake of tryptophan into the brain.

How to manage food cravings

Avoid missing meals and snacks

Check that you’re fuelling around training sessions  (carbohydrate is required before, sometimes during and immediately after).

Avoid going longer than 3-4 hours without eating. 

Missing these key fuelling timepoints, meals and snacks can increase food cravings at any point in the cycle.

Include protein and carbohydrate within snacks as this will help to reduce cravings. 

Aim to include 20g of protein every 3-4 hours (i.e. with every meal and snack)

Aim to include 20g of protein every 3-4 hours (ie with every meal and snack)

Pair your protein snack with a carbohydrate source to see if this helps with cravings. 

Snack examples: milky drinks, dried fruit and nuts, chicken sandwich, seed & nut flapjacks, yogurt with fruit & honey, peanut butter and banana.

Fuel yourself correctly for exercise

If you are exercising, check that you’re fuelling around training sessions correctly using our fuelling training around your menstrual cycle resource

Missing key fuelling time points can increase food cravings at any point in the cycle.

Pair your protein with carbohydrates

Interestingly tryptophan (important for the creation of serotonin) is a protein, however, it requires carbohydrates to move into the brain. Therefore, you might want to try pairing your protein snack with a carbohydrate source to see if this helps with cravings.

Tryptophan is found in foods such as chicken, dairy and nuts.

Protein and carbohydrate snack examples:

  • Chocolate milk
  • Dried fruit and nuts
  • Chicken sandwich

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