Cramps and bloating can sometimes sap your motivation to work out while on your period, but the activity is still worth any extra effort. Although you won't lose more weight than usual when you exercise during menstruation, you'll certainly lose more than if you remained sedentary. That said, hormone levels do affect fat burning -- but most women burn more calories before, not during, their periods.
Menstruation and Calories
Your body reaches its fat-burning peak during the luteal stage of the menstrual cycle, which occurs in the two weeks leading up to your period while estrogen and progesterone hormone levels are highest. You burn more fat at rest and also while exercising during this phase, according to Leanne M. Redman, PhD, researcher at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center, as quoted by "Fitness Magazine." Redman recommends exercising harder or for longer stretches during these weeks to maximize fat burning and lose weight faster.
A Penn State study presented at the Society for the Study of Ingestive Behavior meeting in 1999 analyzed women who received either a placebo or a birth-control shot. The placebo group had normal menstrual cycles, while the birth-control group did not. Researchers found that women with normal periods experienced a 4-percent increase in calorie burning during the luteal phase, while those on birth control did not have such fluctuations. However, the placebo group also consumed about 4-percent more calories during the luteal phase, so they didn't lose weight.
Setting a Schedule
The best way to encourage weight loss is to set an exercise schedule and stick to it, regardless of the time of month. For weight reduction, ExRx.net recommends performing aerobic activities such as brisk walking, running or using cardio gym equipment at least 45 minutes per day, most days of the week. For even better results, aim for 60 minutes. You'll also lose weight faster by building muscle tissue, which burns more calories than fat. Increase your muscle mass by lifting weights or performing calisthenic exercises such as lunges and pushups for your entire body two to three times weekly.
You may gain water weight in the week or two leading up to your period, so don't get discouraged if fat loss doesn't register on the scale until the end of your cycle. As an added incentive to keep exercising, MayoClinic.com reports that staying active can help reduce this extra bloating, as can avoiding salty foods and staying away from alcoholic beverages. You'll also enjoy more success if you stand strong when brownie cravings hit -- by not eating more than usual, you'll enjoy a stronger weight-loss bump before your period.
- Fitness Magazine: The Best Days of the Month to...
- Eureka Alert: Female Hormones Don't Cause Overeating and Weight Gain
- ExRx.net: Exercise & Weight Loss
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: How Much Physical Activity do Adults Need?
- MayoClinic.com: Water Retention: Relieve This Premenstrual Symptom
Nina K. is a Los Angeles-based journalist who has been published by USAToday.com, Fitday.com, Healthy Living Magazine, Organic Authority and numerous other print and web publications. She has a philosophy degree from the University of Colorado and a journalism certificate from UCLA.