WOMEN, I WROTE THIS FOR YOU
If you’re a woman or a coach of one, who’s interested in body fat reduction, and you use the scale as a tool to track progress, it’s important to understand the bodyweight fluctuations that may occur across the menstrual cycle.
Not being educated or aware of the phases (menstrual, follicular, ovulatory, luteal) and the influence of hormonal changes throughout it, can cause monitoring and making fat loss results extremely frustrating and suboptimal.
ONE OF MANY REASONS WOMEN MAY WANT TO GIVE UP
Even if you’re in an energy deficit (what controls weight loss), fluid retention can mask fat loss that’s happening every week, and you might not see a reduction in bodyweight for a month.
Surprisingly, even females as consistent as Elena (in the picture), will sometimes go three, four, or five weeks with no change in bodyweight when “dieting”. Then “all of a sudden”, she/they will drop anywhere from four to five pounds over the course of the fifth and sixth week. In reality, this averages out to about a pound of weight loss each week.
Here is the exact progression of her bodyweight before her last bikini competition. This was with no change in calories, macronutrients (carbohydrates, protein, and fats), or anything else training or nutrition related (sets, rest time, cardio, sodium, or fluid intake) over the course of the six weeks. Her weight is also listed in pounds.
Week One: Day 1 – 137.4 lbs Day 2 – 137.4 Day 3- 137.4 Day 4 – 137.2 Day 5 – 137.4 Day 6 – 136.8 Day 7 – 137.4
Week Two: Day 1 – 137.4 Day 2 – 137.4 Day 3- 137.2 Day 4 – 137.2 Day 5 – 137 Day 6 – 137 Day 7 – 137
Week Three: Day 1 – 136 Day 2 – 136.5 Day 3 (menses) – 137.5 Day 4 – 137.5 Day 5 – N/A Day 6 – 136.6 Day 7 – 136.2
Week Four: Day 1 – 136.2 Day 2 – 136 Day 3 – 135.2 Day 4 – 134.8 Day 5 – 134.8 Day 6 – 134 Day 7 – 136.4
Week Five: Day 1 – 133.6 Day 2 – 133.8 Day 3 – 134.6 Day 4 – 133.8 Day 5 – 132.6 Day 6 – 133.4 Day 7 – 132.8
Week Six: Day 1 – 133.6 Day 2 – 132.2 Day 3 – 131.4 Day 4 – 132.2 Day 5 – 132.4 Day 6 – N/A Day 7 – 131
AGAIN I WANT TO EXPLAIN
The above was with no change in calories, macronutrients (carbohydrates, protein, and fats), or anything else training or nutrition related (sets, rest time, cardio, sodium, or fluid manipulation) over the course of the six weeks. However, you can see how easy it would have been to either alter her diet, increase activity, or even quit over this period of time.
1. Education of the menstrual cycle, can save many women and coaches a lot of frustration, when it comes to measuring bodyweight changes.
2. You could start a fat loss diet, witness no changes on the scale for a month, when in reality body fat is being lost each week. Daily and weekly bodyweight fluctuations are usually normal.
3. By making adjustments too early, it’s easy to run yourself into the ground, give up, or act like a lunatic (sorry ladies) when really it’s often unnecessary and detrimental.
WHAT YOU SHOULD ALSO KNOW
1. If you don’t understand the“diet” you’re on in the first place, what it is supposed to be doing, or expected outcomes of it, none of this will matter. However, if you do, take note of the shifts in water balance you personally experience.
2. Although I work with a great deal of women who don’t experience “all over the place” bodyweight fluctuations, some of them do.
TO MAKE THIS EVEN MORE COMPLEX
The influences of bodyweight across a woman’s menstrual cycle can vary month to month, and person to person.
Although I’m only talking about bodyweight specifically in this post, both literature and experience has shown women experience many different changes in things like strength, appetite, energy expenditure and more throughout the cycle as well.
For example, “In the luteal phase of the menstrual cycle it appears that women’s energy intake and energy expenditure are increased and they experience more frequent cravings for foods, particularly those high in carbohydrate and fat, than during the follicular phase.” Davidson L. et.al (2007)
ABOVE ALL ELSE, THIS IS NOT AN EXCUSE
1. This is not an excuse. No matter what bodyweight fluctuations are going on, weight and/or fat loss will occur if you are in a net negative energy balance (consuming fewer calories than your body needs to maintain it’s current weight) each week.
2. Tracking body fat reduction progress for females can be extremely complex. If you’re not being compliant, you have a binging episode, or something else “out of the ordinary” takes place, don’t just say “it’s my menstrual cycle”. This will also save you and your coach a lot of unnecessary stress and adjustments.
3. There are also other reasons scale may go up or down that most people are not aware of. For this reason look at my next post. Therefore it’s often important to use other methods of tracking like pictures, girth measurements, compliance, stress, and sleep etc. (although these can also get skewed) as well.
Educate yourself. Communicate with your coach or client. Recognize there is a tremendous amount of variability between women. Have patience, and trust the system. – Justin