Best Time of the Month to Get Healthy

When is the best time in your menstrual cycle to start a diet, run a marathon or quit smoking?
By Linda Andrews for MSN Health & Fitness
Synchronize your efforts
Your body may be especially primed for eating less, running farther, giving up cigarettes and doing other healthy things at certain points in your menstrual cycle. Hormonal fluctuations seem to be the key. Of course, you can cope perfectly well with any of these challenges all month long, thanks to your innate ability to adapt. But success might come a little easier when you can synchronize your get-healthy efforts with your menstrual cycle. (Keep in mind: Hormonal contraceptives such as birth control pills, which alter your natural hormonal patterns, may influence these effects.)
Read on to find out how your menstrual-cycle phases affect appetite, athletic endurance, nicotine withdrawal and more.
Start a diet
Follicular phase: during and after the menstrual period, leading up to ovulation
Launching a weight-loss diet when you’re feeling less hungry helps you get off to a strong start. The female hormone progesterone increases food intake, while estrogens decrease it, says Marijke Faas, a reproductive biologist at University Medical Center in Groningen, Netherlands. At the beginning of the follicular phase, both progesterone and estrogen levels are low. As the phase progresses, progesterone levels stay down, but estrogen levels rise. Consequently, Faas says, women tend to eat less in the days before ovulation than they do later in the menstrual cycle, when progesterone goes up.
Along the same lines, one study found that the stomach was slower to empty into the small intestine during the follicular phase. This meant that the stomach stayed full for longer, and nutrient receptors in the small intestine received signals for longer as well—both factors that help regulate appetite. As a result, “hunger was reduced, and [calorie] intake was less during the follicular phase,” says researcher Christine Feinle-Bisset, an associate professor at the University of Adelaide in Australia.

Author: Leslie Carol Botha

Author, publisher, radio talk show host and internationally recognized expert on women's hormone cycles. Social/political activist on Gardasil the HPV vaccine for adolescent girls. Co-author of "Understanding Your Mood, Mind and Hormone Cycle." Honorary advisory board member for the Foundation for the Study of Cycles and member of the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research.