Ever feel ravenous the week before your period? With intense cravings, desires for foods you don’t normally eat, or even just feeling like a bottomless pit. Hunger before periods can not only make us feel out of whack but can really work against us in terms of our aesthetic and performance goals. Is it normal? Should you even worry about it? Is it okay to eat more on your period? Let’s dig into the science behind period cravings so we can understand what’s going on once and for all!
Hunger Before Period
You may or may not have experienced that feeling of compulsive eating before a period. That unsatisfied feeling of not even getting close to being full. You might be snacking more, you might just be eating more at dinner and lunch, you might even sneak foods and have them when nobody is around. What comes along with it? Maybe even some changing emotions, like sadness, guilt, or confusion as to why you’re eating and how much you’re eating. [R]
While an increased appetite is a common symptom that women experience before their bleeding phase begins, it can be an uncomfortable and sort of odd thing to go through. You might want fries, chocolate, or other energy dense foods that you might not regularly include on your diet. So should you give in? Should you care?
Hunger Before Period - Is It Normal?
Wondering to yourself ‘why am I so hungry before my period’ is completely normal, however, an increased appetite can sometimes indicate a more serious issue, including serious binging sessions which may indicate disordered eating or dip into the binge eating disorder (BED) category. [R] It’s estimated that over 90% of women experience symptoms of PMS, including experiencing an increased appetite. [R] It’s important to note that if you do have compulsory or excessive eating after your period ends that feels gripping and uncontrollable, that you seek out medical care or medical guidance on how to resolve this.
Why Am I So Hungry Before My Period?
While there isn’t terribly conclusive evidence for why intense cravings and appetite increases before your period, some research does suggest that the changes in hormones can cause cravings and a desire for more energy from food itself. [R] The hormones responsible for this are mainly estrogen and progesterone, which fluctuate greatly throughout a woman’s menstruation cycle.
Along with hormonal fluctuations also comes the emotional affects, such as highs and lows in our happiness and sadness. These mood changes might also encourage us to subconsciously or unknowingly gravitate towards food as a way to emotionally cope with the changes, to soothe our emotions, or to provide an uptick in serotonin (the happy hormone) from foods that contain sugar, for example. [R]
However, when we do this, we can also change our blood sugar levels, both positively and negatively. In doing so, we might make cravings worse as well as compulsory eating. We might make excuses for this eating, which can lead to those feelings of guilt and shame, and we might derail ourselves from our aesthetic and athletic performance goals.
Supplementing regularly with a quality vitamin D product may help keep mood balanced and deliver a key micronutrient for your body before and during your period, too.
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Metabolism And Your Period
Your body does indeed use a little more energy in preparation for your period week. Your BMR or basal metabolic rate may increase right before or leading up to the beginning of your period. While it’s not as drastic as a super hard workout, a little more caloric burn in the body can signal to the brain that you need more food, driving hunger cues. [R]
So while you don’t necessarily need to eat more to support this natural activity, your period, it is important to note that restriction and keeping yourself from foods may do more harm than good from a mental perspective. When we say no to food or restrict ourselves from it when we really want it, cravings can intensify, and the hunger signals get stronger.
Hunger Before Period - How To Make It Better
If you find yourself compulsive snacking, consuming a lot of extra and unnecessary calories, or feeling emotions of guilt or shame after giving into cravings and an increased appetite the week before your period, there are ways to make it better.
Try Not To Deprive
Like we mentioned, try not to deprive yourself of nutritious foods or intense cravings. If you find yourself restricting, or not eating as much, you may be missing out on crucial nutrients like vitamins and minerals that will only gaslight your symptoms. If you find yourself gravitating towards foods you don’t normally eat, or snacking uncontrollably, walk away from the food, go drink a bottle of water, go for a walk, and change the narrative to see if you’re really hungry or if you just have an emotional/mental appetite.
Boost Your Mood (Without Food)
Food is great, but if you find yourself emotionally eating, and not eating because you’re hungry, this can go a direction you don’t want it to. Instead, boost your mood with a low stress activity like deep breathing, yoga, meditation, or a spin class. Even if that means you have to step away from your regularly scheduled weightlifting or marathon training, a couple days to keep yourself from going overboard in the kitchen and getting bogged down with emotions will be well worth it.
Consider A Nutrition Coach
Still can’t figure out ‘why I’m so hungry before my period’? This is where a trained, professional nutrition coach can come into play. By working 1:1 with a coach you can learn your body, improve your relationship with food, and not feel so derailed or misunderstood around your cycle times. A coach can help you understand the connection between compulsive eating and menstruation, as well as help create specific strategies to navigate cravings and hunger during this time.
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Give Your Body What It Needs
If you fuel up on meats that have high iron counts and green leafy vegetables, as well as some tasty fruit, you can give your body what it needs so that it doesn’t get so misaligned when the hunger before your period sets in. This will signal to the body that it is getting food, nutrients, and water, so that it can do its job better and that you can feel better, too.
Why Am I So Hungry Before My Period - In Conclusion
If you want to feel better, reduce cravings, and feel more in control with the crimson tide, then it’s time to start being more mindful of what you put in your body before, during, and after your period. By giving your body more quality nutrients, feeding it regularly, and being mindful of PMS symptoms and when they happen, you can begin to better understand your body, your hormones, and what it is trying to tell you it needs along the way. While you probably don’t need to eat the whole jar of peanut butter, all the chocolate things, or the whole box of crackers, keep in mind your body may need extra nourishment so that you can finally get to the bottom of ‘why am I so hungry before my period’ for good.
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