Updated: Apr 27
Raise your hand if you have ever been in a situation where you showed up, you dieted, you exercised, you got your sleeping in, you got your water in, and two to three weeks in, you saw you only lost one pound, and you said, "Oh, I know, this scale got to be lying." You got back on it again and it only read one or two pounds lost. And you said, "You know what? The hell with this?" We have all been there. In this blog, I am going to be breaking down the challenges that we as women face and why it is so darn hard for us to lose weight and how to actually use macros to help you overcome the challenges that we face.
Losing Weight and Your Menstrual Cycle (HORMONES)
So, first things first, let's talk about the menstrual cycle. This is my theory. Okay. I believe that we are facing the weight challenges that we face because of our menstrual cycle and the hormones that are regulated in our body as women. And most of our hormone regulation comes from our reproductive system, which is all dependent on what phase of life we are in. Either we are starting our menstrual cycle, either we're going into puberty, either we're getting pregnant, we're on birth control, we're off birth control, we're breastfeeding, we're not breastfeeding, we're going into menopause, or are in full blown menopause! All of these states and phases in our lives are going to affect our estrogen and progesterone levels. And unfortunately for us, these two hormones in itself actually help regulate the water in our body which can lead to water retention. Particularly progesterone. It is similar to another hormone, aldosterone. And aldosterone is known to cause water retention. So when you step on the scale and see unexplainable weight gain, don’t forget that this could very well be your hormones!
Let's take a step back and talk about our menstrual cycle. There are four phases in our menstrual cycle. We have the menstruation phase, we have the follicular phase, we then have ovulation, and then we have the luteal phase. Now, if you do not become pregnant during ovulation, in the luteal phase, your hormones (i.e. progesterone and estrogen) will take a nosedive down. During this period, your body is trying to adjust to the downward spiral of your hormones. This is generally when we start to see water retention and bloating.
Also, with this plunge in hormones, it also can release gas in our stomach and cause a lot of bloating and constipation.
And let’s not forget those cravings. We start craving chocolate, fried foods, cheeseburgers, pizzas, you know, all of the good stuff due to the shift in our hormones. So on top of the hormones causing us to retain water and bloat, we now have cravings of foods that are probably high in caloric intake. *yikes* Can someone say, recipe for disaster!
So this is all the reason why controlling your nutrition is key to overcoming hormonal imbalances.
Using Macros to combat hormonal challenges
The key phase that you truly want to dial in on your nutrition is during the luteal phase. This phase generally occurs approximately 14 days after the start of your last period, if you do not become pregnant. During this time, you want to make sure you're increasing your water intake to flush out food and toxins that are already there. Be sure to focus on replacing fast, fried, and processed foods with whole foods. Increasing leafy vegetables and eating foods that are high in fiber may also help with bloating and constipation during this time as well.
Sugar is EVIL, plain and simple. Sugar can increase water retention, bloating, and cause constipation. Reducing or eliminating sugar will help you during this phase as well. And I am not just talking about refined sugars, I am also talking about artificial sweeteners found in “zero calorie” energy drinks as well. These both are culprits of bloating and gas and should be avoided.
Now we all like a good drink, right?!? But this may not be the best time to drink alcohol. Alcoholic drinks are fermented from sugars and therefore can also cause bloating, gas, and water retention. So this may be a time for you to actually turn down to save yourself the frustrations of weight gain.
Calculating your Calories
Managing your caloric intake throughout your 28- day menstrual cycle is truly key to managing your weight, despite hormonal imbalance. In order to manage how many calories you are eating, you must first understand two key terms: basal metabolic rate (BMR) and total daily energy expenditure (TDEE).
Let’s start by talking about your BMR. First things first, your BMR is the baseline number of calories that your body needs to function at rest. This is important because you never want to be eating under your BMR. Anything below your BMR will NOT provide your body with adequate energy (calories).
So how do I know how many calories I should be eating if I can’t eat below my BMR? Well I am glad you asked. You must first know how many calories you need to maintain your current weight. And this is called total daily energy expenditure (TDEE). Your TDEE takes into account your BMR and the amount of energy you burn through physical activity of any sort. Your level of activity will determine your activity factor, so think “how sedentary you are versus how active you are”. So if you are more sedentary, your factor will be about a 1.2 and the range goes all the way up to about a 1.8. So if you're moderately active where you exercise maybe three or four times a week, your activity level will be about a 1.3. So you're then going to take your BMR and multiply that by your activity factor, and that is going to give you your TDEE.
Once you have your TDEE, this is going to tell you how many calories you must eat within a day to maintain your current weight. Now, if you are eating more than your TDEE, you're obviously going to gain weight. If you are eating less than your TDEE, you're going to lose weight, because you're in a caloric deficit. But remember, you must find the sweet spot between your BMR and TDEE to ensure you aren’t starving your body from calories that your body needs for basic function.
Now you next need to track your food. Now, when you begin to track and notice that you are eating the same amount of calories every single day as your TDEE, then this may be why you're not losing any weight. The same is true if you track your food and realize that you are eating under your BMR. Eating under your BMR puts your body into a state of “starvation” and instead of burning calories it will hold on to calories for survival. So, don’t negate the power of tracking your food and using it against your calories to identify additional reasons, outside of your hormones, that could be impacting your weight.
So this is the baseline of how to figure out how many calories you should be eating daily. Now if you need help with tracking, download my free guide, Food Tracking Guide for Successful Weight Loss. It will walk you through the tricks and the trade of tracking your food.
Calculating Your Macros
Now, it’s important to know what the FDA recommended acceptable daily range percentages for total daily calories are.
And these are:
Carbs: 45 - 60%
Now I know you have a very pressing question for me and that is. How do I know which percentage to use? Here is the bombshell. Your percentages are dependent on you. There are no set parameters for what your percentage should be for your macros. There are a couple of things that are taken into account when a nutritionist, health coach, or coach is calculating your macros. They’re going to take into account how active you are to determine your activity factor. They will then look at where you work to determine how active you are throughout your work day, because any body movement is calories burned and can be used to determine your activity factor.
They will also look at your end goal. Are you trying to get super lean and cut and go competitive style, because in that regard, you’d need to really focus on getting your protein where it needs to be, and maybe you need a higher percentage of protein. Or are you looking to actually put a little bit of weight on? Or are you looking to actually just cut a couple pounds?
Coaches/Nutritionists also look at any health conditions that you have. Are you a diabetic patient? Do you have insulin resistance issues? Do you deal with PCOS? Because if you are then you would need a proper balance of your carbs and fats. All of these things should be taken into account when calculating your actual calories and macros.
There are a lot of different factors that come into play when calculating macros. But if I had to give you some advice on where to start it would be to take a look at those daily acceptable ranges. Play with it and find a percentage for each macro group that you think you could stick with. Try it for 4-6 weeks to see if it is a realistic and attainable macro goal and go from there.
Now, you cannot continue the same macros for a lifetime. You do have to adjust macros after about 12 to 16 weeks, but at baseline, you want to make sure that all of your percentages add up to 100%. Track that and really take a deeper look to find out where you're going wrong in your diet. Do not hone in on calories. You must use your macros to know exactly which foods are high in fat, carbs, sugar and salt, because remember these are the parts of our diet that can negatively impact the side effects of hormone imbalance and further perpetuate water retention, bloating, and gas.
Now if you need personalized guidance on how to help you balance your hormones, improve your diet, or learn to build a healthy lifestyle while juggling all things motherhood, click here to apply to work with me. I would love to build you a customized macro plan that is right for you, your lifestyle, and taste buds!