How A Calorie-deficit Diet Can Affect Your Menstrual Cycle?

Written by Deborah Onoja on Fri, 11 November 2022


Are you a gym rat who is working on your physique? Or are you someone who is trying to lose weight? If so, then nutrition and calorie tracking become an integral part of your lifestyle. Women who want to lose fat are often on a calorie deficit diet. This will help you lose weight and look good, but can adversely affect your period health. It is therefore important to understand the connection between calorie deficit and period health.

During your periods, your body requires all the help it can get. There is evidence that suggests that women, during their periods, have a higher energy expenditure. So, being on a calorie-deficit diet for weight loss can cause energy problems while on your period.

Before we dive into the correlation between calorie deficit and menstrual cycle, let us understand the things that can affect your period, what a calorie deficit diet plan is, and how change in diet affects periods.

Oh calorie... My calorie

What is a calorie? A calorie is basically a unit of energy. A person can manipulate their calorie intake to maintain, gain, or lose weight. A calorie deficit diet meal is where an individual consumes fewer calories than optimum to drop those extra kilos.

Understanding periods and what is a calorie-deficit diet

During your periods, the lining of your uterine wall is shed and rebuilt in anticipation of pregnancy. In addition to this, there are a lot of processes happening behind the scenes. There are surges of various hormones throughout your body to keep your reproductive cycle functioning properly.

Just like any other body function, your reproductive cycle also requires certain amounts of energy to run smoothly. Research shows that women spend up to 16% higher energy while on their cycle, so it is extremely important for them to know what foods to eat and what not to through period days. 

Depriving your body of energy with a calorie deficit low carb diet can take a toll on your period and overall health.

Here are some ways in which calorie deficit diet foods can affect your period:

1. Haywire hormones

A number of hormones are responsible for the smooth running of your menstrual cycle. Energy is required for adequate production and release of these hormones. Studies show that a calorie-restricted diet can reduce levels of hormones in your body thus increasing the risk of an imbalance.

2. Missed Menses

A restricted calorie intake puts you at greater risk of having irregular periods. There is evidence that links energy deficiency due to calorie restriction with longer menstrual cycles and skipped periods.

3. Reduced Reproductive function

Studies show that women with calorie-restricted diets had increased incidences of menstrual disturbances like anovulation. The exact cause is unknown but researchers believe it is due to reduced hormone levels in the body.

4. Other Health-related problems

Depriving your body of energy doesn't just affect your menstrual health. Other body processes are also hit. There is scientific literature that suggests, an energy-deficient state can lead to poor bone health, glucose metabolism, cardiovascular health, and dyslipidemia.

Reading about all these effects of a calorie deficit during period must be intimidating. Worry not, there is a silver lining! You can still stick to your weight loss plan by tweaking your diet plan.

Here are some ways to achieve your fitness goals without depriving your body of energy:

Decrease the calorie-deficit

The easiest way to combat this conundrum is to reduce the calorie deficit. Say you are in a 500 calorie deficit, try reducing the deficit by 200 calories. The best way to figure this out would be by listening to your body. Each person has different nutritional needs.

The good, The bad, The calorie

Not all calories are the same! For those who don't know, 1 gram of sugar and 1 gram of protein has the same caloric value. However, sugar has no nutritional value while proteins help you build muscle and are good for joint health. Avoid foods that only give you calories and no nutritional support. Here are some foods you can try that are low in calories but rich in nutrients.

1. Fruits for the win!

Apples, oranges, and different types of berries are good choices if you're looking to shed weight and improve your overall health. Being low in calories and rich in fiber, vitamins, and antioxidants, these are a lovely snack for your menstrual health

2. Go green for your health!

Greens like spinach, kale, and broccoli are packed with nutrients and have fewer calories. These vegetables are a good source of iron, magnesium, vitamins B, K, and C, and fiber.

3. Fish and the nuts-the healthy duo

Low in calories, packed with proteins, and rich in healthy fats! What else do you need! Fatty fish like salmon, tuna, and nuts like walnuts, and almonds are also great pre-workout meals you can have!


Now that you aware all about the foods that affect your period, and how they can satiate you quickly in low quantities without causing menstrual dysfunction, we hope you have become aware of the effects of a calorie deficit diet and can take care of your food, nutrition and health correctly.

To know more about nutrition and how it affects your menstrual health, read our blogs on menstrual health!


Deborah Onoja

Deborah Onoja is a passionate Registered Nutritionist-Dietitian with a Bachelors of Science degree in Nutrition & Dietetics obtained from Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta. She qualified as a Registered Dietitian after completing her Dietetic Internship training at the University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital, Enugu where she was exposed to clinical dietetics. She also holds a Masters degree in Clinical Nutrition and Diet Therapy from the University of Ibadan.

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