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Importance Of Protein Intake During Menstrual Cycle

Written by Rama Manikumar on Fri, 11 November 2022

Key Highlights

  • The menstrual cycle takes a toll on a woman's body, not just physically but also nutritionally.
  • It is important to monitor your food intake during periods to ensure you are getting the right amount of nutrients.
  • Proteins are especially important and having a low protein intake leads to various menstrual issues.
  • Understanding how proteins can impact your menstrual health.
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Whenever the word protein intake is uttered, people often associate it with gym-goers and muscular folks. It is a common misconception that consuming protein will instantly bulk you up and make you look buff. As funny as it sounds, many women believe in these myths.

Speaking of myths and facts, it is a fact that protein intake for women is as important as it is for men. Did you know that protein requirements for women can vary throughout their lives? Menstruation, pregnancy, breastfeeding, menstrual cycle phases, and menopause - all phases demand different levels of protein intake in a woman's body. Many times, these requirements are not met and the body has to bear its consequences in the form of aches and pains. Not consuming enough protein in your diet can lead to an array of problems, especially if you're a woman.

The protein requirements for women rises even higher during the menstrual cycle. Being short on proteins can lead to irregular periods, muscle aches, fluctuating hormones, and an imbalance of blood sugar levels.
If you are swarmed with questions like what not to eat during periods? what to drink during your period? what to eat if periods are delayed? Then you need to understand that protein plays an important in menstrual cycle changes.

Here's the correlation of protein and menstrual cycle explained:

Understanding the benefits of eating protein on your period

1. The issue with irregular periods

Irregular menstruation is usually due to an imbalance of hormones in the body. Other reasons might include PCOS and PCOD. However, protein plays a vital role in regulating our hormones. An insufficient amount of protein can lead to the rise of the hormone cortisol, known as the stress hormone. Once cortisol levels are high, the adrenal glands are under pressure. This can cause an imbalance of hormones in the body.
A lack of the building blocks known as proteins can disrupt the smooth functioning of the hormones in our body, leading to irregular and painful menses. The follicular phase of the menstrual cycle is important in the development of the egg. Health and nutrition play a major role.

2. The fatigue that keeps on coming

If you feel like you're constantly tired, and the tiredness grows when it's that time of the month, it could be that protein deficiency is a reason. A body deprived of proteins can lack energy for daily tasks and get tired easily.
Protein provides the body with strength and muscle which is essential for us. So if you're feeling unusually fatigued, evaluate your protein intake, and don't forget to ask your doctor about it.

3. The intensified muscle ache and cramps! 

Our muscles need protein and amino acids to grow. If there's a shortage of protein, it can cause muscle wasting or reduced muscle strength. During periods, the uterus which is also made up of muscle tissue contracts and relaxes for shedding the endometrial lining. This can cause pain and cramps during periods.
However, if your protein intake is low, you might experience worse cramps than someone with a well-balanced protein intake.

4. The brain fog that slows you down.

Period brain fog is a well-known phenomenon. It is a term used to describe the lack of ability to concentrate or focus on day-to-day tasks. Having low protein in your diet can cause sugar levels in your body to fluctuate, this might influence other hormones and cause stress. Having a diet well-enriched with proteins can prevent these problems and help you to stay better focused on your tasks.

Remember, if you are on a high protein diet, this is what your plate should look like.

5. The increased sugar cravings that won't let you rest!

Increased period cravings are your body's way of telling you it doesn't have enough nutrition that it needs. Sometimes sugar cravings can be hormonal but many times they could be because of the lack of protein in your diet.
Like any other food, protein is also converted to glucose at the end of the digestion process. When deficient in proteins, your body craves a quick fix and demands sugary foods to meet its requirements. These sugary foods are not very good for you and they can be addictive as well. Thus, maintaining a balanced diet with a good amount of protein is a must.

An array of menstrual problems can be avoided by improving your protein intake and keeping a list of PMS food. Including proteins from animal and plant-based sources in your diet can turn out to be a cure for delayed periods. Supplements for women in their 30s, vitamins for anemia, vitamins for women, and supplements for women's hormonal health can help solve many problems.
Is it okay to exercise during the period? The answer: indulging in workouts during your period is not harmful at all and can be beneficial.

Protein diet for women, and foods to eat during your period to make your meals protein-rich:

Protein from animal sources:

  1. Eggs: Extremely nutritious and low in calories, eggs are an excellent source of protein.
  2. Meat: Lean meat coming from poultry and red meat from cattle are both considered to be prime sources of protein. However, lean meat is considered healthier in the long run.
  3. Seafood: Fatty fish, crustaceans and mollusks are excellent sources of proteins from the sea. They are considered healthy and have plenty of health benefits along with proteins.
  4. Dairy products: Dairy products like milk, cheese, curd, etc. are essential sources of protein, calcium, and vitamin D.

Protein from plant sources:

  1. Soy protein: Soy protein includes protein obtained from soybeans. Soy milk, tofu, tempeh, miso, edamame, soy nuts, soy meat are all obtained from soybeans and are considered excellent sources of protein.
  2. Beans: Beans such as chickpeas, kidney beans, red beans, soybeans are packed with protein and are easy to include in your meals.
  3. Peas: Pea powder is derived from yellow and green peas and is often used in vegan cooking. They are often added to meals to increase protein content.
  4. Lentils: Split green gram, split red lentil, yellow pigeon pea, split Bengal gram are some lentils to name. Lentils are light and healthy sources of proteins.
  5. Nuts and seeds: Seeds like hemp seeds, pumpkin seeds, flaxseeds, sunflower seeds, and nuts like peanuts, almonds, pecans, and pistachio nuts are all packed with plant proteins and are great food to eat during periods. Snacking on these or adding them to meals is a great way to boost the protein content of your diet.

In addition to protein, the ingredients mentioned above are calcium and iron-rich foods. Including foods that contain iron vitamins or iron as a mineral can help enrich heme levels. Blood-increasing fruits like figs, apricots, apples can also help.

Conclusion

Nutrition is a very important aspect of health and the importance of it, particularly protein requirements, is even more significant during the menstrual cycle. There are huge benefits of eating protein and any imbalance can lead to adverse effects like muscle cramps, blood sugar fluctuations and intense fatigue.
Try out these protein sources in your diet and see the difference in your menstrual health. All in all, these healthy diet tips will not only make up for your protein requirements but will also help deal with any nutritional deficiency that may occur.

Have a healthy and peaceful period!

To know more about nutrition, click here.

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Rama Manikumar

Rama is a nutritionist and a lifestyle consultant. Having worked in the health industry for more than 20 years, her expertise in health and well-being brings a fresh and healthy approach to everyday habits- food and lifestyle. She walks the talk and delivers excellent quality nutrition, and helps develop habits that peak health & Well- being. Rama Holds a Batchelorโ€™s degree in Biology; Extended/Specialized degree in Nutrition & Dietetics (Pennsylvania State Univ. USA).

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  1. Calloway DH, Kurzer MS. Menstrual cycle and protein requirements of women. J Nutr. 1982 Feb;112(2):356-66.
  2. Draper, C.F., Duisters, K., Weger, B. et al. Menstrual cycle rhythmicity: metabolic patterns in healthy women. Sci Rep 8, 14568 (2018)