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

Written by Deborah Onoja on Wed, 21 February 2024


Are you a gym rat who works hard to improve your physique or to lose weight? Do you find yourself constantly experimenting with different diets, meticulously tracking your nutrition and calories?

If so, listen closely, because there’s a hidden aspect of your journey that deserves attention - the impact of calorie-deficit diets on your menstrual health. For many women on a weight-loss mission, a calorie-deficit diet has become a common approach.

However, what may seem like a pathway to achieving desired results can inadvertently disrupt the delicate balance of our menstrual cycles, affecting our overall well-being. In this blog, we will navigate through scientific research to understand how a calorie-deficit diet disrupts the delicate balance of our menstrual cycles. We will explore the consequences: irregular periods, missed cycles, and hormonal imbalances that can arise, affecting our overall well-being.

Read more to understand the connection between calorie deficit and period health.

Know your Menstrual Cycle

A normal menstrual cycle lasts between 24 and 38 days in a woman’s body of reproductive age. The duration and regularity vary in each woman owing to the factors such as stress, hormonal imbalances, or certain medical conditions.

During your periods, your body requires all the help it can get. Studies suggest that women on their periods have a higher energy expenditure. Being on a calorie deficit period stops the production of hormones needed for ovulation.

What is a Calorie Deficit Diet?

A calorie is a unit of energy. People 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.

How a calorie-deficit diet can affect your menstrual cycle

During your periods, there is the regular release of an egg from the ovaries, the thickening of the uterus lining, and its shedding if pregnancy doesn’t happen. There are surges of various hormones throughout your body to keep your reproductive cycle functioning. According to NHS, a body mass index (BMI) of less than 18.5 can impact the production of hormones. Like any other body function, your reproductive cycle requires energy to run smoothly. Calorie deficit on period can take a toll on overall health. So, it is crucial to know what foods to eat and what not to on period days. Check out how a calorie-deficit menstrual cycle impacts your overall health.

How a Calorie-Deficit Menstrual Cycle Can Affect Your Overall Health

1. Hormonal Changes

Several 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-deficit diet causes hormone imbalances like estrogen and progesterone imbalance, which can impact the menstrual cycle.

2. Missed Menses

Calorie deficit for women for long periods poses a greater risk of having amenorrhea, which is the absence of menstrual periods for several months or more. Amenorrhea occurs if your body fat drops so low that ovulation stops. This can negatively impact reproductive health if not taken care of.

3. Reduced Reproductive Function

Studies show that women with calorie-restricted diets had increased incidences of menstrual disturbances like anovulation (lack of ovulation). This can contribute to the uterine lining building up and bleeding heavily in an unpredictable pattern. The exact cause is unknown, but researchers believe it is due to unbalanced hormone levels in the body.

4. Other Health-Related Problems

Depriving your body of energy affects your menstrual health and other bodily processes. Oestrogens and oestrogen receptors regulate various aspects of glucose and lipid metabolism. Low estrogen can lead to menstrual irregularities in females, a low sex drive, reduced bone density etc.

How to have a Healthy Period While on a Calorie-Deficit Diet

Reading about all these effects of a calorie deficit diet during a period must be intimidating. Worry not! There is a silver lining! You can still stick to your weight loss plan. All you need is to tweak your diet a little.

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

Decrease the Calorie-Deficit

The easiest way to combat this is to reduce the calorie deficit. Say you are on a 500-calorie deficit diet. Then try to reduce the deficit by 200 calories. The best way to figure this out is by listening to your body, as each body has different nutritional needs.

The Good, The Bad, The Calorie

Not all calories are the same! For those unaware, 1 gram of sugar and 1 gram of protein has the same caloric value. However, sugar has no nutritional value, while proteins help to build muscle and benefit joint health. So, avoid foods that offer no nutritional support.

Healthy Calorie-Deficit Foods that Will Ensure Adequate Nutrition

When aiming for a calorie deficit, it’s important to choose nutrient-dense foods that are low in calories but high in essential vitamins, minerals, and fiber.

Here’s a full list of healthy calorie-deficit foods you can try:

1. Fruits – The Healthy Kickstart

  • Apples, oranges, and different berries are good choices for shedding weight and improving overall health.
  • Being low in calories and rich in fibre, vitamins, and antioxidants, these are a lovely snack for your menstrual health.

Fruits healthy kickstart

2. Leafy Greens - The Nutrition Superheroes

  • 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 fibre.

Leafy greens - the nutrition superheroes

3. Nuts - The Energy Booster

  • Low in calories, packed with proteins, and rich in healthy fats! Just the right potion for your menstrual health.
  • Nuts like walnuts and almonds are also great pre-workout meal options.

Nuts - the energy booster

4. Legumes – The Protein Punch

  • Legumes, such as lentils, chickpeas, and beans, are rich in both protein and fiber. Protein helps with satiety and muscle maintenance, while fiber aids in digestion and promotes a feeling of fullness, making legumes an excellent choice for a calorie deficit.
  • Nutrient-dense: Legumes are packed with essential nutrients, including iron, folate, potassium, and magnesium. They are also a good source of complex carbohydrates, which provide sustained energy and help regulate blood sugar levels.

Legumes – the protein punch

5. Brown Rice – The Good Carb

  • High in fiber: Brown rice contains a good amount of dietary fiber, which aids in digestion, helps regulate blood sugar levels, and promotes feelings of fullness, making it a satisfying option for a calorie deficit.
  • Rich in nutrients: Brown rice is a good source of various essential nutrients, including manganese, magnesium, and B vitamins, which are important for energy production and overall health.

Brown rice – the good carb

6. Quinoa – The Protein Powerhouse

  • Complete protein source: Quinoa is unique among plant foods as it is a complete protein, meaning it provides all nine essential amino acids our bodies need. This makes it an excellent option for those following a vegetarian or vegan diet.
  • Low glycemic index: Quinoa has a low glycemic index, which means it is digested slowly, resulting in a gradual release of glucose into the bloodstream. This can help maintain stable blood sugar levels and prevent spikes and crashes in energy.

Quinoa – the protein powerhouse


While a calorie deficit diet may be pursued for various reasons, it’s essential to remember that starving the body of its required nutrition can have damaging effects. It’s crucial to maintain a balanced approach to food and nutrition, ensuring that your body receives the necessary nutrients for optimal well-being. Starving the body of its required nutrition can cause damaging effects. Achieving good overall health should be the goal. A calorie deficit diet can hamper your reproductive health in the long term.

When it comes to your menstrual health, focusing on foods that provide satiation in smaller quantities without causing menstrual dysfunction can be beneficial. Taking care of your food choices, nutrition, and overall health is essential for a harmonious menstrual cycle. To know more about nutrition and how it affects your menstrual health, read our blogs on menstrual health!

Frequently Asked Questions

A calorie-deficit diet is when you eat and drink fewer calories than you burn. Majorly followed when one is looking to shed some kilos by replacing sugar and including fresh fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, whole grains, nuts, seeds etc., in your diet.

Calorie deficit and period are correlated. Excessive or sudden weight loss can cause hormonal imbalances and cause your periods to stop. Calorie deficit on period topples your normal menstrual cycle and reproductive health.

Low-calorie deficit diet does not provide the required energy for the menstrual cycle process to occur and suppress ovulation, leading to infertility and lack of menstrual bleeding. It also affects bone health and increases the chances of cardiovascular and other diseases.

A calorie deficit diet plan is a plan that is formulated in which the calorie intake is reduced per day or week to maintain the weight or to aid in weight loss. The calorie intake is decreased, and the activities that burn the excess calories are increased, resulting in faster burnout of the unused calories. Calorie deficit for women should be carefully planned as it impacts reproductive 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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  5. Your Menstrual Cycle
  6. Stopped or missed periods
  7. Estrogen Deficiency and the Origin of Obesity during Menopause
  8. What happens when estrogen levels are low

Our team of experts frequently monitors developments in the health and wellness field, and we update our articles when new information becomes available.

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Feb, 21 2024

Written By

Deborah Onoja

Dec, 01 2023

Written By

Deborah Onoja