PMS might as well stand for Physique Misery Syndrome.
I can honestly tell you that the appearance changes alone caused by your cycle can be significant.
One day you’ll wake up and see that your tummy is looking slimmer, leaner and flatter, bringing on a sense of excitement that all that hard work in the gym and kitchen is finally paying off. But then the next morning, you’ll wake up only to find a bloated, less than perfect stomach staring back at you. If you can learn to expect this it won’t cause any panic. And fortunately the problem vanishes after about a few days, normally as quickly as it arrived. Still… It’d bloody annoying!
The symptoms of PMS vary for every woman. They range from feeling like a pain in the backside to turning your life upside down for a week. But the classic symptoms include water retention and bloating, irritability, strong cravings, appetite changes, fluctuations in pain tolerance, as well as differences in your energy level.
Put simply, for the week and maybe the week leading up to your period, the last thing on your mind is putting in a hard workout or eating healthy. You want to eat chocolate, ice cream, and pizza while lying on the couch. If you’re a dedicated gym bunny, then PMS can leave you feeling psychologically devastated.
But its not just cravings and a bloated stomach that may make you feel like screaming head first into your pillow. Check out how your cycle can affect you and what you can do to prevent it causing a problem.
Your metabolic rate is as individual as you are, and not only does if fluctuate from person to person, but day to day within the same person. Making it crucial that you know what you are doing with your food and calories. Especially if you are trying to shed that last few pounds!
If you’re stressed out, then your metabolism may rev up a bit higher. But on the other hand, if you’ve been following a very-low-calorie diet for a couple of weeks, you are likely to find that your metabolism has slowed down.
Your cycle also influences your metabolic rate. During the luteal phase of the menstrual cycle— that’s the week or so before your period is set to begin— you’ll burn up calories faster than at other times throughout the month. Researchers measure increases in total energy expenditure of 2.5 to 11% during this time.
This may not seem like all that much, but if you’re dieting, it will make a difference.
Most women also experience an increase in appetite during this period of their cycle. They are hungrier and more prone to cravings. The end result is that they can end up consuming more calories than they are expending through this increase in their metabolic rate. They’re burning more, but there’s more to burn.
So one important take-home message from this is that if you’re currently dieting, and will continue dieting through your cycle, be extra careful about your adherence during the week before your period. You could easily undo your weight-loss efforts.
BEAT THE BLOAT
Another of the biggest period-related complaints among women is bloating. It’s not abnormal at all for women to take on 5 to 10 extra pounds of water during their cycle. As you can imagine, this can have an unsettling effect on the reflection in the mirror and your reaction to the scales!
What you have to remember is it is not fat!!! It’s just excess water retention caused by female hormones, mainly estrogen.
You can also try these methods to help reduce bloating:
- Avoid salty foods
- Drink more water than usual
- Sip some herbal tea
- Season your foods with oregano
Set Yourself UP Right!
Avoid starting on a fat-loss plan during the luteal phase, for the reasons mentioned above. As you will be at a higher risk of feeling hunger during this time of the month, and that hunger will likely lead to greater incidences of food cravings, beginning your diet during this phase raises the odds of making mistakes and going off plan. Instead, you can try and cycle your calories, by bringing your calorie intake to a lower levelduring the two weeks immediately proceeding your period, when hunger levels are lower and cravings less likely. Then increase your calorie intake back to a maintenance level during the week before and during your period.
This will help mitigate that natural increase in hunger coming your way. But it will also help to naturally reset your metabolism. So if your metabolism is slowing down at all due to the reduced calorie intake, you bring that rate back up again during the increased calorie intake. Once you move back to dieting after your period is over, you will be burning body fat as fast as possible.
Additionally, since you will already be dealing with increased bloating during the week before your period, staying strict with your diet may be tough anyway. If there’s one time of the month you should be taking a break, this would be it. Since you’re also burning up calories at a slightly elevated rate during this time, the extra calories will stand a lower chance of being deposited as body fat. That is yet another advantage of taking a short diet break during the early luteal period of your menstrual cycle.
As for your workouts, there are some additional considerations to take into account as they relate to your menstrual cycle.
- First, bear in mind that during the luteal phase of your cycle, your body temperature will increase. So if you’re performing intense workouts—which also raise the temperature of the body, then you may feel uncomfortable, and unable to sustain very high intensities.
- A second thing to consider is that your tolerance for pain will be higher during the follicular phase of the cycle, after menstruation takes place. So it makes sense to place your harder workouts, the ones where you really plan to push yourself, during this time. You’ll find that you have a higher level of tenacity.
- Carrying excess water weight throughout the luteal phase will also affect workout performance, especially if the workout includes running. That added weight will make you feel like you’re working harder than usual.
Keep Moving Forwards
Until you hit the menopause, you can’t change the fact that your period will arrive each and every month (unless of course you are pregnant maybe). But you can keep it from disturbing your workouts and body progress!
Try and keep these factors in the back of your mind as you set about your workout and diet routine during your cycle. By more clearly understanding the changes taking place within your body, you can help reduce the chances of them affecting you negatively. AND stop them from tricking you into thinking that all your hard effort isn’t achieving anything!
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Davidsen, L. et al. (2007). Impact of the Menstrual Cycle on Determinants of Energy Balance: A putative role in weight loss attempts. Price, D. et al. (1998). A meta-analytic review of pain perception across the menstrual cycle. X.A.K.J., De Jonge. (2003). Effects of the Menstrual Cycle on Exercise Performance.