Secret Women's Business
This one's for the ladies!
Getting through menstruation week...
Arguably the toughest week during a women's health & fitness journey, the week before & the week of menstruation!
A majority of women dread & battle through these 2 weeks
each month & sometimes we tend to fall off the wagon or use
this as an excuse not to train or to eat everything in the
During this time in your cycle there are a lot of changes happening within the female body.
Oestrogen is the dominant hormone in the first half of our
menstrual cycle, as it influences the body's drive towards
ovulation. Generally, oestrogen rises to its peak mid-cycle &
then drops rapidly as ovulation occurs & progesterone takes
Progesterone is the big one as it is the precursor hormone to all other female reproductive hormones in the body & is the most dominant in the second half of our menstrual cycle.
Signs of progesterone rising often includes mood changes, bloating & water retention, often seen with PMS.
PMS is caused by low progesterone levels in the body & can cause cramps, headaches, bloating, pain, lethargy, low mood & hunger. Appetite normally increases & the body craves carbs & sweet foods. Instead of making poor nutritional choices, try and make healthier choices that satisfy but are not sugar heavy.
How good nutrition can be your friend
To get the maximum benefit of these dietary recommendations it should be incorporated all month & not just in the premenstrual phase, however, a nutritionally adequate diet will provide support for your hormones. As the level of one rises, another falls.
The most important dietary change you can make is to keep your blood-sugar levels steady. The higher your sugar intake the more severe symptoms are likely to be.
During this time, women require more of iron rich foods, vitamin C & B, & calcium is also recommended.
Try to include more of the following foods into your week:
- fresh fruits, in particular: oranges, pineapple, strawberries & mango which are rich in Vitamin C
- fresh vegetables, in particular: brassica vegetables such as kale, broccoli, Brussel sprouts & cauliflower as they will support healthy oestrogen production & liver detoxification
- B vitamins: eggs or whole grains, almonds, chicken, beef, salmon, asparagus
Cutting back on caffeine intake can help reduce bloating & provide calm to an irritable & sore stomach as well.
How exercise can help
It is now known that exercise can directly affect PMS. Women who engage in moderate aerobic exercise at least three times per week tend to have fewer pre-menstrual symptoms than sedentary women. Regular exercise also helps to improve your body's ability to keep your blood sugar in balance which is especially important in managing pre-menstrual symptoms like sugar cravings.
Studies also show that light to moderate exercise can help to reduce the congestion in your pelvic area while increasing the endorphins in your system; in other words you'll feel better both mentally & physically if you keep exercising! And if you suffer from cramping & tummy soreness, exercise is really beneficial as it increases blood circulation which helps cramps to go away. Things like walking or attending Walk Club, Revive, or a low intensity cardio session like Strength, or even a light jog will help to alleviate cramping. As soon as your body starts to move you will start to feel relief.
Other tips for getting through the dreaded week:
Don't weigh yourself
If you are someone who is driven by the number on the scales, maybe skip the weigh in for just that week, or ask your trainer to weigh you without telling you the number. Our weight fluctuates with fluid retention at this time of month BUT don't use this as a free pass to eat poorly!
Create emotional wellness
When you are feeling more fatigued or lethargic, listen to your body & remain active but being a bit gentler with yourself. A walk, a swim, some stretching or even a lighter weight session might feel more beneficial & kinder on your body. We only regret the work outs we didn't do.
Drink more water & consume more foods with natural diuretic properties
To combat water retention limit your intake of salt & processed foods & drink plenty of water - if you don't drink enough water, your body will think there is a shortage & try to retain any water you have.
You can also increase your intake of common household foods such as: celery, onion, eggplant, asparagus, watermelon & parsley as these are known to be foods with natural diuretic properties
Melons, citrus & other potassium-rich fruits will help reduce water retention as well as they are high in the mineral potassium which help to balance sodium levels within the body.
Wear comfortable & supportive clothing when
Sometimes stretchy tights & a looser fitting singlet helps hide that pregnant-looking belly we all don't love to look at! Pick something that's comfortable to train in so you are still motivated to train.
Don't fear being honest with your trainer!
So many women are embarrassed to admit they are feeling a little under the weather at this particular time during their training. Our Trainers are very accustomed to training all sorts of clients & are always accommodating when a client's program needs to be altered, so don't feel shy about telling him or her you that you may not be feeling up to full power that week.
Let's reverse the curse! Tailoring your diet, sleep/rest & exercise routine to what stage you are at in your menstrual cycle cannot only help to ease symptoms that occur throughout the month but can help you to stay on track with your goals. It's just staying consistent while adjusting to suit your needs.
Think of your menstrual cycle as your health report card! While
it may not feel it, your regular cycle means your body is
functioning the way it should be & that your hormones are in
balance. That's fantastic, the aim of the game is to enjoy optimum
health for a lifetime.
We are all in this together!