Your menstrual cycle can bring with it a slew of uncomfortable symptoms throughout the month such as bloating, fatigue and cramps that can make you want to do nothing but curl up in a ball and sleep through it.
But abandoning your regular exercise schedule for a week or more can lead to loss of muscle mass and strength and the gaining of fat. Weight gain is common during a your period not only from fluid retention but also from the consumption of excess calories -- those cravings you can't seem to ignore. So how do you keep active without suffering further?
What to Do
Planning your diet and exercise carefully will help you stay on track without making your symptoms worse.
First, let's talk about diet. The best foods to eat during your period are whole, all-natural foods. Try to consume a diet high in protein and fiber to help you stay regular, keep your energy up and fuel your daily activities and exercise. These foods will also keep your blood sugar stable. When your blood sugar drops dramatically, you're more likely to give into those annoying cravings for less healthy foods. Choose foods that also contain iron such as beans, broccoli and lean beef. Lastly, eat every couple of hours -- a small, sensible and balanced meal -- to continue feeling your best.
When it comes to beverages, make sure to drink plenty of water. This can help remedy bloat. You can also enjoy your daily coffee -- caffeine is a known analgesic, or painkiller, which can help reduce your discomfort. Just lay off all the sugar and dairy mixed in, which we'll get to in a minute.
As for your exercise routine, choose low-impact cardio that will still get your heart rate up and burn calories without jerking you around too much or, if you're a runner, just shorten your distance. Stretching and yoga can help you relieve some cramping and even flush out excess fluid. Take it easy on your stomach by going for elongated ab exercises like the plank, push-ups or bridges.
Adding a supplement to your routine can reduce symptoms further. The best supplements for PMS and period discomfort are dong quai, black cohosh, evening primrose oil and the appropriately named cramp bark (Viburnum opulus). They'll help you feel normal again.
What to Avoid
Now that you know what to do, here are some things to cut out of your diet and exercise plan.
There are some foods you should avoid that can further exacerbate your PMS symptoms. Reduce your intake of sodium and sugar-rich foods as well as dairy and cut out alcohol and carbonated beverages -- these can only make you bloat more and also cause spikes and crashes in your blood sugar.
The most important thing to remember about exercising is to know your limits and be good to your body. During your period, and the days leading up to it, you'll probably feel more tired than normal. Don't push yourself too hard and risk injury from improper form. If you don't hit your best time, number of reps or distance, that's OK -- the point is to keep moving.
As for yoga, skip the inversions, which can actually increase your flow. Lastly, when it comes to working out your abdomen, what probably feels like the most tender part of your body at this time, avoid lots of crunching and contracting the abdomen, going for those planks we mentioned before.
You can find the supplements mentioned in this post at eVitamins. Check back tomorrow for all the latest health information. Stay well.