What to eat when you’re pre-menstrual?

If you find that you have a voracious appetite in the lead up to your period there’s a good reason for it. Allow me to explain what’s going on with your hormones right now and what you can eat and drink to help reduce pre-menstrual symptoms.

Pre-Menstrual Issues

Globally about half of all women of reproductive age experience PMS. Symptoms range from mood swings to debilitating fatigue. However, most women will experience a rise in core temperature about 5 to 7 days ahead of your period. You may notice yourself becoming hotter during the day but also experiencing night sweats and kicking off the duvet at night-time.

During this 5-7 day lead up you’ll also find your normal workout or exercise that bit harder too. That’s because your body cannot access stored carbohydrates as well as it normally does. You might wonder why you can’t lift as heavy a weight in the gym, or why you can’t run for as long on the treadmill. The interplay between oestrogen and progesterone during this time means that you can experience greater levels of fatigue.

Not only do you feel hotter, more lethargic, you can’t exercise for as long, but you also find that your body will be craving certain foods.

Why cravings? 

In the 5 to 7 days leading up to your period your body will be moving into inflammation. To respond to this, it is wise to adopt an anti-inflammatory diet. To a certain extent your body will crave the very foods that will help reduce inflammation anyway. These will be foods that are sources of magnesium, zinc and omega 3 fats.

The problem is that right now you’re more likely to be tempted to focus on the quick-fix foods. That’s because your body also needs extra calories now too. In fact, your body will need between 120 and 200 calories extra per day. That means that you will have a very real desire in the 5 to 7 days before your period to eat more and this is not the time to be overly restrictive.

If you are going through a period of restriction or on a diet, then actually it’s best to go with your cravings. Ideally, however, you’d choose the best form of the food with the nutrients you are craving. Chocolate, for example, can provide magnesium and zinc. Cheap chocolate will also provide a whole load of sugar. Dark chocolate, however, will provide exactly what you need, and you will only need a small amount of it, meaning you are less likely to eat over that 120-200 calories that you truly need.

Should you supplement? 

Firstly, eating foods rich in magnesium, zinc, and omega 3 can help in the week leading up to your period. There is also evidence that supplementation of these three nutrients in particular can help as well. However, be aware that too much magnesium can lead to bloating. If this symptom is already an issue for you during this time, then magnesium may make bloating worse. If you want to use magnesium, then go slow when you introduce it.

Addressing Bloating and Fluid Retention

Bloating and fluid retention are both natural during the lead up to your period and during your period itself. Fluid retention can cause short-term weight gain. Expect to weigh 1 to 2 kg more than you would normally weigh. If you want to try and reduce bloating at this time then it would be worth drinking a potassium-rich juice or consuming a potassium-rich soup. That means beetroot, celery and carrot-based juices or soups are the order of the day. Also try to reduce amount of salt in the diet during this time as that tends to worsen fluid retention.

The 5-7 days leading up to your period can be a time of cravings, bloating, and short-term weight gain. Whilst all this is to be expected you can benefit from consuming foods and drinks that provide the nutrients that will help to reduce the worst symptoms associated with this pre-menstrual period.

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