Do your jeans get tighter during that time of the month? Do not worry, it is not just you. The scale does move during menstruation. But it’s not technically as grim as it sounds. A lot of that period weight gain is water weight and it’s temporary.
Experts say it’s normal to gain three to five pounds that goes away after a few days of bleeding. It’s a physical symptom of premenstrual syndrome (PMS), which includes a wide range of physical, emotional, and behavioral symptoms that affect women several days to two weeks before their menses.
PMS is very common. More than 90% of women who menstruate experience PMS.
Let’s discuss the basics of menstruation, PMS, the common reasons why the scale ticks up slightly during your period, and the many ways you can control it.
What Causes Weight Gain During Menstruation?
For you to know how to lose or maintain weight during menstruation, you first have to understand its causes.
Weight gain and that bloated, sore feeling in your abdomen are common symptoms during your period. You might feel this way for a number of reasons.
Your Hormones Are to Blame
Hormonal changes can cause weight gain by increasing water retention. In the days before your period, estrogen and progesterone rapidly decrease. This tells your body that it’s time to begin menstruation.
Estrogen and progesterone also control the way your body regulates fluid. When these hormones fluctuate, the tissues in your body accumulate more water. The result is water retention or edema. Water retention may cause swelling or puffiness in your breasts, stomach, or extremities. This increases body weight, but not fat.
Water retention is a common PMS symptom. In fact, it affects 92% of women who menstruate (1).
You Have Cravings
In the week before your period, progesterone levels increase. Progesterone is an appetite stimulant. As progesterone rises, you might eat more than usual.
Estrogen also regulates serotonin, a neurotransmitter that controls mood and reduces appetite. When estrogen drops right before your period, so does serotonin. The result is a bigger appetite.
Low serotonin can also increase sugar cravings because high-carbohydrate foods help the body make serotonin. One study showed that women exhibited a greater preference for sweets such as chocolates during menstrual flow than during the other menstrual stages (2). If serotonin is low, the brain craves more sugar. Eating high-sugar foods can increase your calorie intake and lead to weight gain.
Your metabolic rate fluctuates during your menstrual cycle, so when it rises and your body is burning more calories, you might have a bigger appetite and crave high-calorie foods.
Your period probably doesn’t leave you craving broccoli. It’s the salty and sweet stuff that’s on your mind. Unfortunately, those foods are exactly what you don’t need right now.
Munching on salty chips and simple carbs, like candy or donuts, can also cause fluid retention. If you’re soothing yourself with Dominos and ice cream, it’s possible that an extra pound may stick around after your period.
You Are Suffering From GI Problems
Throughout your cycle, women may experience GI symptoms before or during menses, with diarrhea and abdominal pain being the most common (3). The discomfort and bloating in your stomach can make you feel like you’ve gained weight.
Progesterone increases a week before your period. This impairs intestinal muscle contractions, resulting in slow digestion and constipation. As your period begins, your uterus releases prostaglandins.
Prostaglandins cause muscle contractions in the uterus and gut. You may have pelvic and abdominal pain. Prostaglandins can also cause diarrhea by disrupting electrolytes and fluid balance in the small intestine.
Bloating or stomach cramps can also make your clothes feel tight and uncomfortable. This isn’t true weight gain, but you might feel like you’ve gained a few extra pounds. Hormonal changes can increase gas in your stomach and cause bloating. Water retention in your abdomen may also lead to bloating. Bloating may start five days before your period and continue into the first few days of menstruation. Stomach cramps, which begin one or two days before your period, can also last for a few days.
Stomach cramps can also cause the sensation of weight gain. These cramps are caused by chemicals called prostaglandins that are released by your uterus. Prostaglandins make your uterus contract and shed its lining. This causes abdominal pain during your period.
It’s common for healthy women to have GI issues before and during their period.
You Don’t Feel Like Going to the Gym
When you have bloating and cramps, you might be more likely to skip exercise. This can contribute to weight gain, especially if you have increased hunger or cravings.
A week before your period, estrogen and progesterone both increase, causing fatigue and low endurance. It might feel uncomfortable to exercise as it gets closer to your period. But even though hitting the gym may be the last thing on your mind, working up a sweat might help keep your body and the scale in check.
That’s because sweating helps you shed extra water weight. Plus, that endorphin boost can squash cramps. Then again, if you’re not feeling a sweat session, there’s no shame in taking a day off.
You Lack Magnesium
When your period begins, magnesium levels gradually decrease. This drop can provoke sugar cravings and contribute to weight gain.
Magnesium is a mineral that regulates your body’s hydration status. Low levels of magnesium can cause dehydration. However, dehydration can mask itself as hunger. It can also make you desire sugary foods when you’re just thirsty.
The levels of Magnesium can also affect PMS. Evidence showed that supplementation with Mg plus vitamin B6 can help decrease PMS significantly (4).
You Are Overloading on Caffeine
It’s really tempting to load up on caffeinated beverages during your period because you feel fatigued. However, suddenly introducing more caffeine into your diet can also introduce some gastrointestinal issues, including bloating and discomfort.
But coffee’s not the only culprit. Anything with caffeine contributes to this and that goes double for carbonated drinks.
Some women are also often mistaken in thinking carbonated beverages are hydrating, but that’s not the case. Soft drinks usually also come with a ton of added sugar or artificial sweeteners, which are even worse for bloating.
Maintaining weight loss while you are on this period is easier if you begin to work with your body’s timing and start to prepare for hormonal shifts with a certain lifestyle and diet practices as the week before your period actually starts.
How to Lose or Maintain Weight During Menstruation?
Here are some tips on how you can stick to your weight loss goals even when you are on your period.
1. Drink More Water
It sounds counter-intuitive, but staying hydrated can reduce water retention. Your body will conserve more fluids if you’re dehydrated.
The week before your period begins, start drinking at least 8 to 10 glasses of water a day. This will help flush out wastes from hormonal processes and prevent the bloating that occurs during the first few days of your period. For best results drink vapor-distilled water, as it will not have any sodium in it that could cause bloating.
2. Control Water Retention
Most likely you will retain water around this time of the month. The amount will vary from woman to woman and it can be anywhere from ½ to 10 pounds. Don’t worry! This weight is temporary and will come off once your hormones and body return to “normal.”
If you are experiencing excess water retention, keep eating healthy and work out. Avoid alcohol.
3. Eat Less Sodium
One week before your period starts, limit your intake of salt to prevent bloating and water retention before it happens.
Avoid eating foods that are rich in sodium such as canned vegetables, soy sauce, frozen dinners, powdered and canned soups, and sauces and snack foods like potato chips or corn chips.
4. Manage Your Cravings
Brace yourself for the week before your period. Your hormones are fluctuating and your metabolism is speeding up, causing you to have uncontrollable hunger and a lot of cravings.
If you can’t control your cravings, why not make healthy treat options! Instead of reaching for brownies loaded with sugar, try protein brownies instead. They are super simple to make, plus they are packed with protein and will satisfy your cravings, while actually keep you on or close to plan.
- 4 large bananas
- 1 cup creamy natural peanut butter
- 2 scoops IdealLean Chocolate Coconut Protein
- 1/4 cup dark cocoa powder
- Spray an 8×8 baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Mash the bananas in a medium bowl. Stir in the peanut butter, protein, and cocoa.
- Bake for 12-20 minutes.
Another tip to help manage cravings is to have some veggies on hand in case you get really hungry. They will help keep you full and hold you over until your next snack or meal.
Try baking your veggies in the oven for 10-15 minutes with a little avocado oil or coconut oil, and whatever spices you have on hand. They taste so good that way.
5. Take Evening Primrose Oil
Take at least 1000 mcg of Evening Primrose Oil every day up to a maximum dose of 500 mcg, starting the week before your period starts.
Evening Primrose oil is a well-known natural hormone regulator that contains GLA and linoleic acid. The hormonal regulation not only provides relief for mood swings and bloating, but it also helps you resist food cravings. To be effective the Evening Primrose Oil that you choose to take should contain 8% GLA and 72% linoleic acid.
6. Eat More Fruits and Vegetables
A few days before your period starts, increase your intake of vegetables and fruits that are rich in water, including honeydew melon, watermelon, berries, pears, apples, celery, and cucumbers.
These foods are not only natural sources of purified water and potassium, which helps balance your hormones and reduce bloat, they are also great sources of the minerals and vitamins needed to support your thyroid and pancreas.
7. Increase Your Folic Acid, Iron, and Vitamin C Intake
Weight gain is accelerated when your body is low in iron stores. Iron can be difficult to absorb unless you are also getting high amounts of vitamin C. To make sure that your body is well nourished with iron eat organic cuts of lean meat, in particular, beef and liver. You should also increase your consumption of celery, asparagus, soybeans, and avocados, to get more folic acid and more citrus fruit, kiwi and bell peppers to make sure you are getting enough Vitamin C.
You can also take supplements to complement your food intake, if still necessary.
Take a long walk of an hour to two hours on those days that you feel that you can’t go to the gym because of malaise or cramps. Evidence shows that women who exercise reported less pain than sedentary women during menses (5).
This can help get the blood flowing, elevate your mood and make you feel less lethargic.
9. Wear Loose-Fitting Comfortable Clothing At All Times
This is psychologically comforting and helps to prevent you from getting depressed about temporary water retention, which might have you struggling to fit into your jeans.
10. Try Sauna
Go for a sit in a steam bath or a sauna for at least twenty minutes three times a week.
Working up a good sweat without exerting yourself can help some women reduce the inches that accumulate around the waist and tummy while they are menstruating.
11. Stop Weighing Yourself
Don’t bother weighing yourself or measuring your waistline until your period has ended, especially if you feel that this will result in a lack of motivation for you to stick to your weight loss plans.
Every woman is more bloated and heavier during her period and any results that you get are going to be temporary.
12. Stay Away From Negative People and Situations
Your body is already flooded with hormones that cause bloating and weight gain and when you are upset, your body produces cortisol, which makes matters even worse.
Periods can sometimes get the best of us, but you can stay on track with your goals during this time of the month. Practice healthy habits and remember consistency and balance in all things. Do you need an occasional treat meal? That’s fine! You should take one and don’t feel guilty about it. Enjoy, then get back on track after.