Ever wonder why your weight fluctuates so much a week before, during, and a week after your period?
To further my goal of axing the scale, today’s article will be all about how women’s bodies go through natural occurrences around this time of the month. These natural matters will cause weight gain for women who are not on birth control and experience a normal cycle.
I am no personal expert on the matter but I see from what my wife, Brittany goes through and how frustrating it can be to feel like you are gaining weight. (On top of the cramps and mood impacts! Seriously kudos to all women for having to go through this every month!)
It is natural to have fluctuations in your weight week by week because of this very fact. Today we will go over what changes are actually happening, what you can do to mitigate the frustration as well as what you can do to decrease bloat!
Taking a peak at the impact of hormones on weight gain
As I’m researching about the menstrual cycle I’ve come to realize how little I know about what is going on in a woman's body. I knew about the basics but what I’ll describe here is definitely all new to me as well!
Hormones might be to blame when we are talking about how your weight fluctuates so much each month.
Specifically about 1 week before you get your period you’ll notice the classic signs that progesterone levels are spiking.
Progesterone increases to prepare the body for a fertilized egg. The endometrium (or lining of the uterus) begins to thicken. With these increased levels of progesterone you will find that you feel more bloated and may see an increase of weight on the scale anywhere from 1-5 lbs.
This is the important part here - your weight gain is simply water retention, not true fat gain.
You should be aware that once these progesterone levels return to their normal levels (if the egg does not get fertilized) estrogen starts to increase and your weight should return back down to normal levels about 2-3 days into your period.
This is a very simplistic look at how hormones impact your cycle and weight, but nonetheless I think the take home here is to recognize that about 7-10 days prior to your period you may notice that your weight is increasing. This is not something to freak out about - it’s totally normal and due to your bodies natural rhythms.
Craving sweet and salty while on your period?
When I see an increase in chocolates in the house - I know that Britt is on her period.
The craving for things that are sweet and salty increases. From the research it seems that the biggest reason for this is actually a self-soothing exercise. Treating the body with sweet and salty foods helps to comfort the self while going through your period.
For those who normally don’t crave these types of foods - it might be out of character to want to eat that candy bar that you’ve been staring at for 10 minutes.
When on your period you might just not want the side of broccoli with your meal - you might want something more sweet! Broccoli isn’t really the best food to soothe the body unfortunately. Eating some salty chips though will do the trick.
Having cravings is one thing when it comes to potentially increasing weight but what's more important are the types of foods you crave during this time of the month. If you are finding that you are eating foods that have more sodium this only adds to the natural water retention taking place during your cycle.
However continue to be mindful of how much you are eating from these sweet and salty choices. If you do tend to indulge quite a bit during your period you might be gaining a little bit of actual fat. This is just something to be aware of! (I’ll go over what you can do to mitigate weight and bloat during this time)
The desire to go to the gym drops!
I can only imagine how the desire to do a situp, a heavy squat or just move the body seems like the last thing to do when experiencing cramping during your period.
Working out is something that makes us feel good - but as with any type of ailment in the body - it’s harder to workout and get motivated to do so if you have something that is in pain.
The closest thing I can compare this to is when I have a lingering injury and I really don’t feel good about the strength in my body and therefore will be more likely to miss out on a workout.
The same can be said for when you are on your period - workouts might suffer and you might need more time to rest rather than push the body.
On the other hand - the research shows that getting a sweat in will help to shed some extra water weight while also releasing endorphins to help mitigate the cramp pains.
I think there is a middle ground here that you can use to determine if you should be working out or not.
Do you really feel like working out? If you don’t - know that it’s okay to skip out on a day because you simply aren’t feeling it.
Your digestion system is screwed up!
Another possible result of being on your period will be found within the gut. Have you ever felt constipated, backed up, and bloated?
This is because when progesterone is on the rise in your body - it acts as a smooth muscle relaxant. In turn this slows down the spasms in your GI tract, resulting in constipation.
So not only do you women get the glory of going through the menstruation cycle but you also get the wonder of poop problems.
The best thing to do with this is to simply be aware of how your period can impact your digestion. One thing that you can do to help with the constipation is to take a probiotic!
Too much caffeine?
For those avid coffee drinkers - practice being aware of how much caffeine you are drinking during your period.
Your period brings lethargy and extreme tiredness which many people will mitigate by upping the caffeine intake.
More coffee in your stomach can lead to further bloating and water retention - causing that scale number to appear even higher!
What you can do to mitigate the bloat and feel better during your period
Here are a few things that you can do to help mitigate the bloat but also the mental game that you play when weighing yourself on your period.
Let’s start with the mental game we play..
If you still feel okay tracking your weight during your period - make sure that you weigh yourself on the same day, at the same time and with the same amount of drink/food in your body during each cycle.
For example if you typically find that 5 days before your cycle starts - you weigh yourself...make sure you compare that weight to the same day the month prior to get an accurate measure of what your true weight gain or loss is.
However to do even better with this - don’t weigh yourself at all from about 7 days prior to your period starting, to about 7 days after it finishes. This will most likely be about 19-21 days of not weighing yourself!
Water retention will make it appear that your weight is higher than it actually is. You aren’t seeing actual fat gain but rather water gain. For those who live and die by the number on the scale - going through these mental games every month can be exhausting and downright depressing.
The answer to this : focus on what’s more important...how you feel!
Now let’s go over just a few things you can do to help fight the bloat every month:
Drink more Water : It might sound counterintuitive but by drinking more water will actually enable your body to flush more of the water, more frequently. I’ve always recommended taking your body weight and halving it. That should be your recommended amount of water per day. For example if you weigh 150 lbs...you should be drinking 75oz of water per day. This should be at the base minimum when you are experiencing that period bloat!
Continue exercise: If you feel that you can stick to your normal workout routine - do this! Not only does moving the body release endorphins to combat those mood swings of your period - you also will fight off fatigue by keeping up with an active exercise schedule. Obviously if you are in pain and can’t stomach the idea of doing a pushup - take the day off and focus on drinking water!
Avoid eating foods with too much salt: Foods that are high in salt will retain water and cause more bloat and discomfort. Salt attracts water which causes it to retain rather than be flushed out of the system. Be aware of what types of salty foods you are eating during this time of the month!
Add more magnesium into your diet: Magnesium is great for decreasing bloating because it helps to produce normal stomach acid. You can add magnesium by taking a supplement or by adding magnesium rich foods like spinach, almonds, cashews, and dark chocolate! (Try to keep it to only a few pieces as they get high in calories very quickly!)
To wrap this one up - I think the biggest take home about all of this is the following:
Expect your weight to increase 7 days before your period.
If you go into each month knowing this and being aware of this - you’ll feel much better when you approach the scale and see that the numbers are higher than where you want them to be.
As always, the scale can only tell part of your story. You are more than just a number on a scale and truthfully, the number on the scale most likely won’t help you feel any better.
You ladies go through enough (as I see through Britt but also this research) - you can give yourself a damn break when being strict with yourself during these times of bloat, water retention and cramping.