How to combat PMS symptoms & still get to the gym


Lethargic woman sitting by window

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TMI alert: If I had a dollar for all the times PMS has led me to bail on a workout for an evening on the couch, chocolate bar in hand, I’d be a rich girl. And I know I’m not the only one!

Fatigue and food cravings are common symptoms of PMS, but with the right proactive steps, you can prevent it from getting in the way of your eating habits and fitness routine.


Work it out

Between the physical symptoms of PMS (e.g.,) food cravings, breast tenderness, bloating, headache, aches and pains, and fatigue) and the emotional symptoms (e.g., depression, anxiety, poor concentration and irritability), it’s hard to even consider getting off your butt and exercising. Believe it or not, it may be the best thing for you.

According to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, regular aerobic exercise lessens PMS symptoms and reduces fatigue and depression. But you have to do it regularly, not just during the days that you have symptoms! [If your symptoms stop you from doing your daily activities, talk to your doctor.]

If you’re really hurting, don’t feel guilty. Light to moderate exercise can still help you ward off aches and pains. Go for a 30-minute walk or swim; it’ll help! Good sleep habits and relaxation methods, such as yoga and meditation, reduce stress, decreasing PMS symptoms as well. It may take time to successfully motivate yourself to workout, but the more you practice willpower, the easier it will become!


Kill the craving monster

With a schedule of good sleep and relaxation, a healthy diet and limiting your intakes of caffeine, alcohol and refined sugars will aid in an increase in energy and high-performance exercise and keep your food cravings at bay.

“To cut food cravings, aim to eat six small meals per day and focus on complex carbohydrates from whole grains, fruits and vegetables, rather than refined starches that break down into sugar quickly in your body and leave you craving more,” said Terrah Setteducato, registered dietitian with the American Dietetic Association and Certified Diabetes Educator. “A diet rich in fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains and healthy fats, such as monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, will help to nourish your body with the vitamins [e.g., vitamins B6 and D], minerals [e.g., calcium and magnesium] and fiber it needs to combat unwanted PMS symptoms.”

To get these PMS-busting nutrients, Setteducato recommends bulking up on green, leafy vegetables like broccoli and spinach, low-fat or fat-free dairy products, fresh fruit, whole grains and healthy fats from wild fish, nuts and seeds. Also, focus on water as your beverage of choice, and reduce caffeinated and alcoholic beverages that can exacerbate mood swings and breast tenderness.