During your period you may not be feeling your usual self and as a result you may feel less motivated and energised to train. That’s why we’ve pulled together 5 tips to help you reduce PMS symptoms and feel more able to take on your next training session, adapted from Neely Spence Gracey and Cindy Kuzma’s book Breakthrough Women’s Running.
Because every woman’s cycle affects her differently—based on everything from her genetics to her lifestyle—there’s no one-size-fits-all recommendation for optimizing your training and nutrition at each phase. However, Dr. Sims and other scientists, nutrition experts, and coaches have come up with a variety of strategies that might benefit athletes. You can experiment with these and note the results in your training log, fine-tuning what makes you feel and perform your best.
How to reduce PMS symptoms
To reduce bothersome symptoms, such as cramps, bloating, and gastrointestinal distress, Dr. Sims recommends this protocol each night for a week before your period starts: 250 milligrams of magnesium, 45 milligrams of zinc, one baby aspirin (80 to 81 milligrams), and one gram of omega-3 fatty acids, such as flaxseed or fish oil. This combo suppresses the production of compounds called prostaglandins, which cause your uterus to contract and contribute to diarrhea and other GI issues.
Get enough leucine
Women always have a harder time building muscle than men, an effect that’s heightened in your high-hormone phase, Dr. Sims says. She recommends women focus on protein containing the high-quality amino acid leucine, especially after exercise. You can find leucine in whey protein, Greek yogurt, salmon, lean beef, and preworkout blends containing branched-chain amino acids.
Eat your seeds
Some nutrition experts recommend eating raw seeds at different parts of your cycle to balance out hormone levels. To do this, eat one tablespoon each of freshly ground flax and pumpkin seeds the first 13 to 14 days, and the second half, switch to one tablespoon each of ground sunflower and sesame seeds. I often blend my seeds into smoothies or sprinkle them on yogurt. Studies of this technique aren’t conclusive, but because seeds have other health benefits and few risks, there’s little harm in trying them (Healthline n.d.).
Say goodbye to headaches
Headaches are a common PMS complaint. One way to ward them off can be by putting extra focus on hydration, both with water and electrolyte drinks. This also helps because high-hormone days often raise your core temperature, as Stacy writes in ROAR. She also recommends foods rich in nitric oxide—think beets, pomegranates, spinach, and watermelon—to dilate your blood vessels, relieving pressure in your skull.
Reduce volume or add recovery
Just because running feels harder at one point in your cycle than another doesn’t mean you have to throw in the towel. In fact, practicing your perseverance during training can give you confidence for racing well anytime. However, you might find you need more recovery after a hard workout during certain phases. If you’re feeling more fatigued than usual, you can add in an extra easy run or a cross-training day.
Breakthrough Women’s Running
Neely Spence Grace and Cindy Kuzma
Header photo by Los Muertos Crew