The time of the month effects not only our moods but also negatively impacts our physical fitness and exercise routine too. Tiredness and fatigue are the symptoms of menstruation that women are most likely to suffer from. A fluctuation of hormones and nutrient deficiencies can play a significant role in how we feel and perform during our period.
Research suggests that one in five women suffers from heavy bleeding during their period. This may lead to iron deficiency or anaemia. As a result, the body will have a harder time making haemoglobin that’s needed to carry oxygen throughout the body. Low energy, weakness, low blood pressure, fatigue and a lack of concentration are the most common symptoms associated with low levels of Iron. When haemoglobin levels are low due to iron deficiency, oxygen levels may also be low. This means that muscles and the brain don’t receive enough oxygen to engage in normal activities such as exercising.
When your brain detects even the slightest drop in oxygen levels, it triggers changes which may lead to fainting. Eating iron-rich foods such as red meat, red kidney beans, chickpeas, lentils, peas, dark green leafy vegetables such as kale or spinach or taking iron supplements may increase the amount of oxygen your blood carries around (which may prevent from fainting).
So if you are feeling fatigued and light headed then reduce high intensity, strenuous exercise and save it for the last days of your period when your energy levels return.
A drop in oestrogen before and in the first few days of the period is responsible for mood swings and a lack of physical motivation. Low volume strength training and light cardio is recommended for the best exercise during your period.
Research suggests that low-intensity exercise, such as swimming, has been shown to help alleviate menstrual cramps. It encourages the body to release endorphins which work like natural painkillers. Exercising also improves blood circulation in the pelvic area which can ease period pains.
Light movement promotes the release of dopamine and serotonin which increases positive feelings and boosts mood. Supplementing with Calcium, Iron, Mg and vitB6 can also help to boost serotonin levels which has a positive effect on regulating mood disorder1.
Your lung capacity decreases during the early and late-follicular phases of the menstrual cycle, presumably due to capillary blood volume changes. Women may struggle with heavy breathing or feeling breathless more often during strenuous exercise2. Light movement such as yoga and deep breathing exercises (such as belly breathing or pursed lip breathing) can help to increase blood oxygen levels and improve lung capacity3. Supplementing iron or cooking in a cast iron skillet can also help to replenish iron lost during menstruation and increase the transportation of oxygen from the lungs to all the parts of the body4.
Our cravings for sugar increase during the period. This is due to the ever changing levels of oestrogen and progesterone which also has an impact on serotonin in the brain (which may affect mood and trigger PMS). Studies revealed that women suffering with PMS may intake around 200-500 more calories per day with additional calories typically coming from carbs and fats. So rather than relying on sugar to boost serotonin levels try to snack on high in Mg nuts instead!5
Magdalena Marvell is a Nutritional Practitioner and Founder of the Persea Clinic which helps support clients who want to optimise their health in areas such as gut health, hormonal balance, skin conditions, weight management, family nutrition. To find out more about her work please visit www.persea.clinic.