Ever find yourself eating clean for weeks at a time only to get off track right before your period? This tendency to be more susceptible to cravings is something as many as 70% of women experience in conjunction with premenstrual symptom or PMS. Before your period you may feel bloated, tired, moody, or have trouble sleeping, all which have the potential to ruin your diet.
Most PMS cravings include sweet, starchy foods and fats. Think sugary, fat-filled treats like ice cream and chocolate and salty foods like chips. This sudden need for calorie-laden foods is your body’s reaction to hormonal drops and spikes. As your cortisol levels rise, your body turns on its fight-or-flight response and your appetite is stimulated. Suddenly, you may find yourself seeking out carbs and fat, which fuel the fight-and-flight response. Other research has linked PMS with low blood sugar. After eating, women in these studies experienced a noticeably drop in blood sugar, which made them edgy, irritable, and hungry just a couple hours after eating.
PMS doesn’t have to ruin your diet month after month. These tricks will help you resist even the strongest of cravings.
1. Eat protein for breakfast
If you know the cravings and hunger associated with PMS are about to hit, start by rethinking your breakfast. By filling up on protein first thing in the morning you will stabilize your blood sugar levels and remain more satisfied throughout the day. Aim for at least 20 grams of protein in your morning meal. Eat a big egg breakfast or a plain Greek yogurt topped with nuts. For a grab-and-go option, this recipe for a high-protein vegan smoothie is made with hearty ingredients like tofu, soymilk, and peanut butter.
2. Don’t skip the gym
When you’re in the midst of PMS, you may have a tendency to forgo the gym for the couch. If you want to beat cravings and stay on track, taking a week off from exercise is one of the worst things you can do. People who exercise report fewer cravings than non-exercisers due to the release of endorphins during physical activity. Not only will getting in a workout help you fight cravings, but it will regulate and improve your mood, which is often unstable during PMS.
3. Give in to carbs (the good kind)
Your body will naturally crave carbohydrates during PMS. Rather than helplessly fighting the urge with broccoli, give in to it. Eat your fill of complex carbohydrates like baked potatoes, pasta, whole grain bread, and cereals. When eaten on an empty stomach, these foods will improve your serotonin levels in a mere hour. Serotonin is the brain chemical involved in regulating mood and weight that often drops during PMS. Eating healthy carbohydrates when cravings hit will also help you avoid snacks made of simple carbs like candy or soda.
4. Decrease your intake of caffeine
For most people, caffeine is a necessary part of the day. It stimulates the central nervous system and metabolism to provide a quick energy burst. However, as soon as the energy high fades, tiredness, fatigue, nervousness, and irritability set in. For women with PMS, the after-effect of caffeine will worsen natural PMS symptoms. You may feel stressed, tired, riddled with headaches, or unable to sleep. The secret is to rethink the amount of caffeine you consume. Stick to one cup of coffee a day rather than two and stay clear of energy drinks or other forms of concentrated caffeine.
5. Drink water
While experiencing PMS pay extra attention to your water intake. Water flushes the body, reduces bloating, and can actually help you resist the urge to eat everything in sight. By drinking water before you eat, you are more likely to eat fewer calories. Most nutritionists recommend drinking eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day to maintain your current weight or assist with weight loss.