Tag Archives: women

Pre-menstrual syndrome, weight gain, carb cravings and cramps

One of the hardest times for all of humanity is when women have their period. While men walk around thinking “Ummm… what the hell did I do to deserve that firing?” women walk around ready to beat up anything in sight. Being the excruciatingly painful experience that this is, the reactions are definitely understandable. But, in addition to feeling physical pain/discomfort, suffering from fatigue and giving in to the almost irresistible urge of believing that “Hey honey, would you like some more cheese?” actually means “Hey fatty! Want more cheese to fill in that bellay?? huh??”, the week(s) leading up to the period is one of the hardest chapters in getting and staying in shape.

Many many women face problems during this time that they aren’t able to understand or deal with and I end up getting a tonne of SOS emails. In this post, I’ll address a few of them.

I’m having my period and feel exhausted but I don’t want to miss a workout session! Should I workout? What should I do?

Firstly, kill the obsession. Realize that you’re not going to workout for only the next 3 months. Fitness a lifelong thing and you need to stay active and/or train forever to be able to stay in shape forever. So missing a workout session here and there for legitimate reasons is absolutely fine.

Secondly, treat your period as any other day. If, in a normal day, you feel wiped out for whatever reason (say, stress, lack of sleep, not enough food etc.) how would you deal with that? Would you power through it and workout? Would you take the day off and recover? Would you still workout but only do as much as you can? Same deal. Listen to your body when you have your period.

  • If you are truly exhausted and aren’t able to focus physically and mentally, it is definitely a great idea to skip the workout. No big deal.
  • If you feel not too tired but not 100%, do something light. Work on mobility. Do a series of bodyweight moves (squat, pushups, pullups, burpees, planks, thrusts, hinges etc.) at a relatively low intensity i.e. never going to failure and resting plenty between sets.
  • If you feel like you can power through it, go ahead and kill the workout.

Bottom line is to listen to your body and act based on how you feel.

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I weighed myself today and I’ve gained 2 kilos!! I’ve been eating right and working out regularly but still, this happens! This happens to me all the time. Maybe I’m not cut out to be in shape. Maybe its my genetics. Maybe I’m just cursed. I just don’t seem to lose weight consistently. I lose some and in about three weeks gain 1-2 kilos! Why is this happening to me? Please help!

Here’s some good news for you. You haven’t gained fat. Those 2 kilos are not fat, but water. 1 kilo of fat is 7,700 calories. So for you to have gained 2 kilos of fat, you should have eaten ~ 15,000 calories in excess and that ain’t happening unless you eat 2000 extra calories every day for a week. That’s like eating half a dozen donuts everyday for seven days straight. Well, if you did eat similar to this, then yea, what you gained is fat but chances are you didn’t eat like my man Doug Heffernan.

Water retention is a very common PMS symptom. It generally occurs a week or two before your period and tends to wear off by day 2 or 3 of your period. Though why this exactly happens is still unclear, it is due to hormonal fluctuations that are possibly hereditary. The increase in scale weight is merely due to excess water being retained in your body and is not worthy of phone calls or emails starting with “O… M… F… G!!!”.

That said, here are some ways to keep water retention under control,

  • Watch the salt. No reason to go salt-free or super low salt, but don’t over-salt your food.
  • Drink more water than you normally do. And no, the excess water will not be retained.
  • Remove allergens like wheat, vegetable oils, unsoaked legumes/lentils/beans etc from your diet for the most part.
  • Get more calcium. Don’t even think about popping in pills. Just get yourself a couple of extra cups of whole milk  or probiotic yogurt or a few ounces of cheese.
  • Supplement with Magnesium, if required.
  • On other days, exercise intensely and consistently and stay active all day every day.

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I get very severe carb cravings a week before my period! I try hard to resist it but end up eating sugary junk until the cravings subside. What is happening here? Am I doing something wrong?

Once again, this is a common PMS symptom and something that needs attention. The carb cravings that happen during the week leading up to your period are not the same as other general carb cravings that need to be controlled.

For those who don’t know serotonin, it is a neurotransmitter that is primarily found in the GI tract (gut) and is a major contributor of feelings of well-being and happiness and during menstruation a woman’s serotonin levels are at their lowest. Since carbs increase the availability of tryptophan (amino acid precursor to serotonin), it is fairly natural to crave carbs during this period.

The solution here isn’t really to power through the cravings and fight against them and, at the same time, also not to give into the junk food. The the best and most healthful way to address the issue is to eat a more carbs than usual but stick to high quality carbs, especially starches like sweet potatoes, cooked white rice, fruit etc. How much more? That depends on the craving but it is also wise to remember that you’re only addressing the lack of serotonin and don’t posses a pass to binge and get fat.

While it is true that during the week leading up to your period, your glycogen storage potential/capability is increased and hence your body can utilize the excess carbs for glycogen repletion/storage as opposed to storing them as fat, too much in excess and you will start adding goo.

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Every month I get pre-menstrual cramps. These cramps are so brutally painful I roll into a ball and weep. I take the day off from work and I’m at home all day doing nothing but suffering through the pain. What can I do?

Many (too many) of my female clients start working with me (for fat loss of course) and within a few weeks report that the unbearable pre-menstrual cramps are now very bearable and in a couple of months, they say, it is almost non-existent.

Why this happens is definitely a huge topic and is something I’ll discuss in detail later because it is outside the scope of this article but I’ll talk quickly about how to fix this.

  • Remove all allergens from your diet – wheat, other allergenic grains, vegetable oils high in omega-6, unsoaked legumes/lentils/beans.
  • Get plenty of omega-3s from fish or fish oil.
  • Supplement with Magnesium.
  • Get a good dose of sunlight or supplement with vitamin D.
  • Get enough and more calcium from high quality dairy.

For 6 weeks do the above. Don’t cheat by tricking yourself into believing a little bit of wheat is fine or junk food every 3 days is fine etc. Do the 6-week stint with utmost sincerity, gauge your results and then make a call on what foods you want to keep in your diet and what foods you want out. Julianne from Paleo & Zone Nutrition talks about pre-menstrual cramps and ways to overcome them with nutrition in great detail and is an absolute must read if you suffer from pre-menstrual cramps.

Peace out.

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Women and exercise

Disclaimer: For those who do get riled up about women’s rights and such, please realize that this post is meant to showcase the enormous effect a woman’s health and fitness has on those around her and hence the need for the same. I by no means suggest that housework is a woman’s job. The point here is that women did mutli-joint movements with full range of motion at all times during human evolution (in the form of gathering or housework or exercise) and hence such movements need to be included as a part of a woman’s workout routine and daily life.

It probably isn’t too obvious but I truly believe fitness is more critical for women than men. Why? Mainly because women are created physically weaker than men, but have the most important and strenuous job of all – child birth. In addition to that, a woman’s choices, appearance and fitness affect not just her, but everyone around her from her partner to children to parents.

From a nutritional standpoint, it is absolutely essential that a mother understands nutrition and makes good food choices every single day ‘cos her little one is watching her like a hawk and will subconsciously try to emulate what mommy does. Most people eat what is cooked and hence cooking real food results in eating real food. Similarly, a woman’s fitness has a profound effect on other people. A child tends to want to play more if mommy can run around with him/her. A father tends to like walking if he gets to do it with his daughter. I can go on and on, but you get the idea. [Note: If it isn’t obvious, a man’s choices, actions and fitness have similar effects on his family].

So clearly fitness is super critical for women in order to ensure good health for themselves and for everyone else. But does this mean women today, you, should exercise? Should you join a gym? Or a BootCamp? Let’s find out.

The distant past:

There is enough evidence suggesting that when we were hunter-gatherers, men did the hunting and women did the gathering. Gathering, though sounds lame next to hunting, was critical to life and required a very respectable amount of fitness. Gathering involved covering large distances by foot, plenty of multi-joint movements like squatting, bending, lunging and reaching, considerable amount of weight bearing activities when the gathered food and firewood had to be transported back home and multiple repetitions of weighted multi-joint moves. Also unlike the men, who did the badass hunting, women gathered everyday and especially on days when the men didn’t hunt or were unsuccessful in their journey.

In short, women back in the paleolithic era, moved! They moved a lot, they moved in all three planes of movement and they did this very frequently and consistently without ever going to failure.

The not-so-distant past:

Consider our fairly recent ancestors from about 100-200 years ago. While hotheaded and proud men stuck to working for money, women did all the household work. This involved everything from sourcing water, to cleaning the house multiple times a day to cooking to taking care of kids. Women from those times, again, covered long distance by foot, did multi-joint moves like squats, lunges etc., carried around weight in the form of water cans and toddlers and firewood, did plenty of pulling when drawing water and used their core efficiently when washing clothes, cleaning the house etc. While men put food on the table, women actually made the damn table and the ground below it!

In other words, our female ancestors… moved! They moved a lot, they moved in multiple planes of motion, they moved all day everyday and never went to failure!

The recent past:

Ever notice how your mom looked in her 20s and 30s? I have seen mine and the words I would use to describe her are healthy, in shape, slender and fit! No flab. No joint aches. Allergies were unheard of. No acne. Glowing skin. I can go on but the point is – they were super healthy and that was evident in their appearance. But how do they look today? Possibly fat, diseased, plagues with aches, easily fatigued? What really happened there?

Well, ‘easy’ happened!

While our moms spent their early lives plentifully using their bodies, they’ve spent the last 10-15 years, well, chilling out. Yea yea. I know moms work hard and all that and I love and respect my mom more than you can imagine, but the fact remains that moms today don’t work as hard as they did during their younger years and as a result they’ve lost their health and strength and mobility!

The present:

Take a minute to let this sink in – Our moms are in miserable shape today inspite of…

– having spent the first 30-35 yrs of their lives working hard and eating right

– being fit for the majority of their younger days

– living sedentary lives and eating wrong foods only for the last 15-20 years

But women today, even during their younger years, are sedentary, eat bad foods, are struggling with their weight, have hormonal problems, are fatigued too easily, are weak, are flabby, are affected by chronic diseases and more! What do you think the state of these women will be when they turn 55??

If you are a woman under 30 and don’t feel like a million bucks every single day, there is a lot wrong with you! Realize that you are young woman in her prime. You are like a brand spanking new car! You should not have issues. You should not be struggling with fat loss. You should not find it a challenge to run a mile. You should not strain your back when you lift a suitcase. You should be nimble and strong and endurant!

But… are you? Majority of the women today are not. Not even close! So why is this the case?

Easy answer right? Sedentary lifestyle + crappy food choices = unfit unhealthy women who produce offspring that are destined to be diseased and die young!

The Solution:

Workout everyday? Get into a workout program? Join The Quad’s BootCamp? Find a personal trainer? Sure. These are all awesome starting points. But none of this is ‘the answer’! The answer is… to MOVE!

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not asking you to not join a gym or a workout program. I’m saying use these as jump-boards and move on to find something that is sustainable by making a conscious effort to be more active and to use your body per it’s capabilities. Here are some suggestions.

– If you join a workout program like The Quad’s BootCamp, don’t just do the motions. Learn from it. Educate yourself about exercises that you can do with the facilities available to you. For eg. Understand that the kettlebell swing is an absolutely awesome full body workout that requires minimal cost and time investment. Understand that running is an awesome tool in your fitness toolbox but is not the be-all-end-all of fitness. Understand that working out hard 2-3 days a week and staying active during the other days is all that is required to stay fit.

– Screw exercise. Think move! As much as possible. Whenever possible. In whatever way possible. MOVE! Dont sit if you can stand. Dont stand if you can walk. Dont walk if you can run.

– Make life a little less easy for yourself! Dump comfort. Walk to the nearby store. Carry your own groceries and suitcases. Sit on the floor every once in a while. Stand at work during meetings. Squat down when you pet a pup. Take random walks. Take a club and the beat the crap out of any elliptical machine you see! And stay away from the lazy boy… the chair too.

Stay healthy and strong my dear ladies ‘cos healthy is the new hot and strong is the new skinny!

Adios!

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