Surely, premenstrual syndrome (PMS) is dreaded by countless women across the world for countless reasons such as headaches, stomach cramps, terrible mood swings, fatigue, and silly food cravings.
However, I have another reason to hate this five- to 11-day-long phase of absolute lull before the storm of periods hit me hard.
The reason is simply that the post-workout muscle soreness (aka delayed onset muscle soreness or DOMS) that I usually experience becomes worse when I’m PMSing.
Nope, my mood swings have nothing to do with it–rather, it’s my hormones that cause all the chaos.
First, let’s figure out what happens to our body when we PMS
It took me hours of research to understand this properly, despite menstruating for almost 10 years now. But thanks to a detailed study published in The Journal of Physiology, I’ve finally got it. So, let me break it down for your:
The menstrual cycle lasts 28 days for most women. While the first half of this cycle is marked by a gradual rise in the sex hormones—progesterone and oestrogen–the second half is marked by a gradual decrease in these hormones in order to weaken, break down, and finally shed off the lining of the uterus that thickens itself to prepare for a possible pregnancy.
It is during the last five to 11 days of this second half when a woman usually experiences PMS—thanks to the sudden rise and fall of the oestrogen and progesterone hormones.
So how does this affect the muscles?
See oestrogen is a proven muscle protector, so much so that a 2010 study published in Exercises and Sport Sciences Reviews states that oestrogen can improve the quality of skeletal muscle in women. Which is why post menopause, when oestrogen in the body drops, women report muscle weakness.
So, when I work out during PMS, when there are low levels of oestrogen in my body, muscle recovery becomes tougher and soreness becomes worse.
Before you blame me for acting like a Miss Know-It-All, let me tell you that I consulted with Rishikesh Kumar, fitness expert, founder, and CEO of Xtraliving, Hyderabad and he agreed that my problem was real.
In fact, he was quick to mention how PMS symptoms like bloating, fatigue, lack of sleep, unnecessary food indulgences, and a lower fluid intake can further worsen post-workout muscle soreness during this phase.
Don’t fret, I asked for the solution too.
“Staying hydrated when you’re PMSing can improve muscle recovery. So, drink enough water and electrolytes to maintain the fluid balance in the body and get adequate sleep,” Kumar suggests.
“Do a proper warm-up before the workout and cool down to relax your tense muscles,” he adds.
Another smart thing to do would be to track your cycle on any period app and sync your rest days with your PMS days. Alternatively, you can even stick to low-intensity workouts like a simple walk in the park followed by a few light stretches the way I do when I am PMSing.
Do you also suffer from this peculiar predicament when you PMS? Let me know in the comments below.