Ask A Personal Trainer: Can You Really Slack Off When You’re On Your Period?

Extra carbs and less training. Is it too good to be true? We found out.

woman exercising in the gym

Anyone who’s ever attempted leg day when they’ve got a bout of killer period cramps will know that hitting the gym when you’re mid-flow isn’t always easy.

Likewise, we’ll bet you a box of Tampax that there are few gals out there who haven’t fallen victim to a pre-menstrual binge, replacing their usual stringent willpower with an uncontrollable urge to eat, um, everything in sight.

But just how much damage can five days to a week of less training time and poorer food choices really do? Nay, when we’re feeling crappy is it okay to slack off, rest up and overindulge a little bit? We put our questions to personal trainer Katriona Fox.

Our period’s about to start and we’re feeling a bit rubbish. Should we adjust our training down the gym?

“The days before you ovulate it is possible that you might see an increase in strength. This is because of the increase in oestradiol that occurs pre-ovulation. When your period comes your strength can be suboptimal as around this time the body can experience an increase in deep tissue.

“This is not necessarily a reason to change your training but it is something to be mindful of. It might be an idea to schedule harder sessions and personal best attempts around the pre-ovulatory stage in order to take full advantage of the possible strength gains.”

Short answer? Your strength peaks before your period and dips during, so plan to do tougher workouts before Aunty Flo comes to town.

We heard a rumour that you can eat more carbs during your period. Is this true?

“During your period, due to greater levels of oestrogen your body is more insulin sensitive meaning you can tolerate carbohydrates more effectively at this time. While this sounds good there is a down side. The days before your period you are actually less insulin sensitive than normal. At this time your body does not handle carbs so well and you are better of choosing a diet that is a little bit higher in fats and protein than carbs.”

That means you can indulge a little once your period arrives but you should stick to your plan on the days leading up to it.

What about alleviating our period symptoms? Can you recommend any exercises or classes that might help us feel less crappy?

“Periods are not supposed to be extremely difficult. Cramps should not be so crippling that you need to be sent home from work nor should your boobs get really big and sore. These can be indications of a lifestyle that is not extremely healthy. Avoiding nasty cramps and a debilitating period is going to be much more dependent on what you do outside the time of your period than what you do during your period. Consistently eating a healthy diet and getting regular exercise will be much better for alleviating cramps than just the occasional session during your time of the month.”

In other words? It doesn’t matter what exercises you do, as long as you do them and do them consistently, week in week out.