Updated: October 13, 2022
For many women, this scenario is all too familiar: You fall asleep feeling great but wake up feeling five pounds heavier. What gives? Oh, wait — it’s almost that time of the month.
Period weight gain is a real thing — many women gain between three and five pounds during menstruation.1 But fear not — those pounds typically don’t stick around. Weight gain before your period can have a few naturally occurring explanations.
Hormonal changes can cause weight fluctuation
The reason why the scale creeps up every month — your hormones.1 Hormone fluctuation leading up to your period can cause temporary weight gain, water retention, bloating and food cravings (chocolate, anyone?). These symptoms are a normal part of premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and can flare up anywhere from a few days to a couple of weeks before your time of the month. In fact, over 90% of women report some PMS symptoms according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.2
Although these uncomfortable symptoms are the last thing you want to experience before Aunt Flo arrives — there are steps you can take to minimize PMS weight gain and feel your best. Read on for our top tips.
Why do you gain weight on your period
So you’re probably wondering: why am I gaining weight? Hormones in the body that are key to conception and pregnancy change before and during your period. Two key hormones can contribute to period weight gain and other symptoms:
- Estrogen: This reproductive hormone helps to regulate your menstrual cycle, keep your cholesterol in check and protect your bone health.3
- Progesterone: This important reproductive hormone prepares a woman’s body for pregnancy by causing the lining of the uterus to thicken in anticipation of a fertilized egg.
As these hormones fluctuate, your body can retain water — which shows up on the scale.4 Typically, this water weight goes away after your period as your hormones begin to stabilize. Beyond water retention, you might also experience other symptoms as estrogen and progesterone hormone levels rise and fall. Here are a few.
Photo by Charday Penn on iStock
Estrogen hormonal imbalance
Estrogen is typically highest in the middle of your cycle and dips when your period starts.3 When estrogen is high in the body, you may experience:3
- Exacerbated PMS symptoms
- Feelings of anxiousness
When you’re low on this hormone, you may experience:
- Trouble sleeping
- Mood swings
- Dry skin
Progesterone hormonal imbalance
Progesterone can also have an impact on your body. When progesterone hormone levels are too low, you’ll likely have too much estrogen in your body and you may experience:5
- Irregular periods
- Weight gain
- Decreased sex drive
When progesterone rises, it can act as an appetite stimulant, which can also contribute to weight gain if you’re not reaching for healthy foods or if you’re eating in excess.6
How much weight do you gain before your period?
Typically, it’s normal to gain three to five pounds during your period. The good news? It’s temporary! While everyone is different and weight fluctuation is normal, period-related weight gain is most commonly caused by hormonal fluctuations. This may lead to sugar cravings, different eating patterns, overeating, water retention, and even missing workouts due to painful cramps and discomfort.7
Weight gain before your period: 7 tips to help reduce bloating
Bloating, weight gain and some of these other not-so-stellar symptoms may occur before and during your period, but you don’t have to be at their mercy! Small changes can help quell food cravings and reduce bloating. Use these 7 tips to help reduce weight gain before your period.
1. Avoid salty foods.
While sodium is necessary for your body to function properly, too much of it can increase the amount of water your body retains.8 Avoiding salty foods — like fast food, canned food products and certain soup varieties — can help decrease water retention and diminish bloating during your period. According to the American Heart Association, sodium intake should be limited to no more than 2,300 milligrams per day.9 When in doubt, check the nutrition label!
Did you know? Jenny Craig menus follow expert guidelines and are created by registered dietitians to make sure you’re getting the nutrients you need while keeping your sodium intake in check. Check out these 5 little-known facts about Jenny Craig food.
2. Increase your potassium intake.
Research indicates that potassium may decrease sodium levels and increase urine production, which may, in turn, help reduce bloating.10 Try to include more potassium-rich foods leading up to your period such as bananas, broccoli, leafy greens, mushrooms and cucumber. Not a huge fan of green veggies? Try throwing them in a blender with some fruit to make a refreshing smoothie!
3. Drink enough water.
You might think that cutting back on your water intake will minimize bloating — but the opposite is actually true! Water is critical to many functions in the body including digestion, absorption, circulation, nutrient transport and more, according to WebMD.12 In fact, the body is comprised of about 60% water.11 When your body isn’t properly hydrated, it will hold onto the water you have — until you drink enough water to balance out the salt and water ratio in your body.12 So make sure to stay hydrated — not just before or during your period — but every day! Experts recommend drinking at least eight, 8-ounce glasses of water per day.
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4. Skip the extra caffeine.
At the onset of your period, you might begin feeling tired despite a good night's sleep, so it’s tempting to add more caffeine to your diet for a quick energy boost. But caffeine can make bloating and discomfort worse as it’s a stimulant that can irritate your digestive system.13 Try to avoid consuming soft drinks, energy drinks and fancy coffee beverages which are typically infused with high amounts of sugar and empty calories. If you’re really in need of a pick-me-up, opt for a naturally caffeinated drink such as black tea or coffee.
5. Add exercise to your routine.
Not only is getting regular exercise fantastic for your overall health, but it can also help relieve PMS symptoms and help you feel less bloated. The best part? You don’t have to work out vigorously to reap the benefits. It can be as simple as taking a walk or a leisurely bike ride. How much exercise should you get? Experts recommend aiming for at least 30 minutes a day, five times a week or a total of 150 minutes a week.14
Photo by brizmaker on iStock
6. Opt for healthier versions of your favorite foods.
Cravings are real — we’ve all been there! And when your hormones are changing, you’re more likely to experience them. The good news: You can satisfy cravings in a healthy way without jeopardizing your weight loss progress. For example, if you’re craving something sweet opt for some nonfat plain Greek yogurt with fresh berries on top or try a delicious alternative to ice cream: Chocolate banana ice cream!
7. Eat water-rich foods.
To help you stay hydrated leading up to your period, supplement your water intake with water-rich fruits and veggies! Certain foods such as cucumbers, bell peppers, watermelon, onion and asparagus are also natural diuretics. These nutrient-rich foods help to boost urine production, which helps the body get rid of excess water and may reduce water weight gain.15
The bottom line
Weight gain before and during your period - three to five pounds or more - is normal, but there are ways to manage it and feel your best. Reducing bloat can help you feel better, but it’s also important to remind yourself that this weight gain is only temporary and will go away when your cycle ends. If you eat healthily, drink plenty of water and take care of your body, you can stay on track and be one step closer to achieving your weight loss goals.
Do you want a plan that takes the work out of weight loss? Jenny Craig has got you covered. Take control of your weight with our proven plan. Get started today.
Elisa is a content marketing manager for Jenny Craig with over ten years of experience working in the health and fitness industry. She loves sharing her passion for living a balanced and healthy lifestyle. An endurance sports enthusiast, she is usually swimming in the pool, biking along the coast highway or running by the beach in her free time. Elisa holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from California State University, Chico.
Favorite healthy snack: mozzarella string cheese with a Pink Lady apple
Reviewed by: Briana Rodriquez, RDN
Briana Rodriquez, RDN Briana is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Certified Personal Trainer for Jenny Craig, based in Carlsbad, California. She is passionate about utilizing food as functional and preventative medicine. Guided by a simplistic and optimistic approach, Briana’s philosophy is to help people improve their health and achieve their goals through the development of sustainable habits to live a healthy life. In her free time, you can find her strength training, indoor cycling, coffee tasting, and at local eateries with her husband and two dogs.
Favorite healthy snack: peanut butter with celery alongside a grapefruit-flavored sparkling water (so refreshing!)
This article is based on scientific research and/or other scientific articles and is written by experienced health and lifestyle contributors and fact-checked by Briana Rodriquez, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist at Jenny Craig.
Our goal at Jenny Craig is to provide the most up-to-date and objective information on health-related topics, so our readers can make informed decisions based on factual content. All articles undergo an extensive review process, and depending on topic, are reviewed by a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) or Nutritionist, to ensure accuracy.
This article contains trusted sources. All references are hyperlinked at the end of the article to take readers directly to the source.
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