A quick bit about me, I am 29, 5’5 155lbs around 16-18% body fat. For the past three months I have not had my period (not preggers). I currently train 6 days a week three of those days are two a days. Strength training either barbell or body weight movements in the morning and long heavy bag hiking in the afternoon. I am training for a specific event and while my goals are not aesthetically based any more excess weight would be detrimental. I consume about 2100-2700 calories a day consisting primarily of meat and veggies, with extra carbs during the two a days. I have 5 weeks left on my current training plan.
I was wondering if anyone had a like experience and how they fixed the issue, if the lack of cycle negatively impacted their gains, and if they had any research or articles on the subject that aren’t centered around women attempting to lose weight.
Have you done any lab work? My daughter went without a period for 2 or 3 years as a college distance runner. Her performance began to deteriorate in her junior year, and she actually dropped out of a race in her senior year. We got labs and found out she was severely anemic. We got her on iron and her performance and menses both returned. She has since done research, and anemia seems to be quite common in female endurance athletes. We had no prior history or family history of anemia, and she always ate pretty well. Maybe something to consider.
Yes, I’ve experienced it.
I recommend reading Fitness and Menstrual Health: How to tay lean, healthy, and fit without losing your period, by Spencer Nadolsky.
Also, this article REALLY rang some bells for me. Carb controversy: Why low-carb diets have got it all wrong, by Brian St. Pierre. Especially look for the section titled Carbohydrates and Women’s Hormones.
Also, Paleo For Women has several articles and podcasts about hormonal health and the causes of amenorrhea in female athletes.
I hope this is helpful. You want to maintain hormonal health, even if you aren’t concerned with fertility right now. It can negatively impact so many things, making you more likely to experience stress fractures for one.
I just wanted to ask -
Do you sleep well?
Are you more emotional than usual?
Do you feel like you’re recovering well?
Besides the loss of my period, these are some of the things that I noticed when my energy balance was out of whack. For me, these were signals that I’m wasn’t eating enough to maintain my level of training.
Sleep well, emotions are more subdued if anything, and my recovery is good, not missing training days and I am seeing gains in most events. I think i am eating pretty good, I am not restricting my eating at all.
It could be unrelated to your diet and training. If this is unusual, I’d go see your doc.
Just a thought. If this type of training is new to you, your body may be experiencing it as if you’re under stress. If your estimates are accurate, you’re fairly lean.
People often picture this problem in ballet, or endurance running where you see a lot of female athletes who just don’t have enough body fat to experience normal hormonal function. It’s really common in women doing figure comps, for the same reason. You’re thinking, that’s not me.
But, I have read of more female athletes who will loose their period when they start training with more intensity, even if they are well within the normal range, or are even heavier than they want to be. I think there’s something to the body seeing heavy work in a woman as “we’re under stress, probably not a good time to be making another human.”
Also, there’s some evidence that intermittent fasting in women can also set them up for “body under stress/ starvation mode” I don’t know how you’re timing your meals, but I’d be particularly careful about making sure I refuel after training sessions, with some pro and carbs. It’s worrisome that some studies are linking training in women who don’t appropriately eat after training to increased risk for PCOS - Not something anybody wants to fool with.
Do you know anything about the supplements and vitamins they mention in the “Carb controversy” article? Dr Berardi introduced vitamins and supplements into female athletes diets (without increasing calories) and the athletes in question responded favorably. They seem to think nutritional deficiencies rather than inadequate calories are the primary cause for amenorrhea.
Thank you for sharing these links!
Hey there! Wasn’t that interesting? Thanks for bringing that up. An easy thing to try.
No, I don’t know specifically what they were using in terms of vitamins and minerals. The article says John Berardi has tried multivitamin/multimineral supplementation with “several” fitness/figure competitors, so it’s more of an anecdotal thing that he noticed, maybe with a small number of people. There is no mention of a formal study or paper in the references, but that would certainly be worth a try, right?
Sample size n = 1 here, but I haven’t had a problem with loosing my period for at least 3 years now, and I did improve my supplementation in that time. I’m able to work hard in the gym, but I discovered that I don’t do well with really low carbs, or with intermittent fasting that’s anything beyond a natural 7 pm to maybe 9 am window. I keep my weight between 5-12 pounds above what would be a figure contest weight for me.
I’m not a big supplement person, but just for reference, I do take a multivitamin with minerals, B vit complex, D3, fish oil, chelated Mg, calcium, and glucosamine/ chondroitin for just general health. For performance just BCAAs and Creatine.
I’d be interested to hear about other women’s vitamin/mineral supplementation. It’s not something I know a lot about.
If you have not had your prolactin level tested please ask your doctor to do so
my wife had amenorrhea for 8 months, doctors kept saying it was stress related, we finally got doctors to do prolactin test and results were 5 times the upper limit. Get it checked to rule pituitary tumour
I will have a whey, berries, and almond milk shake before my morning workouts right after I wake up (due to work that can’t be moved) and then eggs, a carb ( wrap, oatmeal, sweet potato) and veggies right after working out. Before my afternoon hike (which is well after lunch) I eat apples and a nut butter, after the work out I eat dinner. I supplement with a multi-vitamin, fish oil, whey, and BCAAs. I do not play around with fasting.
I have went to the doctor for this issue. All my blood tests levels are within normal range and the ultra-sound came back clear.
You mentioned that you too have experienced it, what worked for you?
Thanks for your response.
I don’t do much in the way of supplements either. I also take calcium/magnesium, vit D, a B complex, and fish oil.
In addition, I take zinc and although I wouldn’t consider this a supplement per se, I make it a point to add iodized salt to my food.
Zinc helps with sleep and recovery (in theory, I don’t notice a difference, but with my history of sleeping problems and under-recovery, it can’t hurt).
Iodine prevents goiters (yay!) and is pivotal for healthy thyroid function/metabolism.