T Nation

BF% and T-vixens

I had a lady approach me the other day and was interested in competing in a natural bodybuilding show, but her worry was that the low body fat percentages would affect her peroids. all the information I have seen has suggested that menstration stops once the female gets below a certain body fat percentage
(around 17%). I have also seen information that this induced amenhrea acts likes post menopause on a females bone density. does this cause problems and if so what supplements would aid her while dieting (calcium + dihydroxy calciferol mixtures etc)and any practical advice. I know this may be quite a personal question but I would like to give this women as much truthfull and helpfull information as possible.

If she cuts her weight in a moderate way, she is much less likely to have problems. Birth control pills can help regulate her hormonal balance by maintaining estrogen levels. The condition that you are referring to is often deemed the Female Athlete Triad and is made of 3 components:

1)Disordered eating or exercise - basically, energy balance is not maintained and there is a significant caloric deficit

2)Amenorrhea - the lack of menstruation is only a sign of the actual problem: the lack of estrogen. This sign may not show up for months, but the problem could be there already.

3)Osteoporosis - if disordered eating patterns are present for a long enough time to affect estrogen levels, osteoporosis can begin. Estrogen is vital to bone formation.

This female athlete triad can be avoided by avoiding extremes in caloric imbalance. Your friend should take things slow. Many women do quite well at low body fat levels and have no menstruation problems and normal bone density. Other women run into problems at low body fat levels and may need to take birth control to regulate hormones. Of course, her diet needs to be very clean and needs to be nutritionally sound. She could take all the calcium in the world, but it won't help unless her diet is high enough in calories and other nutrients.

Black Cohosh can help with the hormonal imbalances, and Ipriflavone can help with the bone density issues. I don’t think she’s going to be at the very low body fat levels for such a long time that it would be a significant problem long-term, but if she tries to maintain it well after the contest, it could definitely become an issue.

Really the level of body fat required to shut dows menistration varies from woman to woman (the variation is very large). From working with athletes the number is more like 5-10% some can even go under that with out a problem. In my opinion it is diet and training that has more of an impact on a woman’s menestraion. Good dietary practices and consistant training will be enough to get most women to single digits without a problem.

Patricia stays at 10-11% BF year round(has been as low a 6%), and has no problems. In fact it help keep her asthma in check. I’m sure that she will post later, and can give you better information (she can also talk to you via e-mail).

I highly doubt patricia has been as low as 6%. On a male Jackson Pollock that would be like 2% bodyfat for a guy. Considering 3% is internal (brain, organ,etc) I doubt that strongly. The exercise phys. lab at my old university did underwatering and dexa scanning on a couple local pro bodybuilders when they were ready to compete, and they only measured 5%.

Chris, Patricia is a competitive bodybuilder and has had her picture posted at T-mag in Reader Mail. She looked 6% to me.

Just a note on the birth control pills. Many women find that they really balloon and bloat while taking these. So, while they may help even out the estrogen levels, they may cause unwanted bloating for someone who is wanting to perform. Many women also put on about 10-15 pounds very rapidly while taking the pill. As for osteoperosis: weight training should help with that because working with weights increases bone density, thus alleviating the worry about osteo. That’s why even light weights are highly recommended for senior women, or especially those approaching their menopausal years.

Just using the numbers they gave her when she was hydro tested. You can add or subtract as much as you like, I really do not care. The point is that she was well (and i mean WELL) under 10, ripped, and had no adverse effects.

You know when I had begun BB competition back in 1987 this was never a concern for me. My primary concern was to be able to achieve that really low BF and mainain LBM to be able to do well in competition.

GM's post about birth control pills is right on. I can't take them - my body's reaction to birth control pills is enormously negative (bloating, etc.). What I do when prepping for a contest is take Calcium/Magnesium tablets as well as a Multi-Vita/Mineral supplement. Also, vitamin C tabs. And as usual, Jason N is correct: by reducing B% in a moderate way, a woman can avoid any problems.

I have been hydrostatically tested at 8%. Ko was just a tad incorrect. Now in contest shape I am at 6%. Just for the contest. I have been caliper tested a month before/after a contest at 8%. I have been caliper tested at various levels (18%, 10%). What I use to gauge my BF% is my abs. My abs are the hardest to "lean out". My midsection is my "visible gauge" as to my current BF%. I'm at 10%. If I go above 12%, my asthma becomes a huge issue. And I tell ya, I call the 6% arena the "hating life" stage. Cuz, you are definitely hating life at that point. You FEEL your joints, and you're moving kinda slow, and you just want to eat EVERYTHING. Thank god it's a temporary condition. A week after a contest, I'm feelin' snazzy again.

I STILL have my periods. Even at 10%. It's because it's become my regular set level, so my body has adjusted. Most of the female athletes at the 10% level will probably say the same thing.

Hey, British Lifter: At what percentage of BF would you say this woman is at now? And when is this contest scheduled? If anything she would be entering in the “Novice” division, correct? If that is true, than, if the Novice show are anything like the ones here, than competing at a low-level BF is not really a necessary component to winning or placing high. What does however make a difference is the muscular structure or “base” - good symmetry, muscularity.

Just thought I'd throw this in....Patricia ;-)

thank you everyone - all the information is much appreciated. unfortunately in the ANB there is no novice women division - just a fitness and an above and below 52kg category. so its straight in at the deep end for the women.

TEK, I’ve seen the picture. She looked excellent and was very lean, but definitely no 6%. You have to see some female pros in person to see what 6% really is…gross. Pat’s bodyfat in that pic makes her still look really good