Missed periods can be a sign that you are not eating enough. Can exercise stop periods?
You have lost some weight, and your goal is to lose the last 10 pounds. So you increase your workout by pressing the elliptical machine four to five days a week in 45-minute increments. You also look at calories. And then you suddenly skip your period. Is this normal?
Many believe that amenorrhea, or cessation of the menstrual cycle, is expected during athletic training. But it is not. It may indicate a severe problem with your diet.
Losing your period can seem like a nice side effect of exercising heavily. However, the health effects associated with amenorrhea can be severe.
Amenorrhea can signify a lack of energy from not eating enough, exercising too much, or combining the two.
During amenorrhea, your metabolism slows down a lot – so slowly that you stop ovulating to save energy. You then achieve the opposite of what you are probably hoping for because, in this state, you can not increase your lean muscle mass because building muscle requires energy. Your muscles can even break down to provide energy to several essential organs. Your body becomes more prone to injuries in this debilitating condition.
Bone loss / osteoporosis
Estrogen helps keep your bones strong. However, when levels decrease naturally after menopause, the risk of fractures increases. Bone loss or osteoporosis can occur at any age from low estrogen levels.
Using excess energy required for heavy athletic training drains your body’s energy for estrogen production.
Disordered eating can begin when you limit calories to lose weight. Some women may restrict eating as they balance an excessive exercise plan with the demands of work, school, and family life. Over time, this food restriction can develop into an obsession with or a disordered approach to eating.
Female athletes who are most prone to limiting calorie intake are involved in excessive exercise, engage in sports that require weight control, or are involved in sports that benefit from a slimmer body composition. Teenagers with controlling parents or coaches are also at risk for eating disorders.
Achieve a healthy balance
To train the hardest, you need to eat the right foods to provide energy to your body, build muscle, and prevent injury.
To prevent the severe health consequences associated with the triad for female athletes:
- Eat three full meals each day.
- Balance meals with carbohydrates, protein, and fat.
- Never avoid certain food groups, such as fats. Omitting food groups is a sign of eating disorders.
- Eat within 15 to 60 minutes after completing all your workouts.
- Eat meals after exercise with a lot of carbohydrates and moderate protein content. Good examples include sandwiches and fruit, bagel with peanut butter and chocolate milk, energy bar and yogurt with granola, spaghetti with meatballs, salad, and fruit.
- Have a minimum of three carbohydrate-rich snacks during the day.
- When your workouts last more than 90 minutes, eat 15 grams of carbohydrates or drink a sports drink every 15 to 30 minutes.
- Eat sufficient amounts of calcium daily: 1000 to 1300 mg per day. The best sources include milk, yogurt, milk without dairy (soy, almonds), cheese, calcium-fortified orange juice, and dark green lettuce.
- Female athletes should consult a sports medicine doctor. If you are having trouble building a healthy diet or increasing your calories, you should consult a registered dietitian for professional help.
Many women are in denial of developing anorexia due to eating disorders. However, lack of menstruation is a sign that they are not eating enough and need further evaluation.