Athletic Amenorrhea – Why your period’s gone and how to get it back

Athletic Amenorrhea - Why your period's gone & how to get it back by Strong Sweet Caroline
Athletic Amenorrhea – Why your period’s gone & how to get it back by Strong Sweet Caroline

Growing up a “skinny chick”, I always had irregular periods. I remember getting my 1st period in 6th grade. It was light, and fairly inconsistent. From then on through high school, I was constantly on the move, doing work on the cattle farm, ran track for 2 years, and involved in extracurricular activities like band, FFA, honors society, student council and 4-H. During that time, when my period was “missing”, I did not worry about it. It came back after a few months usually. Sometimes light, sometimes heavy. I was eating what I wanted, when I wanted, without restraints. I was not sexually active, did not have any predetermined health issues and was not on BC. So I went about my life as normal.

Fast forward to my mid 20s. I had some extra bodyfat and was beginning my first ever prep for a bodybuilding competition. After the first month of training and “dieting”, I lost my period. This is was my 1st experience of athletic amenorrhea. Amenorrhea is the absence of menstrual periods for 6 months in a woman who had previously been regular, or for 12 months in a woman who had irregular periods.

I was training hard and heavy, working full time and living in the middle of nowhere Nebraska. Coming out of the first show, I did not get it back. I was eating a “fairly balanced” diet, which I now do not consider balanced. Still no period. February 2017, I was back living in Ohio, I had a new coach, new boyfriend (hi David!) and life was pretty busy but great. My period came back after 2 years without one! From then on, it’s been a road of heavy and light flow, a month skipped here, another there. In March 2018, I started with John as my coach and we were able to correct my period problems within 3 months. I had my period from then all the way to March 2019, when I started a cycle and got into the heart of my competition prep. I do not advocate super supplementation, but am fully transparent in this sport. Depending on the woman and her protocol, it can substantially decrease estrogen production and ramp up testosterone. I was also eating WAY BELOW my maintenance level, had at least 45 minutes of cardio 5 days per week, working a new job and getting little sleep. How does all this add up? Amenorrhea.

As a female athlete, there are more variables that can cause this, compared to the average woman:

  • High cortisol, aka Stress, physical or emotional
  • Too low of body fat or weight for your frame
  • Overexercising
  • Undereating, total calories or micronutrients like zinc, Vitamin B, calcium & iron
  • Genetics, some may lose a period while others have theirs on competition day
  • PCOS, with other symptoms like weight gain, fatigue, unwanted hair growth, hair thinning, infertility, acne

Sure, it may seem “convenient” to not have a period. However, you could have adverse affects like:

  • Bone loss due to decreased production of estrogen
  • Malabsorption of Vitamin D
  • Cold body temperture
  • Low libido or natural lubrication
  • Poor sleep
  • Bowel issues

Every woman is different and will need different protocol to recover her period. I recommend starting with blood work and then evaluating lifestyle changes that may be necessary. Here are some common solutions:

  • Eat more nutrient dense foods
  • Decrease inflammatory foods, mostly sugars and processed foods
  • Stress less, which includes changing workouts/cardio types, intensity and duration
  • Improve consistent, deep sleep
  • Increase intake of Magnesium, Zinc, Vitamin B vitamins
  • Supplement Vitex/Chastetree Berry, as it can aid in normalizing pituitary gland function, which can help ovaries produce normal testosterone levels, take as directed on the label, usually in the morning when the pituitary and hypothalamus are most active
  • Supplement adaptogenic herbs like Rhodiola rosea, ashwagandha and astragalus to overcome adrenal fatigue and lower stress levels

Share your thoughts below! Send me an email for additional inquires about one-on-one coaching and hormone help.

strongsweetcaroline@gmail.com

Sources:

No Period. Now What? By Dr. Nicola J Rinaldi

Period Repair Manual: Natural Treatment for Better Hormones and Better Periods by Lara Briden ND

Dr. Robyn Nohling, The Real Life RD

Dana Magee, RD

Victoria Felker