March 1, 2021
It’s way too easy to take dieting and working out too far. A lot of times you don’t realize you’ve even crossed it until it’s too late. And crossing that line is dangerous for your body.
It happens for so many reasons. Pressure from the world to look a certain way, constant exposure to “perfect bodies” on social media, struggling to feel comfortable in your own skin. A seemingly innocent diet easily turns into an addiction.
For me, the effects were mental and physical. At one point, I was working out for hours and tracking every crumb that went into my mouth. Did it work? Yes. But did I also feel like it was never enough? YES.
This cycle completely disrupted my metabolism, my mood, my ability to concentrate, how I slept, everything. I even lost my period.
At the time, I didn’t really understand how significant this was. Lots of female athletes lose their periods, right? It’s just a sign that I’m working hard.
But you guys, it IS significant. And it’s dangerous.
Now I know that losing your period, amenorrhea, was a sign that I was seriously harming my body. It’s something a lot of female athletes experience – especially young athletes. But I feel like the dangers of amenorrhea are kind of brushed off. Doctors may or may not warn you about it at your annual physical if you participate in sports. But otherwise… how much education are girls really getting before it’s too late?
So I’m here to share what I know. Hopefully, this helps other females who might be pushing themselves too hard and risking their health.
If you lose your period, it’s a sign that something’s not right
I know. Losing your period doesn’t seem like the worst thing in the world, right? It’s not like any of us really want to deal with it every month anyway. But before you get too excited about losing your period, I want to point out how dangerous it can actually be.
No period means your body isn’t ovulating. Why do you stop ovulating? Because your body literally doesn’t have the energy to make it happen. It’s a sign that you’re not eating enough, and your body is sparing energy to keep essential organs functioning.
Your body is desperate to conserve energy. It’s shutting some functions down, to keep your heart, brain, and lungs working. To keep you ALIVE.
Oh and by the way, if your body is this desperate to conserve energy, that means it’s probably pulling energy from your muscles too. So forget building new muscle while you spend so much time at the gym.
Eventually, you’ll feel weaker, you’ll get tired more easily, and if you’re in a sport, your performance could even decline. Not ideal.
To make things worse, amenorrhea is actually one pillar of something called the Female Athlete Triad. The other two pillars are low energy and bone loss. BONE LOSS.
Low energy causes you to drag during your workouts and even struggle to think clearly throughout the day. Your body is literally running on EMPTY.
The bone loss that comes from this can cause permanent damage. When you have amenorrhea, your estrogen levels drastically drop. Like, to levels most women don’t experience until they hit menopause.
When estrogen drops, the risk for osteoporosis rises. And I don’t think any of us want to suffer from osteoporosis, ESPECIALLY in our 20’s, 30’s or 40’s. But again, if you’re not nourishing your body to keep up with your energy needs, it’s gonna cut out other “non-essential” functions. Like estrogen production.
Some other long-term health risks from amenorrhea/low estrogen include infertility, loss of breast tissue, and heart attacks later in life.
So losing your period is a sign that you might be pushing your body too hard. Luckily, you can heal.
How to heal
Recovering means restoring the energy your body needs to pick back up where it left off. It doesn’t necessarily mean you have to quit training or give up on your goals. You just need to give your body the fuel and rest it needs.
Not only will you get your period back and protect your long-term health, but you might even excel in your training more than ever before.
It’s amazing what food can do, right?!
Okay. Here are some tips for recovering from, or preventing, exercise-induced amenorrhea:
- Eat 3 meals per day
- Eat from ALL food groups: protein, carbs, and fat
- Refuel after your workouts
- Allow your body to rest. Take at least one rest day per week and get enough sleep.
- On days with long workouts, eat 2-3 carb-rich snacks throughout the day, or even during your workout.
- Get enough calcium.
Obviously, if you’re experiencing amenorrhea or concerned that you might be at risk, the first thing you should do is see your doctor! This isn’t something to mess with. Even if you “feel fine,” losing your period is a sign that you’re harming your body.
Have you ever experienced amenorrhea or other related issues? I’d love to hear your story and journey! Let me know in the comments below.