“You’re an active athlete, it’s normal not to get your period”.
Have you heard that before? It’s become a common to write-off not having a period in female athletes, but it shouldn’t be normalized.
Let’s learn why getting a regular period is so important for ALL females (not just female athletes).
Your period is normal and naturally occurring. A regular menstrual cycle tells you that your hormones are in balance and that your body is making the right levels of sex hormones for reproduction.
“But I’m not looking to get pregnant – does it matter if I don’t get my period?”
Not having your period affects so much more than just your ability to reproduce. It affects your bone health, heart health, and even your mental health. Athletes without a normal menstrual cycle are:
- At increased risk for injury (especially broken bones/stress fractures )
- Have poor energy levels
- Often experience bloating/poor digestion
- At increased risk for getting sick
- Less likely to build muscle/meet body composition goals
Why Do So Many Female Athletes Lose Their Period?
In athletes, a loss of a period is likely a result of an energy imbalance due to overexercise, under-fueling, or likely, both.
This leads to low energy availability, meaning your body senses it does not have enough energy to support reproduction, and so that function essentially shuts down and instead uses those calories to support more necessary functions. Many female athletes don’t consume enough energy due to how society pushes undereating in females, as well as the fact that many athletes have body composition goals and think eating less is the way to reach them.
Not only that, but athletes are expending a LOT of energy during training and games, not to mention have high recovery demands which also require a significant amount of energy. That high training load and volume also places a lot of physical stress on your body. When you combine the stress from training with the stress from chronic underfueling, hormones get out of balance and you lose your period.
This energy imbalance prevents you from reaching your goals and hitting peak performance. When you don’t have your period, you can’t be the best athlete you can be!
Can I Get My Period Back?
The good news is if you have lost your period (or it doesn’t come every month), you CAN get your period back. The first step is fixing your energy imbalance! This means eating enough carbohydrates, protein, and fats, as well as important vitamins and minerals to support overall hormonal health. This process doesn’t happen overnight though. It takes consistent, proper fueling and patience to recover your period. This is where working with an accredited Sports RD can really help with accomplishing this.
As a Sports Dieititian, I have helped many female athletes recover from losing their period. If this is something you are struggling with, I encourage you to apply to PFC, a sports nutrition coaching program that combines on-demand resources and live coaching to help you always meet your goals. You can overcome this!