I was inspired to write about this very important topic after recently talking to two of my new clients with a history of stress fractures and menstrual cycle irregularities. These issues are surprisingly common, so I decided to write a blog post about it and hopefully raise some awareness and help other women who are in a similar situation.
Both of the previously mentioned clients are very physically active and relatively lean (one of them is ~20% body fat as measured with ultrasound body composition machine). They reached out to me to help them lose more body fat because they had plateaued and they also want to improve strength and physical performance (one of them is a runner).
In talking to them, I found out that the loss of period and stress fracture injury occurred around the same time when they were on a strict diet and intense exercise schedule. Before I explain the reasons why this might have occurred, it's important to note that I'm not a medical doctor and if you have similar problems, it's best to consult with one.
There are many factors other than exercise and nutrition that influence the menstrual cycle: medications, stress, hormonal profile, menopause, contraceptive pills, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), endometriosis, etc.
However, when it comes to exercise and nutrition we know that a prolonged stretch of time where low calorie/low-fat diets are paired with excessive and intense exercise is not ideal. Add to this, constant mental stress and lack sleep and this situation gets even worse.
A normal menstrual cycle depends on having adequate concentrations of certain hormones like estrogen, progesterone and gonadotropin-releasing hormone. When there is an imbalance between recovery (i.e. sleep, proper nutrition, etc.) and stress (i.e. over-exercising, mental stress, etc.), our bodies start to break down and the concentration of these hormones starts to decline.
In my clients' cases, bones in their lower body slowly and over time started accumulating small tears every time they trained. These small tears are normal and crucial in signaling their bodies where they want to improve.
In normal circumstances where exercise and nutrition are properly individualized, bones heal these tears completely. Bones then get stronger, denser and more resilient to injuries. However, due to their poor nutrition, lack of proper sleep and high mental stress, their body wasn't able to keep up with their training and heal these small injuries every time they trained which ultimately resulted in a stress fracture.
This was also made worse by the fact that they lost their menstrual cycle (functional hypothalamic amenorrhea). So why is this bad for the bones? Estrogen is one of the main hormones involved in regulating the menstrual cycle, but it's also very important for keeping bones healthy and strong. So when you lose your period, this also may mean your estrogen levels are too low which means your bones are not getting what they need to stay healthy.
STEPS TO PREVENT LOSS OF MENSTRUAL CYCLE IN RELATION TO DIET, EXERCISE AND LIFESTYLE
If you are not sure how to do this yourself or you are looking for more individualized advice, we provide in-person fitness training in Toronto and online exercise and nutrition coaching services wherever you are in the world.
Author: Nem - Nemanja Sambaher
Nemanja Sambaher (Nem) is a Certified Personal Trainer and Registered Kinesiologist in Toronto with a Master of Science degree in Kinesiology. Nem has been involved in the health and fitness field for more than 10 years specializing in strength training, weight loss, muscle gain, sports performance, and injury rehabilitation.
Nem is a published author with a strong science background. His work has been featured in scientific journals like Neuroscience, Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports and Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. As a writer, Nem contributed for online publications like Stack.com, Running Room and Applied Physiology, Nutrition and Metabolism.
Having experience in a clinical setting, corporate environment, fitness industry and as a university researcher, Nem offers a unique approach to health and fitness. As a kinesiologist and a personal trainer, Nem helps people improve the way they move, look and feel. His exercise and nutrition coaching has allowed his clients to gain strength and muscle, lose body fat, eliminate pain and improve physical performance and health.
His clinical work includes electrocardiogram testing, phlebotomy, lung function assessment, movement and gait analysis. Using exercise as a therapeutic modality he has prescribed and carried out rehabilitation programs for patients with various injuries and chronic diseases like heart disease, diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis, cancer survivors and many others.
Most recently to further improve the client experience and enhance results, he has introduced a TO Kinesiology mobile app. This not only allows Nem to take on clients from all over the world, but also allows current clients to have 24/7 access to their TO Kinesiology trainer along with a full video exercise library, nutrition coaching tools, and progress tracking software.
Nem believes in the power of Kinesiology and proper exercise prescription for all Canadians looking to improve health and fitness. In his work with clients, Nem combines elements of strength training, hands-on therapy, conditioning and rehabilitation to maximize results and ensure a holistic approach.
You can learn more about Nem on his LinkedIn page. To schedule a session with Nem, get in touch with us here.