Lee-Ann Ellison weight lifting while pregnant. Photo: Nick Stern/WENN
Female athletes are finally opening up about training and menstruation; how periods affect performance, and how performance affects periods. This excellent article breaks down the physical changes our bodies go through every month, why a regular cycle means a healthy body and how heavy training and nutrition can have a huge impact on hormone production and consequently your ability to ovulate.
Spencer Nadolsky takes you through the reasons why missing your periods can have detrimental effects on bone development and general well being, and then explains how you can give your body what it needs to train, perform, and wear your red badge of honour every month!
Maryann is young, active, and (apparently) healthy.
She eats a self-described “clean” diet. She weight trains twice a week, and does about two hours of cardio four or five days a week.
A year ago, at age 27, she stopped getting her periods.
She didn’t mention it to her trainer. And it never occurred to her to consult a doctor.
In fact, secretly, she felt relieved. After all, she didn’t want to get pregnant.
Besides, dealing with her monthly cycle had become a hassle. It interfered with her exercise program. And the weight fluctuations played with her mind.
So…no period, no problem. Right?
Understanding the menstrual cycle
The menstrual cycle is a series of changes women’s bodies go through when preparing for the possibility of getting pregnant.
Here’s how it works…
Every month, one of the ovaries releases an egg. (This process is called ovulation.)
At the same time, body-wide, hormonal changes prepare the uterus for pregnancy.
To begin with, a hormone called gonadotropin releasing hormone (GRH) is sent from the hypothalamus to the pituitary gland.
This cellular cross-talk then triggers the pituitary to release two other hormones: follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH).
These hormones then travel to the ovaries and tell them to make estrogen and progesterone.
Of course, the amount produced depends on the which phase of the menstrual cycle one is in (i.e. follicular vs. luteal).
If ovulation takes place and the egg is not fertilized, the lining of the uterus sheds through the vagina. And this is what most people think of as a “period”.
Here’s a handy visual:
“If you’re a health conscious woman who works out and eats well take note: Losing your period isn’t something to take lightly.”