No Period? No Biggie! Right…?
I’m curious…did you ever lose your period while competing? Were you told this was normal because you were a female athlete?
First, we need to clear the air. It is NOT normal to lose your period as a female athlete. Even if you’re doctor said it is…it isn’t. It is actually an indication that something is not right! Oftentimes, you’re given birth control to “regulate” it and call it a day without ever addressing the root CAUSE of your missing or irregular cycle. Can you relate…?
While the root cause could be a plethora of things (definitely recommend ruling out possibilities like PCOS, which is often misdiagnosed in female athletes), the most common cause of a missing period in female athletes is something called hypothalamic amenorrhea, which results when the body is under-fueled and over-worked.
AKA: the life of a female athlete, am I right?
So why am I talking about this if I mostly work with former athletes? Well, many of my retired athlete clients STILL find themselves without a cycle months to even years after stepping away from their sport. This is a problem. And a good indicator you are still under-fueled and overworked even as a former athlete.
If you’re thinking, “how could that be?” You’re working out less, so you shouldn’t be overworked, right? Maybe you even feel like you’re eating too much! Chances are, with everything else you have going on (family, career, relationships, social life, the pandemic, societal pressures, etc.), you’re still overworking out, and likely undereating for your body’s needs even in retirement (I see this all the time!). A common mistake former athletes make when they retire is they cut back too much on their eating. Either intentionally or unintentionally, they are often under-fueled for life after sport.
Before I share my top 3 tips for period recovery in life after sport, I need to make this important note: If you’re on birth control, it may be hard to tell if you’re missing your period or not. Hormonal birth control masks a missing period by causing what is known as a withdrawal bleed. This is not a true cycle and does not confirm ovulation. That being said, the decision to take birth control is a personal one. There is no right or wrong choice! My goal is simply to inform you so you are aware. You deserve that. Not to just be handed birth control and call it good…it’s not good.
Okay…here’s the good stuff!
TOP 3 TIPS for PERIOD RECOVERY in LIFE AFTER SPORT:
1. Eat more. Yep…I know…this one is scary. But it’s so necessary. Your body needs to know it is safe and has enough energy for reproduction. Which means we need to eat more.
a. My favorite foods for period recovery:
ii. Dark chocolate
vi. Whole fat dairy (yogurt, milk, ice cream)
vii. Chia seeds
viii. Peanut butter
b. Eat consistently. Sometimes our hunger cues are off when we retire (okay…most of the time they’re off). That means we have to tune back in. I suggest starting by eating on a schedule (sounds counter-intuitive I know. But it is a helpful step in regaining hunger/fullness). Set a time for every 4 hours and check-in. Try not to go more than 6 hours without eating. You can purchase my Hunger Hacks Guide HERE if looking for more support and direction!
2. Exercise differently. I am not going to say exercise less. You’re a former athlete, after all, Working out is just part of your life! Instead, let’s exercise differently. Swap out your high-intensity boot camps and long runs for yoga classes and casual strolls. Your body will still benefit from the movement AND it will help facilitate energy and hormone balance.
3. Manage stress. Yes, I did struggle to write that because I battle with stress just like you! But truthfully, our body cannot support reproduction if it is overly stressed. Some things to help with stress management that I have personally found to be useful and effective:
a. Square breathing during stressful situations (breath in for 4 counts, hold for 4, exhale for 4, hold for 4)
b. Journaling: Get all of your stress and thoughts out onto a piece of paper! Yes, actually handwrite it, not type it (weird…I know). This type of brain dumping can be so relieving!
c. Phone free time! Designate even 10-15 minutes a day where you put your phone away…far far away and you live in the moment distraction-free.
Missing a period is never a normal thing. And especially if you’re a retired female athlete. No period…big deal.
Looking for extra help with period recovery? This is something I focus on with my clients! Join the waitlist for 1:1 nutrition coaching to be the first notified when spots open up or secure your spot for the next round of Group Coaching!