An 8 minute read that will help you understand and recover your menstruation cycle.

If your anything like some of our new clients, when they contact us.  They are lost and unsure of what to do to recover their hormonal health. Coach, why am I not getting my cycle? In most cases, the loss of your menstrual cycle was caused by the stress of dieting for fat loss due to the lack of available energy from calories or fat mass. The female body requires available energy to create an environment for procreation, similarly as you learned about metabolism in a previous article, this a part of the adverse effects of metabolic adaptation. 

“Your body is trying to protect you!”

Since 70% of our clients are female, we must know precisely how to help those with these circumstances. It is essential that we understand the female menstrual cycle and how we can adjust our nutritional strategies to combat the adverse health effects that occur with female menstruation due to either chronic low-calorie dieting, excessive exercise, or being to lean. 

Your menstrual cycle is commonly a 28-day cycle, with it being common for some women to have 24 or even 32-day cycles. Your body’s primary reason to have a cycle is to prepare you for procreation.  Eumenorrhea refers to when your cycle is working correctly.  At the beginning of the cycle, your release of biological material is a side effect of your uterine lining releasing. This phase typically lasts 3-5 days before entering the Follicular phase and then the luteal phase shortly after.The first half of your 28-day cycle is called the follicular phase. This 14-day cycle can separate into three sub-parts; early, mid, and late. During the follicular phase, your follicle developed due to available energy to raise follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and thus release the egg. 

The second half of the cycle is the luteal phase; during the beginning of the luteal phase, the egg releases, and this process marks the middle of the phase and the start of ovulation where the follicle releases the egg forms into the corpus luteum. During this time, many hormonal changes start to occur, such as an increase in estrogen and progesterone. When this happens, slight raises in body temp and metabolic rate have been seen in the research. 

“It’s essential that you understand your Cycle”

Upon the arrival of peak levels of progesterone and estrogen at mid-cycle, these levels begin to drop, and this is when Pre-Menstrual Syndrome (PMS) starts to occur. The side effects of PMS will vary based on the person. However, side effects such as depression, irritability, lowered energy, and cramping pain can and will occur with some women experiences worse symptoms than others.

Likely to be the most common visual adjustment you will see during a healthy menstrual cycle is the small to moderate increase in weight that occurs in the transition from the follicular phase to the ovulatory phase. This increase in weight typically only lasts for a few days during the build-up to the ovulation phase. This increase in weight will average 1-4 pounds. The increase in weight is due to estrogen levels rising to lead into the first day of your cycle. Typically once estrogen starts to decrease after 2-4 days, any excess water retention will be reduced, and weight will return to normal. 

In knowing the above, we can plan and expect that weigh-ins may be higher around this time of the month. During this time, we don’t recommend that you make any calorie cuts to a client’s food intake. Rather wait it out and see what occurs. It may also be advantageous to plan high carb days or diet breaks around this time of the month to have a plan of action for cravings and metabolic energy demands, which will improve dietary adherence to your guidelines for the long term.

As we mentioned above, eumenorrhea refers to a healthy cycle; the complete opposite Amenorrhea refers to a disruption in the cycle. Due to the onset of high stress the sport requires, this disruption is very prevalent in the fitness industry. Low calories and high cardio, unfortunately, are the norm when preparing for a competition to achieve low levels of body while performing highly stressful exercise. Amenorrhea occurs when caloric intake is too low to support this very calorically “expensive” process, and as a side effect of low calorie’s follicle-stimulating hormone and luteinizing hormone are not able to produce the egg. This suppression, once created, can continue after a caloric deficit phase even when caloric maintenance/surplus calories have reset. This reversal in our experience can take anywhere from a single month to many months or more to recover depending on numerous dieting variables (duration, aggressiveness) or until all hormonal levels return to normal.

This reversal time varies per client and should be considered and monitored throughout your female clients’ time with you. Most women with a naturally low body fat set points can maintain their cycle throughout a dieting phase. While other females with a higher body fat setpoint may lose their cycle’s at a faster rate. These are also the females that will likely have to get more aggressive with dieting to reach their body composition goals. We do not recommend that you continuously diet a client that has lost her cycle for an extensive period, more significant than a few months that does not have physique competition plans. I would highly advise taking the steps forward towards allowing her cycle to return, which it will in time and will require patience from both coach and client. A recommended method to recovering your cycle for this particular circumstance would be;

“Be patient, it’s worth your health”

  1. Increase your food intake to the perceived maintenance level or slightly above. If you are in a caloric deficit, adding in 300-500 kcal immediately and maintaining that can provide the energy availability (EA) to stimulate FSH and LH.
  2. Adjust macronutrient ratios to support at least 30-35% of total calories coming from dietary fats. The preferred source of fats will be monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats. A higher fat diet will stimulate and strengthen the myelin that responsible for the connection made to your endocrine system that regulates all hormonal functions in the body. 
  3. Increase fish oil supplementation to 4-6g per day. While the research may not be strong to support high dose fish oil supplementation, we feel recommending at least 1g of both EPA and DHA daily to be ideal. 
  4. Reduce high-intensity weight lifting, This may be the hardest thing for you ALL-IN athletes types, but if you want to regain your cycle, you should reduce your training intensity. The intensity in which you train is a stressor on your system, and will negatively impact your cycle in some cases. 
  5. Reduce high-intensity cardio, similar to high-intensity weight lifting a little bit, will likely be ok as your body can and will recover from that stress. It’s very resilient in that regard. However, if you’re doing a high-intensity activity every day, it makes it much hard to recover from, especially if you’re under nourishing your body. 
  6. Prioritize sleep, and reduce unwanted life stress. The other side of stress is psychological stress. You may not be kicking your ass in the gym, but maybe you just went through a big break up, lost your job, lost a family member, or your living in a toxic relationship. If that you, leave that asshole and thank me later. 
  7. Be very patient; this process will take time. It took time to disrupt hormones and EA, and it will take time to recover it fully. 

Thank you for reading, if you, your family members, or friends know your cycle is compromised by the stress of striving to reach a body composition goal we strongly advise that you follow the above 7 step process to allow your cycle to return. If you have any further questions contact the nutritional coaching staff at metabolicevolution.com

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