Dealing with Life – The Female Athlete's Monthly Stress by Coach Gemma
As female athletes we have to deal with something men do not – menstrual periods. Some of you may have experienced a change in your periods since you’ve been training or if you have recently increased the intensity and/or load of training.
Periods can sometimes be missed or come later than expected – this can be caused by stresses that are put onto the body; poor nutrition, stress and over training.
We refer to this as “Female Athlete Triad” (triad means three):
Inadequate nutrition: Your body is not getting enough energy from the foods you eat.
Amenorrhea: This is defined as the absence of menstrual periods for longer than 6 months. The lack of menstrual periods can happen when there is intense training and is common in female CrossFit athlete’s. Especially for an athlete that has a low body fat, essential even as a ‘healthy person’ it would have a knock on effect to how your body will run.
Low Bone Mass: Although physical activity helps to build a healthy skeleton and strong bones, too much exercise can cause problems if you are not having regular periods and normal estrogen levels. Retain the right balance of exercise, body weight, calcium intake and vitamin D.
What should I do if I’m a female athlete?
Give your body enough energy to fuel performance. Make sure you eat a healthy diet with enough calories to make up for all of your training. A proper balance of fats, protein, and carbohydrates. Make sure you get 1300mg of calcium and at least 400 international units of vitamin D every day to keep your bones strong. (Available in supplements if you are not getting this from a food source firstly)
Don’t ignore injuries. If you are feeling the same pain in a movement, the same pain in your back whenever you do gymnastics movements, this maybe a stress fracture that could have been caused from meeting The “Female Athlete Triad”.
Can CrossFit be too demanding?
Scientists have a theory that high levels of physical activity are so energy-intensive that the body actually experiences short periods of energy deficiency, where there simply is not enough energy to maintain all the necessary hormonal mechanisms that enable fertilization. Being mindful of this and understanding where to make changes to correct your bodies flow is key to maintain a healthy menstrual cycle.
Every energy metabolism is different and the threshold will be very individual, but knowing and understanding your body is key to developing a long and healthy training schedule.
It is important to be aware of changes to your body and make the necessary amends to re-balance your body. A long cycle or no menstruation at all is a dangerous sign. If you have or are experiencing this, it’s something to talk to your coach and doctor about and we can advise you on where to make changes.
Remember that everything is about balance, balancing the training plan you want to adhere to your goals. Maintaining a healthy life balance, work, social and allowing the body to recovery. Maintaining a healthy body, getting the right vitamins, food intake and hydration. Making simple changes will benefit you long term.