Low calorie diets + high levels of exercise = Menstrual cycle issues!
Over the past week i have been getting A LOT of emails from women who are on diets that are extremely low calorie and doing a shed load of exercise – mainly cardio. This isn’t limited to just women, 99% of the public who start to diet do it by reducing what they eat and then running their tits/moobs off in the gym. A disaster to both male and female hormonal systems!
Ladies, however, who are dieting on (for example) 800 calories a day and doing 1 hours cardio in the morning and then weights in the evening, are causing massive strains on their body and in particular their hormonal system. (By the way, unless you are 6 years old, 4foot tall and weigh 40kg, never should ANYONE be on 800 calories a day)
The human body is an incredible machine. A machine that is SO amazing that it would put the Hadron Collider to shame, in terms of complexity. The human body has one job and one job only in life – and that is to survive. Within that crucial job, it has many functions, but all it wants to do is survive for as long as possible to give YOU the best possible chance to reproduce and spread your amazing DNA in all its glory. Evolution in its simplest form.
What am i getting at here? Well when the body does all it can to just survive, it can do some pretty amazing things. For example, when times are tough and the body goes for prolonged periods of time without food, it can start to shut down usual/non vital bodily functions. An example of this would be the reproductive hormonal system.
I’m not even going to attempt to dive into the intricacies of the male/female hormonal system in this post, however i will touch on just one topic – the female menstrual cycle.
The menstruation cycle in women allows them to essentially reproduce. However, it is NOT considered a VITAL bodily function in terms of the survival check list the human body has. When food is sparse, the last thing the body wants to waste energy on is ovulation/child birth/sex – it is more concerned with giving you the energy for your heart to beat, for you to breathe, and so on, to essentially survive!
So, how can we relate this to the modern day dieting ‘crisis’ – simple really. The perception of people, or women in this case, to lose body fat is to starve the body of food and workout until you feel like crap. This results in the human body going into shock, and literally, start shutting down bodily functions. Usually, the first sign of this for men is a drop in libido, when testosterone production is slowed right down. Or the menstrual cycle stopping/becoming non existent, in women.
I can’t express how dangerous both scenarios are! For women, just think… your period is coming to a stop! Whether or not you are trying to conceive, your chances of now doing so are drastically reduced! Its scary to think about…!
For men, your sperm count is going to reduce and your libido is going to drop, to name but 2 major symptoms, let alone muscle loss and hair growth (or lack of it). What does this mean? Well, you’re not going to be bothered to have sex, let alone be able to conceive. You are also going to be losing a load of muscle!
Both instances are linked to your metabolism being slowed down/shut down, and this is directly linked to your hormonal output.
Time to get a little scientific…
What happens in the body when it stops menstruating?
The female reproductive system runs off of a sensitive fleet of circulating hormones. When one or several of them is disrupted, many of the others fail at their jobs, too.
During the menstrual cycle, hormone levels in the blood signal to the hypothalamus to signal to the pituitary to release FSH and LH, two hormones that in turn tell the ovaries what to do.
FSH–follicle-stimulating hormone– is released in the first part of the menstrual cycle to incite egg development. LH–luteinizing hormone–is released in the second part of the cycle and prepares the endometrium to be shed. Without proper FSH and LH levels, the female body can never convince the ovaries to do their job. FSH and LH are crucial, and they rely on proper functioning of the HPA axis.
This job of the ovaries is to produce the follicles and the eggs, but in doing so it also produces oestrogen and progesterone. This fact is important for signalling menstruation, because it is partly the rise and fall of oestrogen and progesterone levels throughout the month that signal to the hypothalamus to release FSH and LH at different times. This is, in essence, a circle of signalling. LH and FSH from the hypothalamus to the ovaries, oestrogen and progesterone back to the hypothalamus, and so forth.(ref: – http://www.paleoforwomen.com/how-extremity-can-make-even-the-best-diet-fail/)
Ladies – Please be aware of these issues and as soon as you start experiencing these symptoms, get down to your GP right away and STOP YOUR DIET. You need to be eating more and you need to stop your exercise, fix the issue and then resume dieting but with a proper nutritional plan and workout routine.
One thing that every single one of my clients has in common, when they start working with me, is the following phrase, “I’m so full, how do I eat all this food?”. I’ve never once coached a client who was eating TOO MANY calories. They all are usually eating TOO MANY of the WRONG calories, but never too many calories in general. 2,000 calories of pizza is vastly different to 2,000 calories of chicken & veg for example.
Eat clean, Train mean and Be lean!