Can Running Stop Your Periods? Here's What You Should Know
If you've started on a rigorous running regimen to compliment your weight loss plan, you might have found that your periods are slowing and even stopping completely. Here's what's happening.
It's been about 30 days and you haven't had your period yet. You rush to the store to buy a pregnancy test, and to your relief and secret regret, the kit says you're not pregnant. So what's going on?
If you're trying to lose weight, believe it or not, missing your period is a good sign. It means your weight loss regimen is working great – in fact, it's working TOO WELL. Your diligent carb-cutting and strenuous running routine were intense enough to disrupt your hypothalamus. Researchers found that intense exercise coupled with energy restriction messes with your hypothalamus's gonadotropin releasing hormone (GnRH) production.
GnRH regulates your estrogen, progesterone, luteinizing hormone, follicle stimulating hormone, and other hormones that regulate your ovaries. In essence, it regulates your menstrual cycle, bone development, and your unique female traits, like your breasts.
When you run and limit your calories too much and cause a disruption in your GnRH production that leads to slow or stopped periods, then you've developed a condition called exercise-induced amenorrhea. This condition is actually common, affecting 10 to 40 percent of female runners.
Since the condition causes low estrogen levels, it can lead to lower bone density, heart attacks, and atrophy of your breasts and vagina. This is because your secondary female characteristics become under-regulated from the lack of hormones. Estrogen also plays a role in men's female characteristics, and any excess testosterone in men is converted to estrogen to keep the important balance of hormones normal.
But don't let any of this suddenly scare you into not running. Running is actually very healthy for your menstrual cycle. Researchers found that running releases endorphins, which help relieve pain from menstrual cramping. They also found that if you run during the final phases of your menstrual cycle, the increased hormone levels promote more fat to burn while running. That means that your period actually helps you lose weight if you let it by going for a run (otherwise, the researchers also found that if you're sedentary, the increased hormone levels don't boost your fat metabolism).
So how can you run safely without sacrificing your period? It's simple – if you start noticing that your period is slowing down, then tone down your running intensity and dieting. You can also take a daily multivitamin that supports bone health, which should include vitamin D and calcium.
Running is different for men and women. On the bright side, running during your period can mean you'll burn more fat than men. On the down side, if you run and diet too much, then you run the risk of developing exercise-induced amenorrhea, which can shrink your breasts and stop your periods. Knowing this is important because you can stop the condition before it fully develops.