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recently recovered from secondary amenorrhea/body fat stall

Answered on April 08, 2014
Created February 24, 2014 at 3:12 AM

Hello everyone! I'm new here and thought I'd jump right in and see if any other ladies have experienced this. About a year ago I "got serious" on my quest for health with an ill-advised 1400-1600/cal day, low fat, chronic cardio sort of plan. I lost a ton of weight, muscle and my period for 8 months. A friend of mine introduced me to the ancestral health/paleo movement and I ended my amenorrhea by eating a high-fat diet and gaining back the weight I'd lost. Unfortunately, my metabolism took a major hit and now I'm slowly working on reducing body fat while gaining muscle. I try to challenge myself to lift heavy and I do very little cardio. My diet is quite clean. I eat high quality protein [GF beef, wild salmon, sardines], a wide array of top notch fats [avoiding PUFAs] and I focus on getting my carbs from heaps of nonstarchy veg, with the occasional indulgences in yams, dates, dark chocolate, etc. I currently eat very little fruit. I would like to speed up my body fat loss without halting my period again. I feel like I'd do better including more yams and fruit and lowering my fat. Have any ladies in a similar situation had luck with this? On the topic of secondary amenorrea, I've had 3 months of a normal cycle and I'm currently a week late and scared that the heavier workout sessions might be influencing that even though they are very brief and I am VERY careful to recover in between. Has anyone out there experienced amenorrhea after reducing carb intake?

Medium avatar

(20)

on February 24, 2014
at 09:10 AM

In a nutshell, my suggestion would be: increase the starch intake (takes a lot of mind work, I know :) increase fat intake by LOTS (butter! coconut oil! lard!), don't need to bother with fruits since you're gearing for leanness, and maintain workout at the same level for a few months, increasing intensity only a little as you allow the body to get used to things.

It's not easy seeing all that fat, but it is crazy essential that we don't freak out and head back to our comfort zone of really-intense workout.. the fat will eventually decrease and we'll be leaner again. Good luck!

Medium avatar

(20)

on February 24, 2014
at 09:08 AM

Also, since you're doing low carb, you need to eat high-fat and likely a lot higher than you think what a high-fat diet actually is. (this was icky for me, but I've found ways to increase it haha).

Do you maintain an intake of calcium supplements as well? It's essential to aid the body with the bone density recovery.

Medium avatar

(20)

on February 24, 2014
at 09:06 AM

... Once we get over this phase, the body will start redistributing all of that fat. The body might also temporarily overshoot its optimal weight set point in the process.

This will only occur if we persist with adequate caloric intake.

You can still retain a low carb diet while maintaining a heavy workout routine without inducing an abnormal cycle again. The catch is though that the advised carb range be minimum around 50-100gm daily. This equals to about 1 sweet potato, depending on the size. This is still LC, but way more than what you're used to.

Medium avatar

(20)

on February 24, 2014
at 09:05 AM

As you progress persistently with a 'more than adequate' level of feeding, your body will go through different stages. As those of us who have sufferred from caloric-restriction/exercise-induced amenorrhea have damaged resting metabolic rate (RMR), it will take a long while for the body to stabilize despite a return of normal cycles. Amongst the first few stages in recovery, the body will retain as much fat as possible around the mid-section. You can feel a huge combination of fat around the middle and residual bloating and gas...

Medium avatar

(20)

on February 24, 2014
at 09:02 AM

Not engaging in too much cardio atm is a good step in easing into a workout routine recovering from amenorrhea, but I was wondering if your caloric intake might still be too little for your level of activity. Certain studies suggests that we may have been underestimating anaerobic exercise by nearly 50%. I'm going to assume your current range lies around 1800-2200. You'll have to eat more, consistently, while your body gets used to understanding that you're totally out of the starvation mode. This is to attempt a better metabolic function, which has been greatly affected in the past.

Medium avatar

(20)

on February 24, 2014
at 09:00 AM

After poring over tons of literature, I've learned a few things (in/out of Paleo community). Tweaking my macronutriens accordingly, and quitting workouts altogether to speed up recovery and hoping for a leptin reset, I've since just experienced my first month of a normal cycle about two weeks ago, after only 6 weeks of a changed diet.

To answer you, it's common occurrence amongst VLCarbers to experience amenorrhea, even without engaging in workouts. This occurs alongside a very low fat intake, despite adequate protein consumption. All too often the protein consumed are lean.

Medium avatar

(20)

on February 24, 2014
at 08:57 AM

A brief bg intro: I was doing weights, cardio, resistance training, HIIT, a mix of any of these about 1.5 hours a few days a week. I was doing VLC, low-fat, moderate protein, low-calorie. Did intermittent fasting. Bulk of starches came from non-starchy vegetables, average carb intake around 5-10gm. Avoided fruits altogether. Restricted around 900-1500, although most days around the 1200 range. Struggled with amenorrhea a year before I came round to admitting that I had fertility issues due to improper nutrition-fitness balance.

Medium avatar

(20)

on February 24, 2014
at 08:55 AM

A brief background intro: I was doing weights, cardio, resistance training, HIIT, a mix of any of these about 1.5 hours a few days a week. I was doing VLC, low-fat, moderate protein, low-calorie. Did IF. Bulk of starches came from non-starchy vegetables, average carb intake around 5-10gm. Avoided fruits altogether. Restricted diet around 900-1500, although most days average around the 1200/cal range. Struggled with amenorrhea around a year before I came around to admitting that I had fertility issues due to improper nutrition-fitness balance.

Medium avatar

(20)

on February 24, 2014
at 08:54 AM

A brief background intro: I was doing weights, cardio, resistance

training, HIIT, a mix of any of these about 1.5 hours a few days a week. I was doing VLC, low-fat, moderate protein, low-calorie. Did IF. Bulk of starches came from non-starchy vegetables, average carb intake around 5-10gm. Avoided fruits altogether. Restricted diet around 900-1500, although most days average around the 1200/cal range. Struggled with amenorrhea around a year before I came around to admitting that I had fertility issues due to improper nutrition-fitness balance.

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2 Answers

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Medium avatar

on April 08, 2014
at 12:12 AM

Dude, yeah, eat up. I had it for two years of college - started January freshman year when I was kicking my ass back into shape for XC. Sophmore year walked on the cross country team at ~122lb. for 5'9". Just got it back this January (Junior year) after eating like a horse for a year and gained back 30+ pounds. Now I'm around 150+ lbs. but also have a LOT more muscle than ever before.

I probably am eating more carbs than I was before. Don't be afraid of clean carbs. I eat potatoes, plantains, fruits, squashes, canned pumpkin, etc. All of those are healthy natural foods.

I've heard in many cases that women function better with more carbs. A sweet potato and some fruit a day will not destroy your body.

0
Medium avatar

(20)

on February 24, 2014
at 08:58 AM

A brief bg intro: I was doing weights, cardio, resistance training, HIIT, a mix of any of these about 1.5 hours a few days a week. I was doing VLC, low-fat, moderate protein, low-calorie. Did intermittent fasting. Bulk of starches came from non-starchy vegetables, average carb intake around 5-10gm, usually on the lower end. Avoided fruits altogether. Restricted around 900-1500, although most days around the 1200 range. Struggled with amenorrhea a year before I came round to admitting that I had fertility issues due to improper nutrition-fitness balance.

Medium avatar

(20)

on February 24, 2014
at 09:00 AM

After poring over tons of literature, I've learned a few things (in/out of Paleo community). Tweaking my macronutriens accordingly, and quitting workouts altogether to speed up recovery and hoping for a leptin reset, I've since just experienced my first month of a normal cycle about two weeks ago, after only 6 weeks of a changed diet.

To answer you, it's common occurrence amongst VLCarbers to experience amenorrhea, even without engaging in workouts. This occurs alongside a very low fat intake, despite adequate protein consumption. All too often the protein consumed are lean.

Medium avatar

(20)

on February 24, 2014
at 09:02 AM

Not engaging in too much cardio atm is a good step in easing into a workout routine recovering from amenorrhea, but I was wondering if your caloric intake might still be too little for your level of activity. Certain studies suggests that we may have been underestimating anaerobic exercise by nearly 50%. I'm going to assume your current range lies around 1800-2200. You'll have to eat more, consistently, while your body gets used to understanding that you're totally out of the starvation mode. This is to attempt a better metabolic function, which has been greatly affected in the past.

Medium avatar

(20)

on February 24, 2014
at 09:10 AM

In a nutshell, my suggestion would be: increase the starch intake (takes a lot of mind work, I know :) increase fat intake by LOTS (butter! coconut oil! lard!), don't need to bother with fruits since you're gearing for leanness, and maintain workout at the same level for a few months, increasing intensity only a little as you allow the body to get used to things.

It's not easy seeing all that fat, but it is crazy essential that we don't freak out and head back to our comfort zone of really-intense workout.. the fat will eventually decrease and we'll be leaner again. Good luck!

Medium avatar

(20)

on February 24, 2014
at 09:05 AM

As you progress persistently with a 'more than adequate' level of feeding, your body will go through different stages. As those of us who have sufferred from caloric-restriction/exercise-induced amenorrhea have damaged resting metabolic rate (RMR), it will take a long while for the body to stabilize despite a return of normal cycles. Amongst the first few stages in recovery, the body will retain as much fat as possible around the mid-section. You can feel a huge combination of fat around the middle and residual bloating and gas...

Medium avatar

(20)

on February 24, 2014
at 09:08 AM

Also, since you're doing low carb, you need to eat high-fat and likely a lot higher than you think what a high-fat diet actually is. (this was icky for me, but I've found ways to increase it haha).

Do you maintain an intake of calcium supplements as well? It's essential to aid the body with the bone density recovery.

Medium avatar

(20)

on February 24, 2014
at 09:06 AM

... Once we get over this phase, the body will start redistributing all of that fat. The body might also temporarily overshoot its optimal weight set point in the process.

This will only occur if we persist with adequate caloric intake.

You can still retain a low carb diet while maintaining a heavy workout routine without inducing an abnormal cycle again. The catch is though that the advised carb range be minimum around 50-100gm daily. This equals to about 1 sweet potato, depending on the size. This is still LC, but way more than what you're used to.

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