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Old 12-07-2007, 05:50 PM   #1
Emily Mattes
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Crossfit women, performance, and amenorrhea

Hi, I realize this is a very personal question but I would appreciate advice from anyone who is comfortable enough to respond.

If you are a Crossfit woman, especially a high-performing one, have you had to deal with amenorrhea as a sacrifice to your performance? From what I read, it can be linked to low body fat percentages (approximately under 14%, I think) and also regular hard exercise. I have been amenorrheaic in the past (though I'm nowhere near to that now), and I worry that eventually I will get there with Crossfit and need to be in order to push myself hard enough.

One the one hand, I love working hard and I want to be as fit and strong as possible. On the other hand, I don't want to deal with osteoporosis when I get older (yes, weightlifting increases bone density, but I worry that it would not be enough and don't want to take the chance of being in my mom's position when I'm 55).

So are you still able to maintain your normal menstrual/hormonal cycles with Crossfit? Have you found in order to make your next PR you have to disrupt them? Advice would be greatly appreciated.
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Old 12-07-2007, 06:09 PM   #2
Corey Duvall
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Re: Crossfit women, performance, and amenorrhea

Well I can't personally vouche for any of that, but I can say that you if you are otherwise healthy, lifting weights will prevent osteoporosis. Your bones grow according to the stresses you place upon them. If you're lifting weights when you're 55 (I think you should be) then you will not become osteoporotic. There is a crossfit out west that showed a women who WAS diagnosed osteoporotic and reversed it with strength training. I don't know for fact, but most of the elite athletes who become amenorrheic do so while on poor diets low in fat. Coach Glassman stated at the seminar I was at that they regularly have top performing females with bf below 10% with regular periods. Eat healthy, work hard, and you should be fine.

Anyone there with some anecdotal evidence to support me?
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Old 12-07-2007, 08:10 PM   #3
Steven Low
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Re: Crossfit women, performance, and amenorrhea

Biggest thing about amenorrhea seems to the osteoporosis which will definitely be staved off by heavy lifting. Other than that I mean besides when it is caused by eating disorders (or other biological problems) exercise induced amenorrhea doesn't seem like it's necessarily a bad thing.
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Old 12-07-2007, 10:20 PM   #4
Tom Rawls
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Re: Crossfit women, performance, and amenorrhea

Emily,

In the Nov 07 Crossfit Journal, there is a video in which coach discusses nutrition. About half way thru, he makes the point that he has worked with the Stanford women's swim team. In the past, when the athletes got below 13% bodyfat, menstruation was interrupted, as you mentioned. He said that using the zone and adding extra fat blocks, the women athletes got to 6-7% bodyfat and maintained normal menses.

This is all I know--not sure where you might research this further.
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Old 12-08-2007, 03:57 PM   #5
Emily Mattes
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Re: Crossfit women, performance, and amenorrhea

I don't think "weightlifting will probably counteract the osteoporosis" is a terribly healthy assumption to make. It is certainly not one I want to test! Then there's the fertility issues associated with it. Tom, that is the kind of thing I was looking for. I will check that out.
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Old 12-08-2007, 04:45 PM   #6
Sarena Kopciel
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Re: Crossfit women, performance, and amenorrhea

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Originally Posted by Emily Mattes View Post
I don't think "weightlifting will probably counteract the osteoporosis" is a terribly healthy assumption to make. It is certainly not one I want to test! Then there's the fertility issues associated with it. Tom, that is the kind of thing I was looking for. I will check that out.
I am nowhere near extremely low bf--probably about 18%now. But I do know I didnt have a period earlier this year for 2 months while training quite hard. My midwife questioned if I was overtraining. She also said it is poss perimenopausal related. Thats all I have to offer....
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Old 12-08-2007, 04:52 PM   #7
Cal Jones
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Re: Crossfit women, performance, and amenorrhea

Not really a problem I've ever had, even during my crazier diets and exercise regimes. I guess it's down to your own body. I have a typically gynoid fat desposition, ie, my weight is all on my hips and thighs. I'm fairly lean from the waist up, but between there and my knees, it's like someone else's body. On the plus side that means I'm less likely to have health problems, and I guess that includes stuff like amenorrhea as well as heart trouble, diabetes, high blood pressure etc. On the minus side, the only way that fat is coming off without me starving myself is by surgery (which I am not keen on). So guess I am stuck with the fat butt. Sigh.

I'd hazard a guess that women who have a more android (ie apple) fat deposition are also the ones more likely to lose their periods when they lose weight.
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Old 12-08-2007, 08:37 PM   #8
Steven Low
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Re: Crossfit women, performance, and amenorrhea

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Originally Posted by Emily Mattes View Post
I don't think "weightlifting will probably counteract the osteoporosis" is a terribly healthy assumption to make. It is certainly not one I want to test! Then there's the fertility issues associated with it. Tom, that is the kind of thing I was looking for. I will check that out.
It's a reasonable theory given what we know about weightlifting increasing bone mineral density (BMD). Heck, I did a paper in college about BMD increases in gymnasts and found a lot of useful info on weightlifters too.. pretty much all statistically significant gains in BMD within a few months or at the very least a year.

I don't think this topic has been extensively studied.. well from what I saw after googling a bit. I think the best 'evidence' more or less would be from elite athletes who went through this in their training and them talking about the positives/negatives of doing such if you can find any blogs or new articles on that.
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Old 12-08-2007, 08:48 PM   #9
Becca Borawski
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Re: Crossfit women, performance, and amenorrhea

It's necessarily a horrible thing to not have a period every month - there are birth control pills out there now that make it so you only have it 3-4 times a year. In fact, you're less likely to suffer from iron deficiency if you don't have it every month.
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Old 12-08-2007, 08:52 PM   #10
Aileen Reid
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Re: Crossfit women, performance, and amenorrhea

True but it depends on WHY! When you're on the pill is not a true period its only a withdrawal bleed because you take blanks for 7 days. I was on the pill for about 20 years and took it continuously for many of those due to really bad headaches in the off week. So no periods for years but you couldn't call that amenorrhea.
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