If you are experiencing amenorrhea and are no longer getting regular menstrual periods, take note. This is abnormal and unhealthy!
Amenorrhea commonly happens in women who struggle to balance food and exercise. You are likely eating too few calories, as noted by feeling hungry all the time and thinking about food too much. You can achieve energy balance by exercising a little less (add a rest day) and by eating a little more (add a healthy snack or two).
Your goal is to consume about 15 calories per pound of body weight that you do not burn off with exercise. That means, if you weigh 100 pounds, you my need to eat ~1,500 calories to maintain your weight PLUS another 500 to 800 calories to replace the fuel you burned while training. That totals 2,000-2,300 calories for the entire day, a scary amount of food for some women.
The most important change required to resume menses includes matching your energy intake with your energy output, so you eat enough to support both exercise and normal body functions. Historically, doctors gave the birth control pill to women with amenorrhea; this forced menstrual bleeding. But taking the birth control pill is a “Band-Aid approach” and does not resolve the underlying problem.
I highly recommend you get a nutrition check-up with a sports dietitian as well as a medical check-up with your doctor or gynecologist. To find a sports dietitian in your area, use the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics referral networks at www.SCANdpg.org or www.eatright.org.
With the Boston Marathon right around the corner, thousands of runners are doing their last long training runs. This is the time to practice your fueling so you know what to eat during the marathon. Here are some tips from guest blogger Sarah Gold.
When exercising for more than 60-90 minutes,you want to consume easily digested carbohydrates to keep your blood sugar and energy levels stable throughout your run. The following recommendations on what and when to eat during long runs and race day can keep you from hitting the wall.
How much to consume?
The amount of carbohydrates needed will vary from person to person (body size, speed, intensity, and training will all effect this), but aim for between 200 to 300 calories of carbohydrates per hour. This can be from a mix of sports drinks like Gatorade and food like Gu, candy, or dried fruit. Worry not about eating sugary candy. We're talking survival, not nutrition! You'll have plenty of time to consume quality calories after the run.
What to consume?
The goal is to consume food that is primarily made up of carbohydrates. When running for many hours, such as during the marathon, you will want to vary your food choices to keep you from getting tired of eating the same thing for 4+ hours. It’s easy to get through a half marathon relying only on Gu, candy, or dried fruit, but it’s difficult to keep that up for twice the time. You’re likely to get “sugared out,” meaning your taste buds or stomach may not tolerate the same food for that many hours. Varying both flavor and texture can help you get through the race without feeling like you can’t eat as much as your body needs. So, try out a few different options during your longer training runs to see what your stomach and GI tract tolerate and what gives your body the most energy.
Engineered vs. Real Food
The big advantage to engineered food such as Gu, Chomps, Sport Beans, and the like, is convenience. Most come in pre-packaged 100-calorie servings, and they are easy to carry with you. However, real food can work just as well, particularly for slower marathoners who will be pounding the pavement for more than four hours. Here are some common choices among runners:
- Raisins,dates, dried cranberries—or any dried fruit
- Swedish fish, jelly beans, gummy bears, or other chewy candy
M&Ms, mini candy bars, Whoppers
- Sugar cookies, energy bars, granola bars
- Peanut butter and jelly (or honey) wrap*
* If you choose foods that aren’t convenient to carry in your pocket, ask friends or family to stand along your race-day route at points when you know you will need fuel.
If you drink Gatorade or other sports drinks, remember that this contributes to your carbohydrate intake. Just pay attention to how much you are consuming so you can adjust your food intake. Diluted fruit juice can work well for some too.
When to consume?
Your breakfast will likely get you through the first hour to hour and a half of the race. So, most runners like to start consuming carbohydrates whether it’s from a sports drink or food beginning at 45 minutes to an hour into the race. But, pay attention to how you feel during your long training runs to figure out when is a good time for you to start fueling. Some runners choose to start slightly earlier or later. Earlier signs of hunger (or fuel needs) include thinking about food, reduced energy, mood change, or tired legs.
As noted above, plan to consumer 200 to 300 calories per hour.You can spread this out over 15-30 minute intervals, and mix it up between drinks and food.
Remember that it’s important to test this out during your long training runs to avoid any race-day surprises!
Each year, I present a workshop series on "Nutrition and Exercise: From Science to Practice” along with exercise physiologist William Evans. We invited members of AND, ACSM, NATA, NSCA, ACE, and NCHEC and offer 10 hours of CEUs. Athletes and fitness exercisers are also welcome to attend!
The dates and cities for our upcoming Friday-Saturday workshops are:
Sept 20-21, 2013 - New York City - Columbia Teacher's College October 4-5, 2013 - Boston -- Yawkey Specail Olympics Training Center in Marlborough October 11 (one day only) - Providence -- URI Downtown Campus
January 24-25, 2014 - Philadelphia -- LaSalle University February 7-8, 2014 - Pittsburgh -- Allegheny General Hospital
If you train for a marathon or triathlon, surely your body fat will melt away. Correct?
Wishful thinking. If you are an endurance athlete who complains, “For all the exercise I do, I should be pencil-thin,” take a look at your 24-hour energy expenditure. Do you put most of your energy into exercising, but then tend to be quite sedentary the rest of the day as you recover from your tough workouts?
A study with of male endurance athletes who reported a seemingly low calorie intake indicates they did less spontaneous activity than their peers in the non-exercise parts of their day. Yes, it's really easy after a long run to lounge around and eat bon-bons because you "deserve" them...
Even when you are marathon training, you need to keep taking the stairs instead of the elevators, and keep moving in non-exercise parts of your day. Again, if weight is an issue, you should eat according to your whole day's activity level, not according to how hard you trained for an hour or two that day.