February 1, 2021

Is It Normal to Lose Your Period Because of Exercise?

Missed periods can be a sign that you're not eating enough

woman exercising strenuously

You’ve lost some weight, and you’re dedicated to shedding those last 10 pounds. So you step up your workout, hitting the elliptical machine four to five days a week for 45 minute increments. You’re watching calories, too. And then suddenly, you skip your period. Is this normal?


Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy

During athletic training, many people think amenorrhea, or the halting of your menstrual cycle, is normal. But it’s not. And according to registered dietitian Kate Patton, MEd, RD, CSSD, LD, it can indicate a serious problem with your diet.

It is one part of the Female Athlete Triad, a potentially serious syndrome of three interrelated conditions of health risk factors: amenorrhea, bone loss/osteoporosis and low energy availability with or without disordered eating. Female athletes with one risk factor are more likely to develop — or to already have — the other two.

The triad is relatively common among young women who participate in sports, and it can have serious health consequences. The good news is that the triad is preventable and often reversible if you recognize the symptoms early and seek medical guidance.


Losing your period may seem like a pleasant side effect of working out heavily. But the health effects associated with amenorrhea can be serious.

“Amenorrhea can be a sign of exercise-induced anorexia related to energy deprivation from not eating enough, from exercising too much, or from a combination of the two,” says Patton.


During amenorrhea, your metabolism slows way down — so slow, you stop ovulating to conserve energy. You then achieve the opposite of what you’re likely hoping for, because in this state, you can’t increase your lean muscle mass because building muscle requires energy. In fact, your muscles may even break down in order to fuel more essential organs. Your body becomes more prone to injury in this weakened state.

Bone loss/osteoporosis

Estrogen helps keep your bones strong. But when its levels decrease naturally after menopause, the risk of fracture rises. However, bone loss or osteoporosis can result at any age from low estrogen levels triggered by amenorrhea.

Bone loss can occur if your calorie intake is inadequate for the levels you’re working out at. Using the excessive energy required for heavy athletic training depletes the energy your body needs for estrogen production.

Disordered eating

Disordered eating might begin as you restrict calories in order to lose weight. Some women may restrict eating unintentionally as they balance an excessive training schedule with the demands of work, school and/or family life. Over time, this food restriction may develop into an obsession with or a disordered approach to eating.

“Female athletes who are most susceptible to restricting calorie intake are those who are involved in excessive exercise, play sports that require weight checks or are involved in sports that benefit from a leaner body composition,” says Patton. She says teens with controlling parents or coaches also are at risk for disordered eating.


Achieving a healthy balance

To train your hardest, you need to eat the right foods to fuel your body. Patton says, “This will build muscle and prevent injury.”

To prevent the serious health consequences associated with the Female Athlete Triad:

  • Eat three full meals each day.
  • Balance meals with carbohydrates, protein and fat.
  • Never omit certain food groups, such as fats. Omitting food groups is a sign of disordered eating.
  • Eat within 30 to 60 minutes of finishing all workouts.
  • Eat post-workout meals high in carbohydrates and moderate in protein. Some good examples include sandwich & fruit, bagel with peanut butter and chocolate milk, energy bar and yogurt with granola, or spaghetti with meatballs, salad and fruit.
  • Have a minimum of three carbohydrate-rich snacks throughout the day.
  • When workouts last more than 90 minutes, eat 15 grams of carbohydrates or drink a sports beverage every 15 to 30 minutes.
  • Consume adequate amounts of calcium daily: 1,000 to 1,300 mg per day. Best sources include milk, yogurt, non dairy milk (such as soy, almond), cheese, calcium-fortified orange juice, and dark green leafy lettuce.

Patton says female athletes who think they may be at risk for female athlete triad should see a sports medicine doctor. “If you’re having difficulty building a healthy diet or increasing your calories, you should see a registered dietitian for professional assistance,” she says.

“Many women are in denial about developing exercised-induced anorexia from disordered eating. But missing a period is a sign that they are not eating enough and need further evaluation.”

Related Articles

female doing a push up while looking at laptop
February 20, 2024
Here’s How To Do a Good, Basic Push-up

The exercise — which you’ve probably been doing since grade school — can be intimidating, but proper form can help

two people doing jumping jacks on pavement outside
February 19, 2024
How Exercise Can Help Boost Your Memory

Cardio is great for improving cognition, but strength and balance training are just as important

Adult male using rowing machine at gym
February 16, 2024
Why Exercise Matters for Your Heart Health

Exercise lowers risk for heart conditions, improves mental health and reduces visceral fat that can compromise your organs

Parent and two children preforming downward dog in yoga
February 13, 2024
Yoga for Kids: Benefits and 17 Poses and Exercises To Get Started

Kids’ yoga can help kiddos become more aware of their physical, mental and emotional selves

personal trainer working with person on treadmill at gym
February 9, 2024
How To Find a Personal Trainer — What To Look For

Ask questions, get referrals and consider if someone is a good fit for you and your fitness goals

Male with eyes closed sitting hunched over, pinching area between their eyes
January 29, 2024
Headache and Fatigue: 11 Possible Causes That Can Trigger Both

Many factors, like dehydration, a cold or even your medication, can result in these common symptoms

person doing stair lunges at home
January 25, 2024
Workout Motivation: Do’s and Don’ts To Help You Actually Stick to Your New Exercise Routine

Expect a few bumps in the road, work out for the right reasons and give yourself some credit

Older male in helmet biking on forest trails
January 17, 2024
What Does ‘Moderate-Intensity Exercise’ Mean Anyway?

From gardening to walking for 30 or more minutes, you want to get your heart rate up 50% to 60%

Trending Topics

glass of cherry juice with cherries on table
Sleepy Girl Mocktail: What’s in It and Does It Really Make You Sleep Better?

This social media sleep hack with tart cherry juice and magnesium could be worth a try

Exercise and diet over three months is hard to accomplish.
Everything You Need To Know About the 75 Hard Challenge

Following five critical rules daily for 75 days may not be sustainable

Person in foreground standing in front of many presents with person in background holding gift bags.
What Is Love Bombing?

This form of psychological and emotional abuse is often disguised as excessive flattery