You’ve been taking the steps you need to in order to recover from RED-S / REDS (Relative Energy Deficiency in Sport), but you still haven’t gotten your period back. You have, however, started seeing other changes in your body. What does it all mean?
Sports nutrition and performance expert Rebecca McConville describes some of the hormonal changes you may experience, and why your body reacts as it does along your journey to recovering your reproductive health.
Read the transcript
[Tina] I’m starting to get hormonal changes. Oily skin, a bra size increase, changes in cervical fluid, up and down moods. If I’m a male, maybe I’m starting to see some of the other reproductive signs that show things are moving in a positive direction. What does all this mean?
[Becca] So the way our body works is in what we would call a “feed forward loop.” So when the brain senses it’s safe, meaning it has enough energy, it’s not a stress, all of our organs work in a manner that’s more consistent and what we would see secondary to puberty. When the brain doesn’t sense stress, it will start to down regulate, maybe send alert messages, and so certain things get shut off or they get dimmed. Like reproduction, for example. We might lose a cycle or for the males, they may not be having morning erections.
When the brain is starting to sense, you’ll see that almost pre-pubertal transition they’re going back through. And so that’s a sign that the body is starting to awaken. And while I know those things listed may not be our favorite things to experience, it’s a brain and body that goes, “Okay, I feel safe now; we can start to resume these markers of health.” And I hope that we can reframe those in a way that they’re celebrated and that also helps you start to give insight as to when or where you’re starting to recover. Because sometimes a cycle can still take a while to resume, and we always like to know that we’re on track.
[Tina] So for someone who started seeing these changes, but it’s now been months since those changes began and it’s really hard to keep patiently waiting, knowing I’m seeing these signs, but is it ever going to reach the point where I feel like myself again, or my menstrual cycle comes back. What would you say to those people, who have seen those and it was positive at first, but now it’s starting to feel like they’re stuck?
[Becca] I hear that. Especially, you know, we’re achievement-oriented, right? We want to be able to check the boxes and get it done. If you were to separate your brain and your body, think about those two having a discussion. And the body might be saying to the brain, “Hey, I’m trying to heal as fast as I can, but it may take some time.” Think about how some of that energy deficit might be long-standing. We do know that sometimes that does correspond with how long it takes for a cycle to resume or to feel 100%, and guess what? Life still happens in the midst of that too, so sometimes there might be things that end up slowing down that progress. But you’re still moving more forward, and one of my favorite quotes is, “A journey of a million miles begins with one step.” You’re still on that million miles, but you’re doing it one step at a time.
[Tina] Yes, thank you so much.
check it out
Recovering from RED-S is hard. It’s even harder if you’re working through it alone. Even if you have professional support, they’re not available 24-7, and that can lead to going down search engine rabbit holes that have the potential to derail everything.
Our online resource, RED-S: Realize. Reflect. Recover, will answer all those questions swimming around in your head about recovery. It will give you the opportunity to connect with the experts you’ve come to know here, and to surround yourself with a community of others who are going through it too. THANK YOU! to Athletic Greens and Tracksmith for supporting this YouTube series and RED-S: Realize. Reflect. Recover.
Go to athleticgreens.com/reds to get five free travel packs of AG1 and a free one year’s supply of vitamin D3+K2 with your subscription!
When you go to https://tracksmith.com/tina and use the code TINA15 at checkout, you’ll get free shipping and Tracksmith will donate 5% of your order to Rising Hearts, the Indigenous-led nonprofit founded by Jordan Marie Daniels.
more about becca:
Rebecca McConville, RD, LD, CSSD, CEDS, is a sports nutrition and performance expert who helps her clients explore and strengthen their relationship with food, weight, body image and sports performance. Her book, “Finding Your Sweet Spot,” helps athletes maximize their potential while avoiding the dangers of RED-S. You can find Becca at https://beccamcconville.com.