Are you 40+ and finding that you have more belly fat than you would like?
Are you exercising regularly but still not managing to shift it?
You have probably heard the quote “you will never out exercise a bad diet”. In this situation, you will never out exercise a hormone imbalance!RELATED: RECOMMENDED PLANS FOR YOU
As a Personal Trainer and qualified Menofitness Trainer, for me it is essential to understand all aspects of a client’s life to be able to put an effective training plan in place.
Diet, lifestyle, stress level and frequency all play a massive part in how your body reacts and hormone levels differ. The use of a Hormone Centric Health Evaluation
Form during a client’s induction helps pinpoint requirements and areas to focus on. Get this wrong and you will make little impact in achieving your goals. Having the right information, following the right nutrition plan, and exercising regularly will see you adapt and work with your body and not against it.
I will barely scratch the surface throughout this article but hope it helps.
Menopause facts you may not know! (But should)
The 4 Stages of Menopause
Pre-Menopause – refers to the years between 30 and 50 when your hormones begin to fluctuate and cause such symptoms and PMS, weight gain, endometriosis, fibroids and infertility.
Peri-Menopause – refers to the few years before menopause when many women’s hormones are really fluctuating, causing even greater weight gain, irregular periods, hot flushes, night sweats, insomnia, mood swings, fatigue and other symptoms.
Both Pre and Peri are used to describe the transformation between a woman’s reproductive years and when menstruation ceases completely. Typically this is between 30 and 51.
Menopause – defined as the time where there have been no periods for 12 consecutive months and no other biological or physiological cause can be identified.
Post-Menopause – refers to the years beyond menopause.
The average age for menopause is 51 with 95% of women being affected between the ages of 44 to 55. Early menopause occurs before 45 with premature menopause occurring before the age of 40.
Effects on the body
According to the women’s health lifestyle project 100% of women whether thin or not gain weight during this period of their lives if they do not change their lifestyles.
Unfortunately only 1 in 5 women will transition through menopause without being affected by the symptoms with another 1 in 5 suffering severe symptoms and the remaining 3 suffering mild symptoms.
These will vary from hot flushes, sweats, insomnia, moodiness, dryness of tissue and increased risk of disease.
There are many causes of hormone imbalance; here we are just going to touch on one that affects all at some point.
A woman’s emotional state plays a huge role in the balance of her hormones. The adrenals are two small glands the size and shape of a flattened prune sit on top of the kidneys. Each gland is composed of an outer and inner part, the outer cortex and the inner medulla.
The adrenal medulla regulates the sympathetic nervous system; it speeds up the heart rate, narrows blood vessels and raises blood pressure and blood sugar by secreting two hormones called epinephrine (adrenaline) and norepinephrine (noradrenaline).
Adrenaline is the hormone secreted when you are under stress. To help you respond to the stress and the release of these hormones, your body simultaneously and quickly speeds up the heart and sends blood flowing into the heart, lungs, muscles and brain and away from the digestive system.
Sugar is then dumped into the blood in large quantities to provide quick energy.
When we manage the stresses in our life the adrenal glands should have enough resources to produce hormones for each pathway. If stress remains a constant in your life it has a priority and will steal all it needs to make cortisol and adrenaline.
Nutrition specific for women 40+
On average women gain 6kgs per decade as they age.
Some women are coming from a lifetime of hardly thinking about the food they eat except when they have tried to lose weight, and this is especially true for peri-menopausal women who are starting to gain weight for the first time in their lives and can’t seem to do anything about it.
For women wanting to balance their hormones, they must remember there is no diet designed for everyone and it means trying new things. It means getting rid of the processed foods they depend on for comfort and replacing them with real, nourishing substantial whole foods.
It also means paying close attention to how their body responds to different foods and eliminating those that have the adverse effects on their health.
In some cases adding phytoestrogens into the diet can help as they have actions like human estrogen. These can be found in many herbs but so far we know that legumes particularly soybeans, whole grain cereals and seeds are high in phytoestrogen.
Past the age of 40 adults lose 3%-5% of their lean muscle mass per decade and the decline increases to 1%-2% every year past the age of 50.
Muscle keeps us strong and helps us maintain our weight, balance and bone strength, without it mobility can be lost.
Helps in the production of estrogen – each time you exercise the adrenal glands are stimulated to convert the male hormone androstenedione into estrogen. A minimum of four 30-minute exercise sessions each week will help to keep your body producing a little estrogen.
Helps regulate weight – Metabolism is also associated to a persons lean body mass, which also declines with age. Resting metabolic rate (RMR) decreases about 2% – 5% every decade past age 30, which amounts to around 50-100 fewer calories burned per day.
Decreases risk of Osteoporosis – After age 40 the rate of bone loss exceeds the rate of new bone formation leading to a reduction of bone density so extra care must be taken to minimise the loss and the risk of osteoporosis.
Promotes an increase in the body’s natural antioxidant defences.
Can relieve many symptoms of menopause such as hot flushes and night sweats, mood swings, cravings and insomnia.
Reduces depression by stimulating endorphin production. Endorphins are 200 times more potent than morphine and increase approximately 500% during vigorous activity. It also increases oxygen and glucose to the brain; exercise expedites the removal of debris from brain cells.
So what exercise should you be doing?
This is obviously dependant on your current state of health and following an in depth discussion to assess your current level of ability and goals, but broadly speaking 4 sessions a week of 30 minutes cardio and strength-training aimed at your current level of ability will help immensely.
Through experience with some clients in this age group as soon as you mention strength-training images of over developed body builders spring to mind and this is usually followed by discussion and reassurance that this is not the case and done correctly will help strengthen and reduce the risk of osteoporosis.
My preference for clients at the right level is to introduce them to HIIT (high intensity interval training) in various forms for the cardio work, bodyweight exercises where possible and to make use of functional equipment such as kettlebells, suspension equipment and free weights to start building strength into a routine.
Whilst this article is aimed at those going through the 4 stages of menopause the basic principles of removing processed foods, sugars and toxins from the diet and exercising more are relevant to all of us.
There are also beliefs that if you are currently living with some of these symptoms that you just have to deal with it as it is out of your control. In many cases changes can be made to alleviate them be it partially if not fully.
As I mentioned earlier this is such an in-depth topic that it is not possible to cover everything, hopefully though there is enough for you to apply some changes where needed or seek help and advice from a qualified professional.