Many women going through perimenopause and who are fully into menopause notice an increase in their weight and fat stores even though they haven’t changed their daily habits. Ovulation creates a metabolism boost of around 900 extra calories burned over just a few days. Menopausal women lose that boost. Combine that with a naturally occurring, age-related decrease in lean body tissue, an estrogen-dominated hormonal system (because of the drop in progesterone), a slowing thyroid (due to aging), and increased cortisol (a result of real or even perceived stress), and you have a clear recipe for fat gain.
Commonly, women will adopt a low-calorie diet and perform hours of cardio to try to burn off the additional fat. This ultimately leads to greater muscle loss, bone density loss, higher cortisol levels, a boring diet and increased episodes of feeling “hangry” (anger caused by being hungry), often without even losing a pound of fat.
Instead, focus on muscle-building activities:
- A diet focused on whole foods with plenty of protein each day (about 40% of your plate) from sources like meats, fish, dairy, legumes, & lentils. Fill the other two-thirds of your plate with fibrous vegetables or a combination of veggies and food-based starchy carbohydrates, like potatoes, fruit, or rice. This should happen at each of 4 to 5 meals daily.
- Resistance training with weights that are heavy enough that you can move them only for 8-12 repetitions. If you can move the weight, with good form, for more than 12 reps, that weight is too light. Perform 4 sets of 8-12 challenging repetitions for each body part several times each week to improve or maintain muscle mass, bone density, and to keep tendons strong.
- Incorporate short durations of high intensity cardio along with your weight training for the greatest bang for your gym buck. In this manner, you can speed up your metabolism, reduce your cortisol levels, and save time!
- Incorporate compound movements regularly into your workouts. Strength building movements like squats and deadlifts are excellent for body improvements and with the right weight and rep scheme, can even turn into cardio intervals!
- Minimize sitting during the day and especially at the gym. Perform movements while standing, when possible. This improves the calorie burn and makes your core muscles work harder. Put down your phone – save the texts, phone calls, and selfies for post-workout. Keep moving!
- Eat a post-workout recovery meal within 90 minutes of your workout. I like to have a piece of fruit and a protein shake for something quick, easy, and balanced. If your post-workout meal falls close to the time of your next meal, then just make sure that next meal is well balanced and meets the requirements in the first bullet point above.
- Consider including meditation, low intensity yoga classes, or a daily nature walk to further reduce stress and cortisol levels. This is in addition to your appropriate diet and resistance training.
Starting a new plan can seem overwhelming. Email us for assistance designing a specific plan for you.