Let’s face it: women are complicated. Our periods, perimenopause, menopause post-menopause cause all sorts of difficult symptoms.
Not all women talk about this, but we should. And this post is dedicated to giving advice during peri-menopause, menopause and post-menopause so we can look, feel and perform at our best.
First of all, the life expectancy for women is 81. And the average age of menopause is 51. That means nearly 40% of your life will be post-menopause.
Perimenopause is when ovaries gradually stop working. It can last for years.
Menopause happens on the one-year anniversary that you stopped having your period.
After not having your period for a year, you are officially in post-menopause.
During all of these phases, your hormones can really go crazy causing symptoms like:
- Hot flashes
- Joint and muscle pain
- Loss of motivation
- Low libido
- Hair loss
- And much, much more!
While we women have to go through this process, there are things we can do to minimize symptoms and optimize our bodies.
Society may tell you that you should slow down as you get older, but training is ultra-important.
In terms of cardio, interval training is the best way to maximize performance. “It provides the metabolic stimulus to trigger the performance-boosting body composition changes that our hormones helped us achieve in our premenopausal years,” says Stacy T. Sims, PhD.
If you do nothing else, lift heavy! Muscle leads to performance, makes you more resilient and allows you to live an active and independent life. We all naturally lose muscle as we age and menopause can make this worse, but strength training helps to maintain our hard-earned muscle. It also increases your metabolism, helps to improve posture, strengthens bones, improves immunity and helps maintain a healthy body composition.
You’ve got to eat enough! If I had a dollar for every woman who came to me with her food log and it revealed that calories were way under what they should be… These women typically under-eat to try and lose weight, yet this action causes them to gain weight or stay stagnant. They get into the cycle of continuing to cut calories and increase activity and that spells disaster on hormones.
You MUST eat enough to fuel your exercise and activities or your body will conserve any calories you take in. And diets like intermittent fasting and Keto don’t typically supply you with what you need.
Protein should be no less than .8 grams per pound of body weight. For a 150-pound woman, this equates to a minimum of 120 grams per day.
Carbohydrates should be about 1 gram per pound of body weight. The quality counts here – whole foods provide fiber and nutrients, maintain your gut microbiome, and support your hormones.
Fat should be at least .5 grams per pound of body weight. You need fat for your hormones to function properly.
And hydrate! Beyond plain water, consider electrolytes.
Sleep and recovery have a profound effect on performance. But, menopause can really mess up your sleep! You can possibly improve sleep by having some good “sleep hygiene” practices including:
- No alcohol before bed.
- Having dinner at least two hours before bedtime so digestion doesn’t interfere with sleep.
- Turning off screens or wearing blue-blocking glasses to stimulate your body to wind down.
- Keeping your room cool – about 65 degrees.
- Keeping your room super dark.
- Managing stress.
Supplements will make the most difference if all of the above is dialed in. There’s no magic pill.
Some effective supplements include:
- Vitamin D for immune function, heart health, bone health and muscle function.
- Iron for red blood cells.
- Magnesium for healthy blood pressure, muscle and nerve function, regulating blood sugar and bone health.
- Calcium to help prevent osteoporosis.
- Creatine for muscle, cognition and performance.
- Collagen for joint health and skin.
Now, I’m not suggesting that you go out and stock up on any of the above. But, getting a comprehensive blood panel can reveal where you need to supplement.
Bottom line: the “change of life” can be difficult, but it doesn’t have to be a total curse. We can do many things to improve symptoms and taking control of our activity, sleep and nutrition can make a big difference.