On the road to Menopause!
Did you know that our bodies start preparing for menopause around 10 years before? So when I was 42 years old and my “METABOLIC CHAOS®” started (March 2013) appearing from living life as a race, could have been also the beginning of Peri-menopause with hormone changes.
What happens to our bodies as we approach menopause?
First of all, Menopause is “official” when we, females, do not have a cycle for one full year…then you graduate into being in MENOPAUSE!
I know some females experience hot flashes, anxiety, depression, sleep disturbances, and of course increase in body fat!
Now why does our body composition change as we reach menopause?
What about if you are already an active female?
How can we prevent or minimize these common changes we hear about once we hit menopause? If I know what to do to improve the journey into Menopause with the right tools – then I can have a smooth transition into the next phase of women hood right?
Well, I have been listening to Dr. Anna Cabeca, Dr. Mindy Pelz, Cynthia Thurlow and Dr. Stacy Sims on peri-menopause and menopause female ATHLETES. What about us aging female athletes? I want to know as I am 5-0 and turning 5-1 in November so I want to do what I can to increase my lean tissue, decrease fat tissue and improve my speed.
What have I noticed the past few months in my body?
- Irregular cycle – sometimes 28 days or 35 days.
- Ovulation is not always obvious or consistent on “day 14”
- Speed and power has decreased – but hard to tell as this is always my “area of opportunity” as an aging endurance athlete who has a body that prefers to do long workouts over fast speedy workouts.
- I wake up more often during the night (for a while now) to go to the bathroom but I still get enough deep sleep according to OURA!
- Body composition is changing- feel an extra layer of fat on my arms and legs!
What am I doing to improve the process and “hack” my way on the road to Menopause?
More time in the gym lifting HEAVY weights 3-6 reps with more sets
- More time doing speed work or fast/slow intervals on my weekday swim, bike and run workouts- versus the steady state MAF zone two 60-minute workouts.
- Less is more is my mantra
- Focus on PRIORITIZING PROTEIN as per Dr. Lyon as “muscle is the organ on longevity” – and think about what happens as we age up and what changes in 70-80-90 years (look at how your parents are aging and their friends)
- Less fasted morning exercise- add calories in my morning cup of coffee pre workout as LAIRDS Superfoods with mushroom adaptogens and coconut oil
- Less extended daily fasting as my strict 16-18 hour intermittent fasting and one main meal as I can’t get my 150 grams of protein (yes my goal as I am 5’10” female) so I really need 20-40/50 grams of protein every 4 hours to reach my macro goals and timing if I want to improve the battle for protein synthesis vs. protein catabolism
- Breakfast is when I feel hungry and not push through as it could be a “stressor” to my body (Kisspeptin hormone) and I must be more sensitive to stress as per my “Adrenal Exhaustion” history
- More movement throughout the day (less sitting as much as possible with my new job)
- Listen to my body – if it is hungry then eat but choose protein first.
- Experiment with carb timing especially if your performance fasted is questionable! If you are not hitting your goal numbers/pace/power without food then why don’t you experiment with eating or drinking calories before hand – plus you could even stay in fat burning most of the day. Once you are fat adapted and metabolically flexible then you have an efficient fat metabolism AND carb metabolism.
How to work out in PERI-MENOPAUSE and MENOPAUSE?
Estrogen- stalls anabolic growth
Progesterone – turns up catabolism
Here are my notes Angela Foster’s podcast from her interview with Dr. Stacy Sims:
Dr. Stacy Sims suggest for training the peri and post-menopausal female athlete?
- Lift heavy weights 3-6 reps once build up a foundation
- You can finish your workout with a lighter load and higher reps if you want to add in focus areas for a “top off”
- Sprint interval training 20-30 seconds (test with Biosense or Lumen)
- Busy women struggle with eating before workout or doing too much fasted training
- What we know about … is based on studies on male athletes!
- Glucose burning
- Fat burning
- Fasted exercise
- Change metabolic profile for exercise
- Women’s physiology is different than men’s physiology
- We clear blood sugar quickly (primary fuel when we start exercising)
- Tap into a little muscle glycogen then we go into a lot of beta oxidation or fat oxidation
- We need to fuel as we need to maintain our blood glucose
- If we don’t maintain our blood glucose then we tap into muscle glycogen to get into beta oxidation but the body wants to save the stores because we may need it later
- Our bodies are responsive to food availability (Kisspeptin?)
- Men not a lot food = they lean up as they don’t have a genetic change to increase stores
- Women exercise without fuel -no carbs on board as fuel when we start exercising = Gene adaptation in the liver- lets store everything and burn lean mass
- To maintain our lean mass and prevent body from storing body fat = do fueled exercise!
- Cold brew -protein, almond milk, espresso
- Black coffee with unsweetened creamer and protein (BUBS collagen/MCT oil?)
- 90 calories of protein – 20g helps bring our resting metabolic rate up
- Catabolic state – undue what you did in the gym
- Fueling for heavy weight training workout vs sprints – fueling before workout?
- Cardio workout- pre fuel with some carbs as mixed in protein as maple sugar
- Heavy strength training – pre fuel with protein as collagen in black coffee and unsweetened creamer
- Short speed workout 20-30 seconds (RPE 9-10) with 90-120 seconds recovery vs. HIIT is longer (7/8 RPE)
- Strong stimulus to help mitochondria
- Strength session maybe 30 minutes then finish with sprints 20-30 seconds x 5 rounds, 1-2 minutes off (go fast with tired legs can help neuromuscular changes)
- Luteal Phase- short intervals may help with PMS symptoms; short intervals 20-30 seconds increases growth hormone and anti-inflammatory response
- Perimenopause state
- What about Zone Two Training?
- Pushes women into “Grey Zone” moderate training zone – too hard to be easy to improve adaptations mitochondrial changes and not hard enough for body composition changes
- Zone two training can increase cortisol for females
- Polarized training is ideal – stay low enough (use heart rate monitor) in Zone ONE and then go hard on the intervals 20-30 seconds
- Easy zone one helps you feel more relaxed and mellow
- Can do Zone one anytime of month
- Parasympathetic state in zone one – especially in early to mid-40’s with the hormone changes
- Baseline cortisol is higher – not enough “calming” progesterone hormone to feel more Zen!
FASTING for women…yes or no?
- Prolon focused on molecular autophagy 5-days
- Exercise stimulates autophagy
- Huge stimulant in autophagy in the brain and cardiovascular system
- Exercise data
- Aerobic exercise
- Promotes growth of brain tissue
- Resistance training
- Increases growth of nerve growth factor
- Exercise in itself has more data to support longevity and support all of what “Intermittent Fasting” buzz claims
- Better outcomes
- Hunger = stress
- Fit in training for fasted window- can be devastating to women as our body reverts to using lean mass first instead of using carbohydrates and fat first!
- Aerobic exercise
Stimulus to create autophagy with exercise instead of fasting
- MEN -benefit from fasted exercise
- WOMEN – environment and food availability inaccessibility plus nutrient density increases
- Food inaccessibility and low nutrient density – increases fertility of male species; if not food – I am going to die off soon so I need to reproduce to continue species
- Downturn in fertility – survival of species
- Menopausal women: ketogenic diet, burning fat during exercise; don’t want to stress body and increase cortisol; women already have higher baseline
- Greater systemic inflammation in early post-menopausal status first 5-6 years so if added in fasted training – then backfire- increased signaling to store body fat
- Increased fatty acid use in mitochondria (small amount of research)
- Body is trying to reset and relearn – fasting is not recommended
Intermittent fasting vs. time restricted eating
- IF = buzz on variations; with calorie restriction or eat what you want in eating window
- Research on obese and sedentary women or sick men = generalized into population
- Focus is on weight loss then look at other benefits – but really on calorie restriction
- Not based on women – downregulation of thyroid, LH, kisspeptin (appetite control) blunted
- Women don’t see insulin control but the opposite
- MEN = Gene adaptations to food restriction – men 5x increase in gene responses to preserve lean mass and preserve testosterone
- Cell autophagy not there unless longer duration
- TRE = not to eat after dinner, eating to your circadian rhythm when body sees light then stop when dark
What is the solution for fueling and training the peri and post-menopausal athlete??
Workout in the morning and do fasted exercise? What to do to optimize fat loss and keep body in less stress?
- Wake up early – quiet time, stretching
- Breakfast -school drop off
- Protein coffee (Ketogains?) – need food to get the most out of short workout and not run on cortisol if you want to hit intensity as cortisol is already elevated in the morning
- To avoid increasing extra stress with already natural elevated cortisol – eat to give body signal that food is available
- Recovery post exercise with small protein/carb nutrition to help facilitate repair and stop breakdown state- signal to hypothalamus that food is available
- If can’t eat in the morning -then look at the type of training you are doing if no fuel on board = increased cortisol, no growth hormone boost, signal for increased inflammation; not eating after exercise then you can stay in breakdown mode
- Long term for body composition and health
- Fat burning myth – must use carbs before you get into fat burning so we need carbs on board or else more cortisol = sympathetic drive
- Morning cortisol – burning carbs; less stress is burning fuel
- Post workout nutrition – small snack focus on protein/carbs (more anabolic resistance as we age) 90 minutes so get nutrition in post workout (different for men) – women need earlier and down regulation of hormones if skip
- Four days of no fueling after exercise = thyroid dysfunction; changes in liver to turn on storing fat instead of using
- Dr. Lyon 30-40 grams with 3-4 g leucine late peri-menopausal and menopause
Biometrics for the Female Athlete:
- Parasympathetic vs. Sympathetic
- Vagal Tone – test your heart rate variability
- Progesterone stimulates more sympathetic drive
- Increase in resting heart rate, sleep, respiratory rate- can’t get into as much slow wave sleep
- Wearables as OURA are not comparing luteal phase but they look at Follicular phase as well as WHOOP
- Follicular is best recovery
- Luteal phase – harder to recover; track HRV and recovery to luteal phase previous month as well as follicular to follicular phase previously
- Post menopause – HRV lowers as now we don’t have hormones interfering with autonomic nervous system; different system – new trends and not look at day to day
Dr. Stacy Sims drink
- Medicinal mushrooms- lions mane (brain health)
- Almond milk
- Maple sugar
- Cordyceps – performance and Reishi- can alter testosterone
What about you?
Are you struggling to get the desired results even when doing all the “Right” things you hear about on podcasts, blogs, videos and social media?
We are all unique so there is not a one size fits all approach.
For example, I just had my hair cut and my hairdresser (around 45 years old) recently lost a lot of weight. I asked her how did she lose wights?
- She runs -training for marathon with long distance and some speed work
- She lifts weights at home some mornings before work with higher reps
- She eats more mini meals throughout the day with vegetables, lean meats and whole grains as wheat English muffin.
What worked for her is completely opposite than what works for me! I told her that if I followed that meal plan that I would gain 10-20 pounds and not lose fat weight as she did. This is a perfect example of our uniqueness – our ancestry background (she is Irish), genetics (my genetics show carb sensitivity), digestion, liver congestion, hormone balance, microbiome diversity, stressor (chronic internal and external), food sensitivities and more. Finding the “right” meal plan for you to improve fat loss, performance and genetics is going to be different than my plan or your friend’s plan. Plus…women are not the same as men obviously, so men can fast
One of my favorite quotes from my yoga class with Travis Eliot online is “COMPARISON IS THE THEIF OF JOY”…so don’t try to copy what someone else does and except the same results!
You are a unique human being with an amazing innate intelligence – so find out what works for you or get a personalized coaching program which includes functional lab testing or at least tracking glucose and ketones plus fasted insulin levels in your comprehensive blood chemistry package.
As Dr. Stacy Sims recommends: LIFT HEAVY SH#T … Heavy lifting for pure strength!
- stimulates neuromuscular system
- activates the maximum amount of muscle fibers
- keeps fast twitch muscle fibers activated – our need for speed and power as we age increases
Training Tips: Bracing technique- engaging core and connection body
- Connect feet to earth – Dr. Starrett’s book “Becoming a Supple Leopard”
- Activate your booty- glutes
- Inhale, lock-in core and engage/brace- set pelvis, deep ab muscle stabilizers and breath into diaphragm
- Exhale and balance your rib cage for intra-abdominal pressure around the spine
- Set head and shoulders into neutral position
- Neutral alignment = arms fall to side, thumbs point forward, shoulder externally rotated, ears over shoulders, rib cage over pelvis, hips over knees and ankles = athletic stance braced and activated.
start slow to work on form and alignment. Slow and smooth. Smooth it out then change speed when a power move.
Alternate weeks of
3 bodyweight moves
2 medicine ball moves
2 kettlebell moves
2 body weight moves
2 medicine ball moves
2 kettlebell moves
3 medicine ball moves
2 body weight moves
2 kettlebell moves
3 kettlebell moves
2 medicine ball moves
2 body-weight moves
- Bodyweight squat
- Pistol Squat (assisted)
- Cross-back lunge (curtsy)
- Push-up plank to squat (optimal jump) or Burpee with good form and alignment
- Squat jumps or split lunge jumps -start slow; try when ready adding box jump low level and progress
- High knees power skip or run in place or use Rebounder (1 minute)
- Medicine Ball seated twist
- Wall Ball – squat and toss ball to wall or in air
- Ball Slam- squat and throw ball to ground
- Squat thrusters- with ball or weights
- Kettlebell deadlifts (KB)- progress to single leg deadlift
- KB wide plie sumo squat with high pull/row
- KB wide squat pull and push press
- “Ninja” Get Ups- lie faceup on floor and work on standing up with one arm in air- transition to holding light weight in hand
- KB swing- when ready and hinge movement mastered
- KB Reverse Lunge pass under – step back to lunge, rotate KB from outside leg, underneath thigh to inside, step together and repeat
Warm down: Yoga stretch and/or foam roller
The WHOLESTIC Method
Fat Loss. Performance. Longevity.
Coach, Speaker & Podcaster
FDN Practitioner & Functional Nutritional Therapy Practitioner
Ben Greenfield Coaching
NASM CPT, CHEK HCL, USAT
The Low Carb Athlete Podcast
Author of “Life is NOT a Race” & “The WHOLESTIC Method”