Nutrition for Menopause
Perimenopausal and Menopausal Nutrition
“What Used to Work Doesn’t Anymore!”
Here’s the deal:
Why do you need to know about nutrition for menopause? Women in their mid to late 40’s start to experience a natural decline in estrogen and progesterone. This period of time is referred to as perimenopause, which later turns into the menopausal state. Women who have lived an active life often experience a sudden increase in weight, particularly in belly fat, mood swings, hot flashes and a host of other effects related to the decrease in estrogen. It’s a challenging time, where we become mysteries to ourselves and loved ones: What used to work often doesn’t anymore.
The good news:
Although there is no ‘magic pill’ to completely avoid menopause-related symptoms, we can change the kinds of exercise we do and modify our diets to reflect our changing physiology. With planning and discipline, you can decrease the weight gain associated with perimenopause, decrease the severity of hot flashes, sleep better and be more comfortable in your body again.
A heavier load will help:
If you are not doing strength training, consider starting. The right routine can be as simple as 10-15 minutes, 2 to 3 times a week. If you do strength training, perfect your form and then increase your weight.
It’s counterintuitive, but, as women age, we need a greater stimulus to our muscles to achieve an increase in strength. Decreased estrogen and progesterone (the primary hormones that regulate our periods, metabolism and everything else that is going haywire) make our bodies less able to build muscle. Therefore, aim to lift heavier weight with fewer repetitions, as opposed to lighter weight and more repetitions. Correct form is essential. And patience too. What’s the right load for you? A good rule of thumb is a weight that causes you to max out at 6-8 reps for between 3 and 5 sets. Rest intervals will depend on fitness level. You may alternate lower body one day and upper body another.
How do I fit strength training into an already packed day?
If your schedule permits, do the cardio exercise you love, but decrease it by 15-20 minutes and use that time to do a strength routine 3 days a week before or after your cardio session-the benefits you reap with the strength training will offset the loss in cardio time.
What about my nutrition for menopause? What should I change?
In short, more protein.
Include it in snacks (yes, eating snacks can actually help you lose weight if done the right way!), add more at breakfast and at lunch. Cheese, greek yogurt, cottage cheese, hard boiled eggs, jerky, chicken, and beef are all easy, quick and pack a punch of protein. If you are vegan, consider adding quinoa, amaranth, edamame, tofu, soy protein powder, chia or hemp seeds to a snack or meal.
Protein will help to slow muscle loss and stimulate muscle synthesis when eaten along with the correct exercise routine.
More Examples of Protein Rich Foods
- Smoothie with a whey or soy- based protein supplement. This is an option if you are not hungry but you know you have a busy day ahead and will be.
- Half of a bean and cheese burrito
- Half of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich on whole grain bread.
In addition, eating foods high in omega-3 fatty acids can help decrease inflammation caused by stress associated with perimenopause and menopause symptoms.
Have you heard of adaptogens?
Another tool in your wellness toolbox is a class of supplements called adaptogens. Adaptogens are compounds that are believed to decrease the effects of hormonal, mental or physical stressors, common in peri-menopause and menopause. For example:
- Ashwagandha can help modulate the hormonal swings of estrogen during perimenopause, possibly decreasing stress and inflammation.
- Rhodiola Rosea can help with ‘brain fog’ by improving cognition and decreasing fatigue.
- Schisandra Chinensis has been shown to have several positive effects. It can modulate large hormonal swings of estrogen in perimenopause and can help to regulate temperature during menopause by improving blood flow (hot flashes, anyone?!) Schisandra can also help with poor sleep and jet lag and help with migraines.
The doses for all of these adaptogens can vary by person and condition; consult a trusted medical professional for dosage and to avoid adverse effects.
Summary of nutrition for menopause:
While perimenopause and menopause leave you feeling like you have no control in your life, there are nutritional and fitness steps you can take to help decrease the symptoms associated with the sudden changes that you find yourself going through. Try one of the above, or all of the above. E-mail me with your favorite nutrition or fitness ‘hack’ to lessen night sweats, hot flashes, weight gain or any other symptom you may be having. Durnu