If you are going through or have gone through menopause there are a few things you need to tweak or change in your training.
Your primary goal is to reduce as much stress as you can. Increased stress causes an overproduction of the stress hormone, cortisol. Cortisol can cause weight gain, specifically around the midsection. Outlined below are basic exercise and diet ideas to help reduce cortisol, increase strength and reduce body fat.
Strength train. With strength training we are talking fairly heavy weights. The weight should be heavy enough that 7-8 repetitions is extremely difficult. The movements should be big, full body movements like squats, deadlifts, rows and presses. You should perform 2-4 sets of each of these exercises. They don’t all have to be done on the same day, either. The movements can be spread throughout 2-3 “strength days” during the week. Heavier weights are also important to fortify bones, preventing osteoporosis or osteopenia. Will weight training make you look “bulky”? Not if you keep your body fat down, which is achieved through eating correctly and the next type of exercise.
Intense cardio/HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training). This type of exercise lasts about 15-20 minutes, so you are in and out of the gym, preventing unwanted cortisol build up, which generally occurs during sessions lasting 60+ minutes. This type of cardio could include circuit training, Tabatas, sprints or aerobic exercise. The goal should be to get this done 3-4 times per week. This type of exercise reduces extra body fat and increases oxygen to the brain.
Leisure activity. The primary objective of leisure activity is to reduce stress. This should be something that doesn’t seem like “working out” and should be done 5-7 days per week. Swimming, yoga, pilates, walking, biking (at a slow pace), hiking or kayaking are all good options and combining them can reduce boredom.
There are also a two other factors to focus on.
Basic diet points- Reduce sugar and processed carbs/fats-This is or should a no-brainer for most people. Your body does not process sugar as efficiently as it did prior to menopause. Eat protein and vegetables at every meal. So eggs and vegetables for breakfast. A chicken breast chopped up in a salad for lunch. A stir fry for dinner. Fruit is okay but keep it in the afternoon at the earliest. You want to save your carbs for the latter half of the day. Before bed have 1-2 cups of some sort of starch like potatoes or rice. The carbs will help with sleep.
Sleep-Sleep is one of the most important aspects of health. Basic sleeping tips include having adequate carbs before bed (1-2 cups of a starch like Jasmine rice), 200-400 mg of magnesium citrate and having a routine. A solid routine prepares the mind for bed time. Turn off electronics 2 hours before you plan on going to bed. Take a warm bath 1 hour before bed. Don’t drink too much water before bed. Keep your bedroom a few degrees colder than your house and make sure it is as dark as possible for the best sleep. Consider white noise like a fan.
Read through this and put it all together. The best program is one you can sustain and be consistent with. If you need help putting together a basic exercise program, there are great trainers at the PACC who would be happy to help!