Sooner or later, every woman is going to go through menopause. That means that your body is going to change and prepare for a period of life where your reproductive abilities come to a halt. But you undergo other changes as well, and that means your nutritional and fitness needs are different than they were ten or twenty years ago.
The North American Menopause Society states that the average age women enter menopause is 51, but it can occur in your 30s or even your 60s, depending on a number of factors. Therefore, if you want to stay strong and get in control of your health, you need to understand how to eat, sleep, drink, and exercise now that you have gone through menopause.
Here is everything you need to know.
What is Menopause?
Menopause is natural and is when your hormones shift away from menstruation and fertility, until these processes eventually end. Menopause starts once you have had a lack of menstruation for over 1 year and are over the age of 40. Since the sex hormones (estrogen and others) have dissipated, your body needs to balance itself other ways.
You may gain weight, have trouble sleeping, feel sluggish, and much more. Fortunately, having a handle on your nutrition and exercise can solve a lot of these problems.
Nutrition Considerations For Menopause
As you probably already know, what you consume is going to have a direct effect on your health. For menopausal and post-menopausal women, you want to focus less on refined carbohydrates and sugars, since the insulin response from the body is going to cause you to pack on pounds now that your metabolism is much slower. In fact, diets high in sugar and ultra-processed carbohydrates (white bread, white rice, and the like) have been linked to an earlier onset of menopausal symptoms in women, while diets rich in complex carbohydrates, like beans and legumes, has been proven as much healthier for women.
Furthermore, if you eat too many refined carbohydrates, your body might start pumping out an excess of androgens, or male hormones, to help with the lack of estrogen, and that can have worrying effects on your body, like worsening symptoms of menopause.
To avoid that, do the following:
- Eat a diet rich in whole fruits and vegetables, focusing on foods with anti-inflammatory properties and high in antioxidants.
- Remove simple sugars from your diet.
- Avoid foods with artificial colors, flavoring, preservatives, or added sugars.
- Eat plenty of fiber, since this will help you control your appetite, your cholesterol, weight, and reduce constipation. Fiber can even balance estrogen levels for some women.
- Eat plenty of cruciferous vegetables, such as cauliflower, broccoli, kale, brussels sprouts, and other leafy greens, since they support a healthy gut microbiome.
- Load up on plenty of protein. This will help maintain lean body tissue and repair muscles. Choose lean meats, nuts, beans, legumes, meat substitutes like tempeh or seitan, eggs, milk, cheese, yogurt, kefir, and so on. Sprouted grain bread is another great source of complex carbs and protein.
Think About Fat
No, eating fat is not going to make you fat—unless you are eating the wrong kind. If you want to balance your hormones, you need healthy fatty acids, such as omega-3s. These fats can facilitate optimal hormone levels and help lessen menopause symptoms and other health problems that result from menopause.
Be sure to eat plenty of avocado, nut butters, organic coconut oil, ghee, olives, walnuts, wild-caught fish like salmon and trout, and other good fats. Remove refined vegetable and canola oils with healthier alternatives, like avocado and olive oil, as well.
Now that you know what to remove from your diet and what to include, what about fitness?
Fitness Tips For Menopause
Exercise before, during, and after menopause is important, because you want to keep your body strong and resilient.
The more muscle mass you have as you age, the better your metabolism will be, which prevents menopausal weight gain. Exercise also reduces your risk of certain cancers, such as endometrial, colon, and breast cancer.
Since you will no longer be producing certain hormones, you need exercise more than ever to keep your bones strong. Post-menopausal women are at a high risk of osteoporosis and osteoarthritis. If you work out, you can preserve bone density and avoid fractures.
In other words, if you have not started working out yet, you need to start.
Here are some options for menopausal and post-menopausal women:
- Aerobic exercises such as brisk walks, hiking, swimming, dancing, cardio classes at the gym, biking, or running on the treadmill. For beginners, begin doing at least 10 minutes of cardio daily then work yourself up from there. Even logging 10,000 steps a day is going to help you.
- Strength building exercises. Try weight machines, free weights (dumbbells), resistance bands and tubes, and calisthenics (bodyweight). You want to choose a weight that gets you tired after about 10-12 repetitions. If you cannot lift weights right now, focus on doing bodyweight exercises, such as push-ups, wall-sits, and squats.
- Stretch often. You can do some stretching post-workout, after your body is warmed up or take some yoga and Pilates classes. Dance classes (such as ballet and barre) are another great way to get in both stretching and strengthening, as well as some cardio.
Remember, you want to get around 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity per week and at least 75 minutes of vigorous activity. Additionally, you want exercises that are going to help build lean muscle mass, since muscle burns more calories than fat. Resistance exercises will also strengthen your bones, helping with balance and stability later in life.
Menopause is a major change in your life, but it doesn’t have to leave you feeling like your life has been flipped upside down. You can take control and get in the best shape of your life! By following the nutrition and fitness tips in this article, you can make the right steps towards health, strength, and womanly power. You got this!
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