The tiredness, extreme fatigue and weight gain that many women experience during the menopause are all common signs that your metabolism is being affected, making it challenging to go about your normal daily routine. Food Scientist and Nutritionist Susie Debice suggests four ways to support your metabolism…
One of the most shocking things about the menopause is the way that changing hormones quickly impact on your body composition. It can very quickly become glaringly obvious that you are starting to lose muscle mass and gain stored fat which is typically redistributed into hot spots around the body such as the waist, hips, thighs and face at an alarming rate.
- Maintaining muscle tone during the menopause
Muscle tissue is highly metabolically active and very efficient at burning calories to generate energy, both of which contribute to helping you feel energised and maintaining a lean and trim figure. The drop in muscle mass during the menopause means that your body may become less efficient at burning calories and more efficient at storing calories and this massively contributes to your change in body shape and drop in metabolism.
Focusing on exercise that aims to maintain and build muscle mass helps to support menopausal metabolism, improve body conditioning, and help minimise menopausal weight gain. You might naturally think that to shift the weight you need to do more cardio but the smart move is to spend time rebuilding your muscle tone with a good weights programme. You could either sign up to a gym and use the weights machines and get advice from a personal trainer. Or if you don’t live near a gym then simply look on online as there are now a tremendous amount of online classes to choose from and beginner dumbbells are affordable and available from Amazon.
- Protein foods for building muscle tone
The body builds and repairs muscle fibres from amino acids which are the smallest units of protein found in food. By reducing the amount of starchy carbohydrates in your diet such as bread, pasta, rice and increasing the amount of protein rich foods in your diet – meat, fish, eggs, yoghurt, cottage cheese or from vegetarian sources such as nuts, seeds, pulses and plant protein powders you help provide your body with more of the amino acids required for maintaining and supporting muscle mass. Adding a scoop of protein powder to a pre or post workout smoothie is a great habit to get into. There are lots of good quality plant-based protein powders to choose from including pea, hemp, brown rice, quinoa or pumpkin seed.
- How does stress impact your metabolism?
There are two hormones which greatly encourage the body to store fat and for this extra fat to be directed to those body shape changing hot spots. These hormones are called cortisol and insulin. Cortisol is the hormone that drives your stress response and lowers your metabolism to help conserve energy, so the more stressed you are, the more this contributes to your menopausal weight gain. Simply going through the menopause is stressful enough so if you already have a high level of work, life or relationship stress going on before you hit the menopause then escalating cortisol levels could become a factor. Take some time to re-evaluate you work-life balance, lighten your social commitments and seek counselling for any unsettled relationships. Also, meditation, yoga and exercise may also help to dissipate stress.
- Why reaching for sugar is a bad idea
The hormone insulin which enables sugar to travel from your blood stream into your cells may also be contributing to your menopausal weight gain and metabolism issues. On the days when menopausal tiredness and fatigue are at their most prominent it’s so easy to reach for sugary foods or drinks in an attempt to boost your energy. Sounds good, but if you consume more sugar than you need, or if your body produces too much insulin then this sugar gets quickly converted into fat and, you guessed it - it gets deposited into those hot spot areas contributing to a change in body shape. Swapping sugar foods for slow release carbs helps to build more stable energy levels and supplementing with B vitamins helps to reduce tiredness and fatigue and support metabolism.