I’ve churned through over 150,000 emails, social media comments and messages, and blog comments in the last 6 years.
And that means I’ve fielded a ton of questions.
As you can imagine, some questions pop up more often than others, and I thought it might be helpful to take a little time every month to choose a few and record and share my answers.
So, in this round, I answer the following question:
- How does menopause affect fitness? How does it affect diet and training? What can you do to mitigate the effects of menopause?
If you have a question you’d like me to answer, leave a comment below or if you want a faster response, send an email to [email protected].
Lastly, if you want to support the show, please drop a quick review of it over on iTunes. It really helps!
4:02 – How does menopause affect fitness?
8:04 – What role do hormones play?
11:33 – What can women do to manage menopause?
13:49 – Dietary tips for menopausal women.
14:57 – Eat phytoestrogen-containing foods.
16:00 – Exercise and menopause.
19:40 – The importance of patience.
Mentioned on the Show:
What did you think of this episode? Have anything else to share? Let me know in the comments below!
Hello, my lovely listener and welcome to a new episode of Muscle For Life. I’m Mike Matthews. Thank you for joining me today. And please take a moment to subscribe to the show in whatever app you’re listening to if you like what I’m doing here. Go ahead and subscribe now for two reasons. One, It’ll make sure you don’t miss any new episodes cuz they will be automatically queued up for you.
And two, it’ll help me because it will boost the ranking of the show on the various charts and that helps more people find me in my work. Okay, so what are we going to get up to today? I feel a lot of good questions via social media and via email. And in this episode I will be answering a question that I was.
Recently that I’ve been asked many times over the years, but have not formally, publicly addressed, at least that I could find or remember, and that is how does menopause affect fitness? How does it affect. Dieting, how does it affect exercise and what can you do about it to mitigate the disadvantages?
So that’s the question or the questions that I will be answering in today’s episode. And if you want to ask me questions. Reach out to me on Instagram at most for life fitness or just shoot me an email. I prefer that one. I prefer email because I can stay on top of my email inbox better than I can my DM inbox.
And also keep in mind, I do get a lot of communication every day, so you may have to wait a little bit for an answer, but you will hear back. And if your question is one that many other people have asked or are asking about, or if it just strikes my fancy, I may choose to answer it here on the podcast as.
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After month. What’s more, we’ve found that people are often missing just one or two crucial pieces of the puzzle, and I’d bet a shiny shackle, it’s the same with you. You’re probably doing a lot of things right, but dollars to donuts, there’s something you’re not doing correctly or at all that’s giving you the most grief.
Maybe it’s your calories or your macros. Maybe it’s your. Selection. Maybe it’s your food choices. Maybe you’re not progressively overloading your muscles, or maybe it’s something else, and whatever it is, here’s what’s important. Once you identify those one or two things you’re missing. Once you figure it out, that’s when everything finally clicks.
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Okey doki. So how does menopause affect fitness? How does it affect diet? How does it affect training, and what can you do to mitigate these negative effects? First, what is. Menopause. Let’s answer that question for the guys listening, and maybe the younger women middle aged women and beyond know firsthand what it is, but menopause.
It is the natural end of a woman’s menstrual cycle, and in most women, it occurs around the age of 50 when the ovaries produce less reproductive hormones such as estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, follicle stimulating hormone. Lutin hormone, and these hormonal changes do impact the body in a number of unpleasant ways, including decreased metabolism, increased fat storage, primarily from decreased insulin sensitivity.
Loss of muscle mass, disrupted sleep, and a decrease in bone density. Now that sounds pretty grim, but you should know that those effects are most prominent in women who do not do anything to counterbalance them, to counteract them. Women who are not strength training, for example, who are not eating optimally or even.
Optimally who are not making sleep hygiene a priority and so forth. And fortunately, research shows that if you do the things I’m going to share with you in this podcast, you can negate many of those negative effects. That said, even when you do everything right, fitness at and after menopause is not the same as when you were 25, and that is because of the permanent hormonal changes that occur.
Now. It’s not true as many. Quacks and frauds would have you believe that without the right hormone profile, you simply can’t get into good shape. You simply can’t build any muscle or strength to speak of or lose any fat to speak of, especially the stubborn fat, quote unquote, that you wanna lose the most.
The hip fat, the thigh fat. The stomach fat. What is true though, is your body is not going to respond to. The big levers and the big buttons that you can push and pull to get fitter the way that it used to. And to use a different analogy, to move away from a mechanical analogy to, let’s say, let’s use a cooking analogy, that’s something that most people listening can probably.
Relate to, and this applies to men and women. If we’re talking about hormones, you can think of the process of improving your fitness and maintaining your fitness as following a recipe to make a meal. So think of it that way, right? And when you were younger, every time you followed that recipe, you made an outstanding meal.
Exceptional. But as you’ve gotten. You follow the recipe and it just doesn’t taste quite the same. It’s still the same dish, but it’s almost like a shadow of what it used to be. The flavors just aren’t quite as flavorful and it just doesn’t satisfy the way that it. Used to now to bring that back to fitness, what many people have found is when they were younger, they had a recipe, they had a process, they had a routine, and they followed it and it produced great results.
It gave them the type of body they wanted, and it allowed them to maintain that body without having to try that hard. But then as they have gotten older, that recipe has produced Lander and Lander. Results and now they find that what got them to a great physique when they were younger doesn’t even get them close now that they are middle aged or beyond.
So how do hormones fit into this analogy? You can think of them as some of the more important ingredients that go. The dish. For example, if you are using herbs that don’t smell like anything, they don’t taste like anything usually either. Whereas if you used fresh herbs that you picked out of a garden, they’re going to be very flavorful.
And the same thing goes for any ingredients really store bought, even if it’s organic and relatively fresh, store bought versus picked out of your garden. Anybody who has. Cooked a fair amount, knows that can make a huge difference. You can take a very basic recipe and make it with mediocre ingredients and then make it with outstanding ingredients, and you are eating two completely different dishes, and so a.
Great hormone profile, which most people have in their mid to late twenties, means that your body responds greatly to exercise. It recovers quickly from your workouts. It is less. Punishing when you make mistakes when you accidentally overeat or undersleep, or maybe push a little bit too hard in your training.
When your body is supercharged with the right hormones like it is when you were younger, it is more resilient. It can bounce back a lot better and a lot faster from mistakes and non optimum circumstances. Now, that doesn’t mean that as you get older and your hormones start to skid that one, you can’t do anything about it to at least slow the decline as much as possible and maintain as ideal of a hormone profile as you can.
And two, that you can’t get into great shape, that you can’t cook a great meal. It just means that the recipe has to change. It has to reflect the fact that some of the ingredients just aren’t what they once were, and it now takes a bit more work, a bit more attention to detail, maybe even a couple of new ingredients to create something that is mouth wateringly.
And that, by the way, is the focus of the next book of mine that’s coming out in January of next year. It’s called Muscle for Life. It is specifically for people, 40 plus men and women who are new to proper strength training, new to proper dieting, and it’s also for younger people who have a lot of weight to lose.
So for example, if a. Is 300 pounds regardless of his age, and he has never lifted weights before. Bigger, leaner, stronger is going to teach him a lot, but that’s probably not the best program for him to start with. It would make more sense for him to start with what’s in Muscle for life and the same thing would apply to younger women who have a lot of weight to lose and who have not done any sort of strength training or resistance training.
Muscle for Life is going to be the gradual on ramp that will get. To where they can comfortably transition to bigger, leaner, stronger in the case of men and thinner, leaner, stronger in the case of women. And I will be talking a lot more about this book in the next couple of months and sharing a lot of the material from it.
But for now, let’s get back on topic and let’s talk about what women can do to manage menopause. Effectively. So let’s talk about diet first. One thing is eating more dairy products makes a lot of sense because this is a great way to increase bone density to counteract that side effect of menopause. For example, one study conducted by scientists at Geneva University found that.
Postmenopausal women who ate animal proteins and dairy products had significantly higher bone density than those who did not. And the next tip is to eat plenty of protein. Of course, this is something that I’ve been talking about for a long time, but it. Is worth repeating specifically with women because in my experience, women tend to undereat protein more than men.
A lot of men have been eating meat, for example, for a long time, and that provides a lot of protein, whereas a lot of women I’ve spoken to over the years don’t eat nearly as much meat as men. Or any at all and are not eating anywhere close to enough protein. And this becomes more troublesome as you get older, as women get older, because getting enough protein is key for maintaining the muscle you have and also for maintaining.
Lower levels of body fat. One study conducted by scientists at the University of Connecticut Health Center found that post-menopausal women who ate 1.1 grams of protein per pound of body weight per day lost more body fat than post-menopausal women who ate 0.8 grams of protein per pound of body weight per day.
And there are several reasons for that. One has to do with. Higher protein diets, they tend to be more filling than lower protein diets, so it helps you stick to your diet plan better. And then there are also the nutrient partitioning effects of protein, meaning that your body has things to do with protein other than just store it as body fat.
Whereas dietary fat, for example, is very efficiently stored as body fat because that is one of the primary purposes we have. Eat dietary fat. One of the major reasons is to replenish fat stores that we are whittling away at every day. The next dietary tip is to limit caffeine and alcohol because several studies show that caffeine and alcohol can increase the frequency of vasomotor symptoms, which include hot flashes, night sweats, and heart palpitations, and coffee and alcohol can also disrupt sleep.
And since. Menopausal women have trouble sleeping as it is by limiting caffeine and alcohol that can help them sleep better. And by having too much caffeine and alcohol, it can really exacerbate the sleep issues. Next on the list is to limit added sugars and highly processed carbs because research shows that high blood sugar levels.
Higher levels of insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome can increase the amount of hot flashes that menopausal women experience. And so by controlling your blood sugar levels, by keeping them relatively lower, by restricting foods that spike blood sugar, like added sugar and highly processed carbs, this can help minimize the frequency and the severity of the hot flashes that you experie.
Next is to eat phytoestrogen containing foods. Now phytoestrogens are compounds in foods that act like weak estrogens in the body, and they’re found in various foods like soybeans, chick peas, peanuts, flax seeds, barley grapes, strawberries, cranberries, blueberries. Zucchini green and black tea. Pretty extensive list there.
And while there isn’t strong evidence for the benefits of including a variety of these foods in your diet, there is some research on it and it is looking promising. One study, for example, found that phytoestrogens reduced to be frequency of hot flashes in postmenopausal women without any serious side effects.
And a lot of the foods that I mentioned are also just nutritious foods that are great to eat regardless of their phytoestrogen content. So it’s a win to eat more of those foods in general, and it’s a double win if the phytoestrogens they contain make menopause more manageable. Okay, now let’s talk about exercise and menopause.
And this is more or less what you would expect me to recommend three to five hours at least, of vigorous physical activity, of vigorous exercise per week. Spend most of that time, let’s say 80% of that time on strength training, on training your muscles, and then spend the minority of that time on cardiovascular training.
It is, I think, smart. To do a bit of both. If you are only going to do one because you only have time for one or you only have the inclination for one, make it strength training. But if you want to maximize the health and the fitness benefits of exercise, you want to do both strength training and cardio, just a lot more strength.
then cardio. Now, what can you expect from that recommendation if you are a woman going through menopause or a postmenopausal woman? Studies show that approach to exercise, it will reduce anxiety and that can reduce the chances of hot flashes. It’s going to add muscle. To your frame, that’s gonna keep your metabolic rate high because most metabolic slowdown that people experience as they get older is simply due to muscle loss.
So by at least preserving the muscle you have, But ideally, if you’ve never done a lot of strength training before, if you’re a woman, you would gain muscle. You would be more muscular than you have ever been before because if you do that, you can have a far above average metabolism. You can have a faster metabolism at 55 or 65 than your daughter who doesn’t strength train and who doesn’t have nearly as much muscle.
Now, if you’re afraid that is going to make you look bulky, just understand that if you know how to add muscle to the right places on your. And you know how to bring your body fat percentage down to the area where you like the look. And for most women, it’s around 20%. If they can get their body fat down to about 20%, no matter how much muscle they’ve gained through strength training, they love the look because they look athletic.
They have curves, they still look feminine, but they have muscle definition. They look toned. They just look. And healthy to get jacked, quote unquote as a woman is almost impossible because your bodies are just not made for it in the same way that men’s bodies are. What does make women bulky though, is a lot of muscle and a lot of body fat.
So just to keep that in mind, when I am recommending strength training and gaining muscle, the key is to gain the muscle and to bring your body fat down to the level that you. Now this point of gaining and maintaining muscle is particularly important for women because research shows that as they go through menopause, the muscle loss that is associated with aging, that starts around 30.
For most people, it starts to accelerate. So by strength training, by training their muscles, they can make sure that does not happen. They don’t have to lose any muscle to speak of. Strength training is also great for your bones because it makes them harder, it increases bone density, and that of course prevents osteoporosis, which accelerates in women during and after menopause.
And so that’s it. When you combine the tips I just shared with the fundamentals, I teach in my book, Thinner, Leaner, Stronger for Women. You have the formula for fitness for women at 50 and beyond, and I suppose two other things I should mention. Patience and expectations. Patience, because it can be a bit slower.
The process of losing fat and gaining muscle can be a bit slower at 55 than 25. Not necessarily though. Studies show that some people respond equally well to strength training at 55 as 25 year. For example, and lose fat just as efficiently. And with some people it’s not that way. With some people, they recover slower from their training now than they once did, so they can’t do as much of it.
And of course that means less muscle and strength gain and sometimes they also can’t do as much. Exercise as they could, just in general strength training and cardio. And when cutting, for example, that means that they have to use a smaller calorie deficit than they once did because they don’t wanna starve themselves.
And that of course means slower fat loss. And then in the case of menopausal and post-menopausal women, there may be some hormonal effects also that come into play. That get in the way of fat loss now, they can never prevent it. They can never stop it. I don’t want you to think that your hormones are your destiny.
That is not true. Your hormones are not your body composition, but people who know what they’re doing, fitness people who know what they’re doing, many of them have found that. It is just a bit harder to achieve and to maintain a certain body composition at 45 or 55 or 65 than it was at 25. So just stay patient.
Don’t compare your rate of progress now at 55 to what you remember your rate of progress being when you were 25, and as far as expectations go, I guess I already addressed this. It’s just the point that while research has made it, Abundantly clear that middle aged people and beyond can gain a lot of muscle.
They can gain a lot of strength. They can lose fat. They can be in great shape, like performance-wise, have great strength, have great cardiovascular fitness. It may require more work to get there. And to stay there than it once did work in the kitchen and in the gym. Meaning that you may have to pay more attention to your calories and your macros now than you once did.
You may have to be more conscientious in your workout programming, more systematic, more science based, more optimal for where you are at now versus where you were at 20 or 30 years ago. For some people that means working harder. It means harder strength training, more intense strength training, maybe cardio.
Whereas in the past they never did cardio or a little bit more cardio than they used to do. But for some people, and I’ve heard from quite a few of these people over the years, it means working. Less hard, which sounds counterintuitive, but I’ve heard from many people who were athletes and who were very active, very fit their entire lives, and they found that as they have gotten older, they’ve had to dial it down a little bit.
They’ve had to reduce their strength training intensity a little bit. They’ve had to deload more often. They’ve had to do less, very heavy weightlifting because of joint pains. They’ve had to do less high intensity cardio less high. Cardio or just less cardio in general. Now I’m talking about going from five to seven hours of intense strength training per week, plus several hours of cardio per week to maybe something like three to five hours of strength training per week, and maybe one to three hours of lower intensity cardio.
Just to put some numbers to it. I’m not talking about going down to one strength training workout in one 30 minute walk per week. So I will stop rambling at this point. I think I have made my points, and if you are still listening and you liked this episode, you are going to love my next book, Muscle for Life because it is specifically for you and it’s coming out in January, but you can pre-order it already anywhere you like to buy books.
I hope you liked this episode. I hope you found it helpful, and if you did subscribe to the show because it makes sure that you don’t miss new episodes. And it also helps me because it increases the rankings of the show a little bit, which of course then makes it a little bit more easily found by other people who may like it just as much as you.
And if you didn’t like something about this episode or about the show in general, or if you. Ideas or suggestions or just feedback to share. Shoot me an email, mike muscle for life.com, muscle f o r life.com and let me know what I could do better or just what your thoughts are about maybe what you’d like to see me do in the future.
I read everything myself. I’m always looking for new ideas and constructive feedback. So thanks again for listening to this episode, and I hope to hear from you.