The Miracle of Muscles in Menopause

As we enter peri-menopause (usually sometime between your late thirties and early forties) many of the constants in our lives throw us a curveball, and we start needing to re-address elements that we had on auto-pilot.  One of these of course is weight gain, loss of energy, and change in body shape, three things that affect how we are viewed by the world.  Add to that our heightened anxiety due to hormonal imbalances, and you can imagine how confusing things may seem.  The thing with the body is that nothing happens in a vacuum, and that hormonal imbalance, which created your anxiety will also release the hormone cortisol into your system, which in turn reduce your body’s ability to process food, which results in bloating and weight gain.  


What You Think You Should Do


I am pretty sure that the first thing that anyone was to do to combat the above three, weight gain / loss of energy / change of body shape is to reduce your calorie input and increase cardio workouts in the hope of improving your metabolism and burning calories. These, of course, do help, peri-menopause is a good time to reduce your carb intake once and for all.  Introducing rich good fats into the mix.  Cardio workouts are also good, no doubt about it, however, they are not enough…


The Importance of Muscle Mass


There is one element that is of utmost importance that is often ignored and that is muscle mass.  Muscles give you the strength to help with your loss of energy, muscles help sculpt and define your body shape, muscles protect your bones, often offsetting the risks of osteoporosis in menopausal women and muscles continue to burn calories well after you have finished your workout, improving your metabolism.


So How Do You Improve Muscle Mass Through Exercise?


Strength training which involves weights, either your own body weight or that of gym equipment. The muscles of the body are strengthened using a series of physical exercises that promote endurance and improved strength.  These include lunges, squats, kettlebell and dumbbell workouts, TRX training, etc.  When properly performed strength training can increase bone, muscle, tendon and ligament strength and toughness, improve joint function, reduce the potential for injury, increase bone density, increase metabolism, increase fitness and cardiac function!!!  (Enough said)


Muscle Mass Naturally Declines With the Decline of Estrogen


If your next sentence is, but my muscle tone has always been good, then we need to remind you that hormonal imbalances don’t just affect your mood but your muscle tone as well.  The cessation of ovarian estrogen production leads to the deterioration of muscle function.  So basically if you are not actively strengthening your muscles, they are deteriorating as we speak.


You Need Fuel Not Just Training to Strengthen Muscles


The thing is muscles can’t grow without the right nutrition, so if your peri-menopausal diet consists of lettuce and kale then you won’t be able to build the muscles that will in turn increase your metabolism, and hopefully reduce fat in your body.  Enjoying a diet rich in lean meats such as chicken and turkey, in addition to the vegan protein options such as legumes; lentils, and a variety of beans, in addition to seeds such as quinoa and chia that are also high in protein.  Dairy is of course rich in protein but isn’t suitable for all body types, consult your dietician for the sources of protein that suit you best.