…Without more Exercise
More exercise is the intuitive answer. It isn’t always the right answer. Maybe you can’t do more. Your time is already spoken for and there’s no place to put more exercise.
Maybe you shouldn’t. You’re a mid-life woman who has been down that more is better route and ended up exhausted and quitting altogether.
Take rest days seriously.
The fitness you seek happens in the days between exercise. If you’re constantly pushing and never resting you’re more likely to put your body into stress mode. That’s where it will hold onto fat and you’re much less likely to lose fat weight.
The last thing an athlete will do before a race when they want to perform well is walk around all day looking at the expo or talking to people. Being on your feet all day makes recovery difficult. You may not think of yourself as an athlete, but it’s the same. If you want to perform at your best you, rest when it’s a rest day. Even if you can’t be on the couch lounging, do what you can.
Inadequate calories prevents you from recovering. It’s one of the things that lead to muscle losses in older adults and it can happen in not-so-older adults too but can be harder to notice until it’s too late.
If you’re trying to lose weight, the first thing most women will do is to cut calories. But a body fed less will tend to burn less. The way to get fit is to have your body burn more and use energy all day more generously. By increasing your intake of the right foods you can perform at high energy levels all day.
Eat enough protein.
Within those calories you do want to be sure you have the right amount of protein per meal. Your body has a sweet spot for being able to utilize protein to benefit your muscles. If you eat too little it won’t be enough to spare muscle losses that occur with age. If you eat too much, extra is simply stored as fat like anything else.
Since about 2008 research has shown repeatedly that 20-30 grams at breakfast, lunch and dinner is a more user-friendly target than a percentage and that this helps spare muscle losses in older adults. The more sedentary you are, the more protein you need since athletes are better at synthesizing protein.
Eat enough micronutrient-dense foods.
Calories are not all created equal. If you waste yours on processed foods essentially void of micronutrients, you’ll push your fitness level further away no matter how much exercise you get.
If you’re eating high quality foods the quantity often takes care of itself. It’s true from research that those who are eating better can about 300 more calories a day and maintain the same weight.
Eat more foods that turn inflammation off and fewer foods that turn it on.
Instead of sugar, alcohol, foods high in omega 6 fats, and chemical-laden foods opt for those that have plenty of antioxidants, phytochemicals, and omega 3 fats. In short, unprocess your diet. Eat fewer foods made in a plant and more that are plants.
If you happen to have an autoimmune disease, like Rheumatoid Arthritis or Hashimoto’s you may be more sensitive to additional foods. Wheat, dairy, eggs, nightshade vegetables and nuts and seeds can be triggers for inflammation too. The best way to know is to test.
Time your protein right.
Eat protein rich meals three times a day and post exercise wait 60 minutes if possible to eat a protein rich meal or shake. Moderate to vigorous exercise imposes a blunting effect on protein synthesis so it’s best to wait if you hope to burn fat and boost your lean muscle.
Sleep is the keep to optimal production of growth hormone. You do make less of it as you age but if you’re getting into deep cycles of sleep your body can produce it’s optimal amount.
Sleep can help you lose weight. Several studies now exist both with athletes and with perimenopausal women showing that longer sleepers both perform better and lose more weight which is fat compared to shorter sleepers.
Easier said than done, especially if you have a meaningful life. The key isn’t really to reduce stress. It’s to reduce your perception of stress as bad. Put joy in your life. Draw boundaries around work and your family life. Put things and people on your calendar that you love and keep those appointments. The stress hormone cortisol reduces your fitness level by storing more fat, preventing fat burning, and impairing your ability to recover from exercise.
Move during your days outside the gym or formal “exercise.” Take walks, do housework, and play with the dog. Take a swim for fun not laps. Ride an easy lap around the neighborhood on your bike. Lower impact and low intensity exercise increases circulation, which improves recovery. All of the following qualify as active recovery:
- a light jog
- an easy swim
- a short, easy spin
- flowing yoga
- a walk or hike
As often as you can afford it, get a massage. Spend time in an infrared sauna or a take an Epsom salt bath. Read a good book or take a nap.