In Exercise, Hormones

Fat burning exercise for women in menopause or post is tricky.

Intense exercise is one of the best ways to boost fat burning during and after exercise for hours. The boost in metabolism during recovery can increase resting metabolism for 15 to 48 hours while the body fully recovers.

OK, so you’re thinking, let’s do intense exercise! Let’s go for 48 hours if that’s the upper level!

Keep reading.

One way of achieving “high intensity” is long duration, and another is high intensity interval training. Still another is high intensity weight training. Long duration moderate and high intensity activity increase cortisol. Interval training with less rest between intervals can also increase cortisol.

That’s where the speed bump comes in.

If you’re in menopause your body is more susceptible to the negative impact of cortisol.

That’s where it gets tricky.

If you’re at halftime in your life or in your second half, you need to identify your Goldilocks combination of these three things to do fat burning exercise that negates cortisol:

  • intensity of exercise
  • rest between sets or intervals and bouts of exercise
  • duration of your exercise

Because, yes, you do want short bouts of intense exercise to increase your Human Growth Hormone (HGH), and testosterone, as these help you increase lean muscle that boosts your metabolism. But too much of a good thing will backfire on you.

When your body is subject to elevated cortisol levels, or plummeting cortisol, or cortisol levels simply all over the board at the wrong times of day (stare at the ceiling at 2am much?), forcing exercise intensities that would be appropriate for someone we fitness pros have long called “apparently healthy,” will backfire.

Rest and Recovery Needs Vary and Change

That is a hint that while jumping into a bootcamp, or extreme program with all ages and levels can be fun, if you’re beginning to feel tired, frequently or chronically injured, not fresh when the next workout comes around, one or more of those three components isn’t right for you. Another hint you aren’t in the exercise routine? You feel great during…shortly after… but you’re not losing weight, feel like a truck hit you the next morning and you just keep trying to overcome it.

Your Personal Flip: If you can extend a rest period between exercises or lifts and still do the session, or you can skip a day without penalty or losing the day so you can recover better, these may be ways you can make a program fit you instead of trying to make your body fit the program.

Flipping clarity: Resting more does not indicate you’re any less fit. It might, yes. Beginning exercise you do need more rest. However, in the second fifty most adults at every fitness level need a bit more recovery. We can go hard (if by choice we want to), but our much-loved, a few-more-miles-on-them, joints-ligaments-muscles will perform better (and burn more fat) if we give them recovery they need. Break down again too quickly with a repeated exercise bout slows or stops lean muscle growth and may lead to muscle losses.

Lift Weights and Do Intervals with Intensity

Heavy weight training, if you can tolerate it, has a much greater impact on fat burning than does circuit training. Check out the blog I wrote recently that addresses the difference between being fatigued (tired after a session of frenzied-pace movements) vs. true muscle fatigue.

Do you observe younger fitness pros using body-weight only exercise? Bodyweight training is still trending in 2017 among fitness professionals polled. This is a part of the gap between what you need and what’s available when you seek programs. The change in lean muscle and in bone density is limited by fatigue-inducing exercise of simply moving exercise-to-exercise quickly with body weight exercise.

Use of weight training that causes true muscle fatigue, and it may be body weight, but there are limits to exercises you can do with body weight-only that feature your major muscle groups. Starting younger to work with weights can help you prevent muscle losses that average about 0.5 pounds of muscle a year. That’s 5 pounds of muscle loss a decade. That’s average. Some will lose more than that and some less.

If you’ve cut calories and kept protein intake too low frequently since you were age 30 your losses are most likely greater than average.

If you haven’t done resistance training to fatigue, your muscle losses also were increased. We know that you can’t “outrun” or out Zumba, or ____________ (insert your favorite cardio exercise) muscle or bone losses.

You must use resistance training to help avoid muscle and bone losses.

It’s never to late.

If you haven’t been resistance training its never too late to start. You can change your body composition (to increase lean and lose fat) within weeks. According to research by Wayne Wescott in 2009 average increases in lean tissue in four weeks are 3 pounds, and average loss of fat is 4 pounds. So, no, the scale is not going to change much. She’s a liar, anyway. She doesn’t tell the whole story. Your clothes are going to fit better. You can actually change your shape and proportions with weight training in a way you can never do with aerobic only conditioning.

Let’s clear up one more thing. It’s not about how many calories you burn during the exercise. It’s about the hormone activity. So yes, when you can add intensity, it’s smart. When you first need to balance your hormones you can’t skip ahead. If you’re torching calories and causing more stress from higher cortisol levels you will feel tired but not better. You may be fatter not fitter.

Walking, yoga, stretching or stand up paddle boarding, are activities that have never been known to be big calorie burners. Yet, if you enjoy them and they decrease your stress levels, they may help you shed weight that cortisol is causing you to hold onto.

So, while you’re adding one or more of the following higher intensity exercises to your routine, don’t skip these lighter activities and the stress hormone reduction that they do to aid your fat loss. The Journal of Physiological Anthropology published an article in March of 2007 about walking outdoors in nature’s ability to reduce cortisol levels. Get out of your dark basement and away from city streets if possible.

More is Just More

We’ve fallen into the trap of more is better. If interval training for 20 minutes is good, then 40 minutes must be better, right? Not so fast.

When you truly go hard, you’ll need to go short. When you begin to extend your time, you will increase risk of injury as you lose form, get sloppy, and the overall contrast between “high intensity” interval and recovery interval will disappear. When this happens you’re missing the benefit of interval training. Push hard on the accelerator and then slow for the red light. Repeat it over and over and you know that compared to your gas mileage on the open highway you use way too much gas. You want that effect on your body during intervals. You want that ineffective way to exercise because it uses more fuel, burns more energy. When you do that during exercise, the pay back and “after burn” is much greater.

Duration vs. Intensity For Greater Fat Burn

It’s about the after-burn. Higher intensity exercise wins compared to lower or steady state exercise in the amount of energy expended and total fat burned.

That said, it’s also about your ability to recover. The following are research-proven ways to exercise and boost fat burning after exercise modified for higher cortisol levels true of midlife women. If you’re belly fat is telling you that cortisol is changing the game for you, shift your exercise plan for better results. Say yes to these and in between, add some joy-factor moves to your day. Yoga, gardening, anything outdoors… are all a part of your big plan.

Increase the Fat Burning Effect of Exercise Long After Exercise with these:

  1. If you’re doing a long slow exercise day, limit it to 60-75 minutes (when cortisol levels can begin to increase again) and insert 5-10 intervals in the middle of the session.
  2. Slow down your weight training and go as heavy as you safely can (progress to this), resting at least 2 minutes between exercises for the same muscle group again.
  3. Keep your duration of continuous interval training (1-3 minutes of higher intensity exercise alternated with equal or longer lower intensity exercise) to 30 to 40 minutes in duration.
  4. Look back at this post about adding a pre-exercise green tea extract to your routine.

Thanks for sharing this blog. Let’s Flip 50 together!


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