Building muscle after menopause is not only possible, but also necessary! Unless you’ve been a bodybuilder, or avid weightlifter and eating a high protein diet, and dialed both those up during perimenopause, chances are you have lost muscle tissue since your 30s.
That means a loss of fat burning potential and a slower metabolism. The most powerful positive impact of muscle on your postmenopausal health is the ability it allows you to burn more calories at any activity around the clock. Another positive super power of muscle is its ability to control blood sugar levels. With more muscle, you would have better blood sugar control thanks to the muscle being a bigger bank to store sugar for energy later. Without it, you only have the liver, which can easily become “full” and overloaded, leaving blood sugar levels higher longer. During those times you’re driving inflammation up and storing fat.
Building Muscle After Menopause Takes Focus
Without consciously paying attention to preserving muscle at least, and gaining muscle at best, you may have “exercised” but without measurable results.
That brings me to something we have to first address… measuring. I’ll link to three unique smart scales to choose from. I believe everyone should have one at home. Weight is inconclusive and can lead you to believe you’re making positive change. In fact, weight loss that is a high percent of muscle is a detriment to your metabolism and ability to burn fat.
To gain muscle postmenopausal (and better yet, during or before so you’re simply adjusting your dose of exercise as you proceed through menopause) you have 5 ingredients. These 5 items are crucial and… it’s like love, faith, and charity.. the greatest of these is… See if you can guess.
11) Lift weights
2) Eat protein
3) Take EAA
5) Recovery between sets, workouts, stressors
1. Lift Weights
- To muscular temporary fatigue
- Multiple sets
- Heavy is best, but if you’re limited by conditions or joints, light and more reps
More is not better. Hearing people say, I lift weights every day or 4 days a week, is not a good thing. In midlife and beyond the need for recovery ramps up as quickly as does the need for a stimulus that surpasses what younger you needed.2. Eat your ideal body weight in pounds in grams of protein a day.
- Dosed in at least 30 grams of protein each meal or snack
- Bookend your workouts and continue consciously boosting for 24 hours after
- Exercise fed
3. If you’re not getting adequate dietary protein…
…supplementing with EAA is a logical first next step. To reduce confusion on supplementation, BCAA and EAA are not the same. A select few amino acids are classified as BCAA. If you’re supplementing because you’re not consuming enough through food alone, you need all of the EAAs, not just BCAA.
If you’re of body builder status, eating protein around the clock, hitting your number with high quality protein, then supplementing with BCAA may be something you want to consider.
The one amino acid that seems to always outweigh others for muscle gain is leucine. While you can get adequate leucine in meals (at least 2.5 ideal and at least 5g/day) if you’re eating animal-based protein, it’s not reasonable to expect you will with plant sources alone or even heavily reliant on plant sources.
4. Sleep is queen of recovery
If you’re not sleeping well, your cortisol, testosterone, and growth hormone levels all suffer. These are a part of your team for muscle building.
Cortisol acts to break down muscle. After a single night of sleep deprivation, your body is working against you. If you’re a push hard through no matter how you feel woman…. It’s likely worse. Chronic cortisol issues, whether high or too low are not the Goldilocks you need.
Testosterone and Growth Hormone are both crucial hormones for muscle growth (or preservation). They’re released in deepest cycles of sleep. So, you’re woken up regularly by menopause, low blood sugar, an aging dog, teenagers, or a snoring partner? You’ve got to take steps to solve this one. Whether that’s sleep apnea machine, a different bedroom, select nights when you can catch up on sleep or it’s a focused menopause sleep plan, make it a priority.
5. Recovery, or Rest, Occurs in multiple places:
- Between sets (even repetitions)
- Between workouts
- Between all stressors
The Mental Game of Building Muscle After Menopause vs Losing Weight
Flipping 50 offers a 12-week strength training program built for women in menopause. Nowhere in the description of it does it promise weight loss. However, there usually is a change of body composition and of inches, even if not in weight. Yet occasionally a woman will say, because of decades of conditioning that exercise burns calories and the reason to do it is weight loss, will say, “I haven’t lost any weight, even though I feel stronger and my clothes fit differently. A little disappointed.”
I want to point out that this is both ridiculous, and not your fault. The positive changes are minimized and the power of a number on a scale giving false indication of fleeting success takes over.
It will take time, perhaps a lifetime, if you let it and don’t decide to change it. I have worked with clients who are stuck with the way they think about themselves and don’t even choose to change it but can’t understand by thinking of themselves the same way, they can never change their results. Your mind is the biggest asset or obstacle you have. Deciding to change it and work through that resistance is the heaviest and most important lifting you will EVER do.
Your mind is the biggest asset or obstacle you have. Deciding to change it and work through that resistance is the heaviest and most important lifting you will EVER do.
-Debra Atkinson, 38-year Women’s Health Coach, Founder of Flipping 50®
Will any of us die wishing we’d maintained a certain weight? Will we lie on our death bed with regrets about that and be glad for all the hours of deprivation and trying to diet and exercise into something we’re not ever going to be happy achieving?
I think not and I’ll let you answer for yourself!
What’s Most Important for Building Muscle After Menopause?
If you change just one thing? Start weight training.
If you’re weight training without a menopause-specific plan matched to your need, start.
Researchers on muscle, longevity, protein, agree the importance of protein is high, however, the greatest, among resistance training, protein, and supplements is resistance training. (provided there is adequate recovery).
Other Episodes You May Like:
20 Reasons Strength Training Should Be Mandatory for Everyone Over 29: https://www.flippingfifty.com/strength-training/
Importance of Strength Training for the Midlife Woman: https://www.flippingfifty.com/strength-training-for-the-midlife-woman/
Flipping 50’s Ultimate Recovery Day Guide: https://www.flippingfifty.com/flipping-50s-ultimate-recovery-day-guide/
5 Mindset Shifts for Better Fitness in Menopause: https://www.flippingfifty.com/mindset-shifts-2/