Low Energy Availability in Menopause? Eating Too Little to Feel Good or Age Well

Low energy availability in menopause is a key concern, especially if you’re both trying to exercise and combine that with fasting and you could easily be there.

In this episode I’ll help you answer whether you’re in a state of low energy availability leaving you with too little energy to feel good during or after menopause.

Exercising too much without results? Try a reset. The 5 Day Flip is free. https://www.flippingfifty.com/5dayflip

Low energy availability or LEA, is defined as having limited energy available to support your normal body functions once your energy expended through exercise is subtracted from your total dietary energy intake. 

Living too long or too often in LEA will  negatively impact your skeletal muscle as well as your bone because osteoblasts and osteoclasts can’t properly do their job. More injury in connective tissue, stress fractures, and increased risk for osteoporosis or accelerated bone loss and inability to reverse losses. 

LEA also can lead to other health disruptions that are commonly blamed on the umbrella of “menopause” or hormones. They include irritability, depression, brain fog, poor immune function, low libido, and GI issues like constipation and diarrhea.

How do you know if you have low energy availability in menopause? 

Here’s a simple equation for figuring EA. 

EA = (EI − EEE)/FFM

Dietary energy intake (kcal) minus your exercise energy expenditure (kcal) divided by your fat free mass (FFM) in kilograms (kg)

Suggestions are for total to be 45 calorie/kilogram ffm

Anything less than 30 calories/kilogram ffm is considered LEA and putting you at risk for real health concerns within days. 

Track your calorie intake for 3-5 days to get an average. I don’t recommend doing this excessively. But it can be valuable periodically. Find that average by adding all the days total calorie intake and dividing by the number of days you tracked. 

Plug your calories burned into an app to determine for a female with your weight the calories expended for activities beyond daily activity of life. Play pickle ball 2 hours? Count it. Worked out 45 minutes? Count it. Walked 30 minutes at 3mph? Count it. Get a total calories expended in exercise for the day. 

It’s easier than you think to check for Low Energy Availability:

  1. Use that average total calories. 
  2. Subtract your daily caloric expenditure from exercise. 
  3. Divide that number by your fat free mass in kilograms. (remember kilograms is weight in pounds divided by 2.2) 

Calculate fat free mass. Take Body fat % x body weight. If your body fat percent is 25%, then .25 times your body weight.

So 130 lbs with 22% body fat. Fat mass is 28.6 lbs. 130-28.6 = 101.4 lbs ffm

101.4 divided by 2.2 = 46.2 kg ffm

If average daily calories consumed 2100 kcals. 

Energy expended with a 45 minute walk + weight training + 10 minutes intervals = 108+ 159 + 120 = 387 kcals expended (rounding up to 400kcals)

2100- 400= 1700 kcals divided by 46.2= 36.7

So based on this, I’m not in an alarmingly low state but low enough to be aware I should consciously start adding quality calories especially around workouts. When you do the calculation, about 45 is a good number to aim for or 50 if you’re training hard regularly. I’m not and some days much less than I’d like to but we all have to remember we may be slowing our metabolism by eating too little and compromising our body’s ability to regulate thyroid, proper immune function, metabolic function, mood or more. 

Your exercise may or may not be affected. At first. If you’re an athlete, performance most likely will be negatively impacted. The rest of your life and physical function will suffer first. It might be happening at such a low level you don’t notice it, until cumulative effects set in. 

Helpful? Share this with a friend. Low energy availability isn’t something talked about openly often enough. Instead we’re bragging about how long we’re fasting or doing HIIT. Potentially, we’re contributing to the problem: keeping score in the wrong game.

RESEARCH:

Resources: 

Other Experts who discuss this that you might also find interesting: 

Dr. Stacy Sims (doctor of science) https://www.drstacysims.com/

Steph Gadreau https://www.stephgaudreau.com/

Betty Rocker  https://thebettyrocker.com/

Other Episodes You Might Like: 

How to Be Confident Now with Betty Rocker | #508 https://www.flippingfifty.com/the-betty-rocker/

More Strength, Less Cardio in Menopause & Beyond https://www.flippingfifty.com/less-cardio-in-menopause/

 

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