Cortisol has been on overdrive for way to long you’ve probably experienced the increase in weight and belly fat. It’s a sure sign for me. Look, last year for the first time I was training for an event – doing something I love – and it was also a stressful time of having to move to get out of the mold that still was not mitigated in the house I was renting.
Then there were two other major stressors happening with changes business, and November was a perfect storm of too much. All of your stressors add up. You don’t get too choose or this one’s good, this one’s bad and think they balance out. When they’re big like this the entire load – called the allostatic load, is something your body deals with all at once.
Even chronic daily stressors however add up. If you’re a chronic worrier, you’re always ruminating over little things, that too can be tied to your body holding onto weight. Menopause fitness strategies will require less volume and the type of activity that moves you further from your goals.
The biggest signs you need to do much less exercise for a period of time are that you’re exhausted in the morning or you get up and feel good but only for a very short time, that’s all the cortisol your body has. Then you’re ready for a nap or you’re reaching for caffeine or sugar all day.
You can’t build fitness on that foundation. So eventually you will want to start, small and do short strength or short walks a couple times a day. But first you look at your sleep, nutrition, whether you’re absorbing your nutrition, and turn that around. Then strength will be the first thing you reintroduce.
This tip builds right on the last. We were raised on the belief it’s steady state exercise for 45 minutes or an hour that leads to fitness. Or it’s walking every day.
And that will lead to more cortisol instead of optimizing cortisol.
You’re meant to have cortisol and that fight-or-flight kind of sprint for a short time then recovery. That’s the very thing that interval training will do for you.
You get to purge adrenalin that might be causing you to be anxious because you’ve been nervous or tense and never had the opportunity to use it. Our stressors today are in a boardroom or on the freeway or when we look at our bank account.
Endurance long and slow kills your testosterone. Menopause fitness can involve endurance if you’ve first balanced those hormones and you watch your body’s response closely.
Make Strength Training a Priority
There’s no other exercise that will give you the strength, stamina, posture, bone density, confidence, anxiety decreasing, metabolism boosting benefits of strength training. None.
So pick up some weights. If you’re intimidated by weights you can try bands or tubing or other tools. I prefer weight training with dumbbells so that I can mimic life activities and exercise in all kinds of planes. They’re convenient at home and cost effective. You’ll find them in every hotel gym these days and you may not always be able to get on a machine at the gym but you can always get some dumbbells.
Humans begin losing muscle mass sometime after 25 when they naturally peak. Women have less than men to lose in the first place. By losing muscle unless you also lose fat you will naturally increase fat and therefore your risk for disease.
For exercise to work at all you’ve got to have the building blocks for lean muscle. Lean muscle boosts metabolism. You then can burn fat easier. Most women skimp on this and don’t get enough protein at each meal. It’s not an end of the day total.
You want about 25-30 grams at each meal. And studies say that the older you get the lower your muscle protein synthesis, in other words your ability to use protein you eat to benefit your muscle. So a study several years ago showed a 70 year old man could get results from exercise similar to a 20 year old as long as he had double the amount of post workout protein. The 70 year old has 40 grams compared to the 20 year olds 20 grams.
That’s not intuitive. So keep reminding yourself your need for protein increases not decreases with age. It’s not the end of the day but the per meal amount that matters.
Move it an hour or two later if you’re fasting but don’t skip it. High cortisol levels in women in midlife will cause inflammation and weight gain then make it harder to feel like exercising and even harder to get results from exercise.
High protein breakfasts keep you full and satisfied and boost your metabolism by stabilizing your blood sugar all day. I love smoothies because they’re an easy way to get a lot of micronutrients in about 2 minutes of effort. I love to say I’ve had 2 servings of veggies by breakfast.
Most of the women who even at first might have a little reluctance for smoothies end up loving the simplicity. It eliminates what’s known as decision fatigue – yep – a real thing. You can do a smoothie in a lot of different ways and get diversity in your diet.
I’ll link to 60 of my favorite recipes in the show notes.
If these all make sense to you but you’re like wait a minute where do I start?
The After 50 Fitness Formula for Women course
will give you all the what and whys you need to fill in any blanks. If you also want the strength training exercise that you need get the You Still Got It, Girl! videos to go with it.
Like these short podcasts answering your questions? Let me know that and send your questions by responding to the show notes. I’d love to answer more of your menopause fitness questions!
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