Can You Break Up With Disordered Eating After 50?

Disordered eating after 50? This post is not very sexy but it hits on a topic that became a conversation between 35 and 40 years ago – when many of us flipping 50 were in our late teens, early 20’s and 30’s – flirting with it. Still today, the prevalence of eating disorders for many – and disordered eating for many more is a big part of the challenge of finding “eating right” I so often hear my fitness clients seek.

We’re not immune as we age. Disordered eating among women in their 50s and 60s is not uncommon. If you’re an emotional eater, or you’re fasting as an answer to weight loss when nothing else works, it’s a conversation that doesn’t have any flat out answers. There’s not a one-size-fits-all. But if at one point in your younger years  you knew that what you were doing might cause long term consequences, they may actually be showing up for you now.

disordered eating after 50 Eating disorders and disordered eating are widely associated with teenage girls and college-age women. Yet, a woman in her 50s and beyond can still struggle. Can you break free of a dysfunctional relationship with food in a society where dieting is a billion dollar industry?

Can you escape the temptation to try intermittent fasting? Every popular women’s magazine on and offline, and social media outlet has published something about it. When comparison mode takes over and you read about the success of some woman in her 50s or 60s using intermittent fasting or switching to a plant based diet, it’s tempting to believe you’ve found the magic bullet.

Food is tricky. It’s necessary. It’s triggers compulsive actions. It has history for you. Different foods are triggers for certain behaviors. Situations can act as triggers for a response with foods. For some women it’s being alone, for others it’s being with people. It’s comforting, numbing, and it’s both conscious and unconscious.

Even healthy, normal weight women find it hard to do what they want to do for their own health when they go out to dinner with others or have people over. Peer pressure and social stress seems to hit us even now.

Pursuing fitness with dysfunctional eating patterns that borderline eating disorders is a challenge. Improved performance is not possible without the right fuel.

Even with a pretty external appearance, signs of breakdown exist.

While there’s a large part of our over 50 population still struggling to make exercise a regular part of life, there is another segment that is trapped in a cycle of needing to exercise, and to eat with a rigid idea of what “getting a good workout” might look like. It’s like a heavy weight you’re carrying around all day.

disordered eating after 50Is Exercise Your Drug of Choice?

If you flirt with disordered eating after 50 chances are exercise is a piece of the puzzle (hence, the post from me). Exercise isn’t just a joy for you; it’s a must. It’s a have to, should and then it becomes a struggle of mind body when a breakdown or illness occurs. You know you shouldn’t, or that you’re doing too much with too little in the tank, but your mind is telling your body to shut up. Those memes in social media don’t help.

You’re paying yourself back with food. Or you’re not allowing yourself to eat if you haven’t earned it through exercise.

Exercise too, I hope, is indispensable. In our society we can’t afford not to move intentionally any more. So finding a good relationship with exercise so it’s not punishment or an “if I do this, then I can eat that” cycle.

Clutching limiting beliefs about foods or food groups that have been disproven by science but that have such an emotional tie or a near compulsive pattern of thought are often a part of dysfunctional eating. Believing fat makes you fat, that calories alone will control optimal body composition, or that eating “healthy” food is all you need to worry about all are a part of food hurdles you have to leap if you’re in your 50s or older at this point in time. Science of diets and food changed rapidly in the last two decades.

Exercise is sexy and acceptable. It’s respected and revered. Food is seductive and taboo at the same time. A woman who won’t talk about her eating disorder or pattern of constant thoughts around eating will talk about her fitness. It’s a mask she can wear and feel healthy, even superior, and happily distracted about.

Disordered eating after 50 could mean a lot of things about your relationship with the kitchen or eating out. You may hate to cook, or love to cook and bake, or be somewhere in between. Historically, women with eating disorders enjoy recipes, planning, cooking and baking. It’s a mask too. It’s not unlike a drug addict who becomes a dealer.

Do these questions from others hit an emotional cord:

“What can you eat?”

“Is there anything here you can eat?”

“You’re not going to eat? What? Are you dieting?”

Don’t overlook them or yourself as “sensitive.” They may be triggers for you.

Disordered eating after 50 is so much more common than you might think. We still however don’t talk about it or what’s underneath it. So, it’s isolating. You’re not however, alone. The online community offers great resources for you to get support, with some anonymity and convenience. It’s exhausting if you’re stuck here, perhaps never more than when hormones get involved in a big way at this time of life. If you’re ready to put it down, reach out. You can find support.

Post references:
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26857889
https://www.maturitas.org/article/S0378-5122(15)30002-5/fulltext
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29983105
Resources:
Tricia Greaves Nelson – Heal Your Hunger
Dr. Joan Rosenberg – Free resources

What is a Keto diet? I’m so glad you found Flipping 50 TV! This is the opening episode for season III! Share your comments with me and share the episode with friends!

In this episode I answer 61-year-old Catherine’s question, “How do nutrition requirements differ when training for an endurance event?”

Minute Made

Specifically, Catherine has been following a Keto diet.

What is Keto?

A Keto diet is also called low carb, high fat – about 60-80% of calories from fat

About 10% of calories come from carbs, 20% from protein, and the remainder from fat. From person to person carb intakes vary- or should – so Catherine’s carb intake while training for triathlon will need to be higher than someone less active.

She’ll want to be sure to keep the carbs around her training times- pre, during, and post.  Otherwise her diet can remain relatively the same, if she has already shifted her diet and low intensity training for a period of time that allowed her body to use fat at higher intensities.

Keto Diet Concerns

Proper hydration and mineral balance – for anyone, an athlete at high heat and humidity this is a definite concern.

Side effects of a Keto diet

Side effects of a Keto diet can include constipation, fatigue, and frequent urination,

Weight loss is nearly immediate because you will shed water weight when you don’t eat carbs: for every 1-part carb you eat, you store about 3-parts water. As soon as you limit carbs you begin to shed that water.

Why a Keto diet (also called metabolically efficient)

If you teach your body to shift- (gradually) to a fat burning at higher levels of intensity common digestive issues and the need to fuel during exercise are reduced.

The body prefers carbs or the glycogen stored in your muscles from carbs during exercise. That said, shifting can be uncomfortable and a slow process, but it can be done. At low levels of activity you use fat. Right now… at rest, you’re burning nearly 100% fat for fuel. The harder you exercise the more the body naturally uses glycogen first.

Why Small Frequent Meals are Not Your Best Friend

When we feed the body regularly there’s no reason for it to burn fat. Those 5-6 small meals a day? If you want to lose fat, they’re getting in the way. There’s zero evidence that those mini meals – or grazing and snacking  – burn more fat. There is plenty of evidence that shows frequent eating increases fat storage and halts fat burning.

How many more people stop at fast food restaurants when drive-through was installed? They didn’t want to take time or make the effort to go in… but as soon as it was easy to drive through or get delivery fast food sales tripled. It’s the same for your body.

If you’re exercise progressively increases the biggest change is to pre-during-and post exercise needs. During the 24 hours following significantly hard or long workouts an increase in protein can help repair muscles.

My recommendations for exercise and nutrition … for women who are eating a balanced diet but want to lose fat or optimize their lean:

  1. Before long, endurance exercise at low levels – hiking, kayaking, cross-country skiing – less to eat, with focus on protein and fat.

Examples:

  1. Before higher intensity exercise – a little carbohydrate with small amount of fat/protein will help fuel a strong start and continued energy for exercise at higher intensities more comfortably. During high intensity exercise over two hours plan to refuel every 60-to-90 minutes. If you’re training for a race, practice during training what you’ll do on race day.

Examples:

Triathlon and hiking don’t have the same kind of fuel needs. You’re going to be exercising at much higher overall intensity to complete a triathlon. Fuel appropriately.

Put Back in What a Keto Diet and Lifestyle Take Out

The more restrictive a diet is the more micronutrients through food alone are restricted. A well-formulated supplement regimen can be imperative for preventing long term depletion, adrenal fatigue, or disease.

Catherine is currently doing a daily multivitamin for over 50, calcium supplement with D, and collagen. She may want to upgrade to a multivitamin with non-compete technology at a minimum for any active woman. Catherine’s additional needs are based on her daily micronutrient “depleters.”

Exercise depletes micronutrients:

A, B, C E, iron, magnesium, manganese, potassium, selenium, zinc, alpha-lipoic acid, CoQ10

+

A Keto diet depletes micronutrients: B vitamins, calcium, magnesium

+

Stress depletes micronutrients: A, B vitamins, calcium, selenium, zinc, iron, magnesium, omega 3 and a few others

*This is just a partial list of micronutrients depleted to illustrate the common denominators.

Frequent training at high levels, or for long duration, both increase cortisol. Low level over 75 minutes or high intensity 45-60 minutes, begin to increase cortisol in a negative way. Overall stress reduction is really important for a midlife or older woman training for endurance events.

If retirement finds Catherine able to train with low stress elsewhere in her life, with time not training spent resting and she’s able to meet increased sleep needs she’ll experience less stress than someone working and training so that’s on her side.

Catherine reports signs of fatigue. That’s common for someone doing an endurance event. It’s tricky to balance training progression, rest & recovery, and listen to your body. As a coach, I always want someone undertrained vs. overtrained. When in doubt, rest. Fatigue could be insufficient nutrients and or hormone imbalance.

Goals, Micronutrients, and Meals

Catherine’s goals are to reduce inflammation and time nutrition so that she has plenty of energy during training and race day. She wants to recover quickly from each workout so she’s ready for the next. Long term she would want to focus on maintaining lean muscle and bone density.

Based on the earlier assessment Catherine might want to consider how to bump the following micronutrients:

After Exercise Nutrition

Nutrition timing post exercise for most older adults should be 60 to 120 minutes. For Catherine’s increased frequency and intensity of training her post-exercise smoothie or high protein meal can come sooner.

She needs 20-35 grams of protein to prevent muscle loss, moderate carbs, and fat for replenishing and antioxidants & antioxidants to reduce inflammation. Research shows older adults can benefit from exercise comparably to younger subjects if they have almost double the protein (40 gm compared to 20).

My favorite recovery smoothie is packed with all of the above. Every ingredient has anti-inflammatory properties.

keto diet

Need strength training? Check out The Whole Flip by clicking the image.

Post Exercise Recovery Smoothie

Regularly check in with your level of fatigue. If training leaves you wanting to rest and recovery the rest of the day or sleep changes such that you don’t want to get up, or can’t stay asleep: these are signs of over training in someone who normally sleeps well and wakes rested. Get all my favorite (and Flipping 50 community favorite) smoothie recipes PLUS the guide to extra superfood additions.

keto dietMuscles in Minutes

Above all whether you’re exercising or training for an event you want to avoid adrenal fatigue. Adrenal fatigue is a risk if following a training program too rigidly. Listen to your body’s need for more rest between sessions and or reduce the volume and increase intensity of specific workouts.

Training for endurance events in a traditional way – with significant volume – as an older adult, along with altering nutrition – is a lot of change, potentially a lot of stress on your body, at once.

During my most recent Ironman training I wrote my own program that allowed me to keep cortisol to a minimum, and maintain body density and muscle mass, as well as balance hormones through six months of progressive training. Here’s a link to my schedule. 

Make sure you keep up with some strength training both for injury prevention and bone loss from increased biking and swimming. They’re both great for muscles and health but remove the bone benefits of weight bearing activity.

Best Rest  

Track how well you recover. This will tell you how well your nutrition is meeting your needs. Slow recovery signs include constant soreness, or fatigue, or reduced capacity to exercise without feeling increasing difficulty.

Take a simple resting heart rate each morning while you’re still lying in bed. Monitor what happens after long training days, rest days, and moderate days.  A heart rate elevated by 5 beats over your normal for more than a few days is in indication you need to back off training and have a big recovery week.

You can also monitor heart rate variability, in other words, measure between heart-beats.

Say you have a resting heart rate of 60 bpm. You might think the time between each beat is a second, but it’s not. In fact, the more variability you have between heartbeats the better. It could be .8, 1.2 seconds and so on. The more predictable your heart rate variability the more you will do best with a recovery day instead of a training day.

It requires a special monitor and app. Both are taken first thing in the morning. Start with resting heart rate.

Another simple option is to track your sleep number, or your Sleep IQ, like I do with my Sleep Number bed. I prefer it to a wearable device. Resting heart rate, heart rate variability, and your Sleep IQ help you target your rest and training both. The first step is listening to fatigue, but if it’s daily and it’s cumulative it’s a good idea to start looking at a better balance between rest and training.

The Key Flip of the Day: You can try new things at any age.

Need help increasing your muscle? Try the 5-Day Flip with me. 

Have you got a question? Send it to me at flipping50TV.com and and maybe I’ll answer your question on a future episode!

Is Your Diet Keeping You Up at Night?

dietThis post about better sleep is sponsored by Sleep Number. All thoughts and opinions, as always, are completely my own.

If you’re on a low-calorie diet, you might be missing out on important nutrients. If you’re missing out on important nutrients, it could be interfering with your sleep. This vicious cycle is detrimental to a healthy lifestyle. This statistic is staggering: A recent study published by the National Institute of Public Health (NIPH) found women between 60 and 90 who suffered from poor sleep also had poor diets. We need to stop ignoring the direct correlation between sleep and diet, so we can instead implement healthy routines to put the vicious cycle to bed (literally).

A few sleep flips for you right off the bat:

A diet insufficient in any way negatively affects neurotransmitters that regulate sleep and wake cycles. So if you’re trying to cut calories, or you make poor choices more often than you’d like to admit, you could be cutting your sleep, too. Then, the poor dietary choices you’re making could be a direct result of sleep deprivation! This downward spiral is tough to break.  In addition to neurotransmitters, Melatonin, the hormone responsible for sleep, is also negatively impacted by a poor diet.

The more restrictive your diet, the more essential it is to look at what micronutrients might be missing and see how you can account for them. You might dismiss this sooner than you should. Sleep will often improve when you first start a diet, but can then worsen as insufficiencies catch up with you.

The NIPH pointed out many subjects in the study above had poor quality of protein due to missing leucine, a key essential amino acid in muscle building and repair. If you’re eating strictly plant-based, you’re more likely to need a boost of leucine at each meal, not just for sleep. Leucine is key to building muscle and sparing loss.

As if the frustration of tossing and turning isn’t the only motivation for sleep, lack of sleep slows your metabolism. No matter how much you exercise or how well you eat, without sleep, you’re going to struggle with weight. Longer sleepers have lower Body Mass Index (BMI) than those that can’t get sweet dreams. BMI is not the end-all, but it’s a strong component used to predict healthy weight by physicians.

How much does it matter? For one of my clients in her sixties, it mattered to the tune of an extra 75 pounds she was able to lose. After years of exercise with no results, she decided to increase her quality and quantity of sleep, and that’s when the weight started coming off. You too can make nutrition changes to improve your sleep!

How to Eat for Sleep

Once you’ve buffed your diet, make sure you go to bed on a bed you love. A mattress is a smart investment, given you spend a third of your life in it! My Sleep Number bed has been a game-changer. I never knew what I was missing until the first night I slept on it.

A third of Flipping 50 customers have hot flashes or night sweats before they begin. Changes in diet can help you control the frequency and intensity of those midlife symptoms. A Sleep Number Dual Temp layercan keep you (and your partner) at the right temperature each and every night.

Resources:
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29265779
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28750055
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22996147

 Don’t miss the April showers protein sale !!

dietSave 20, 15, or 10% off your first purchase of Paleo Power, Your Whey, or Plant Power with these codes:

20paleo, 15whey, 10plant

Summer’s around the corner! Flip 50 lean! [ends when April does]

Thanks for being a Flipping 50 reader!

 

fitness questions after 50

I’m tacking your biggest fitness questions in this post!

Fitness questions you’re asking or should ask!

Midlife fitness is like a mystery novel. You think you’ve got it figured out and then a new twist in the plot changes things. In the most recent selection process for Flipping 50 TV season III I had the challenging task of choosing which questions to use and which I had to turn down.

Instead of sending these questions to fade into the sunset until next season I couldn’t resist offering some answers here. Ultimately, I’d like to help every single one of you. I can’t possibly do that of course with a full schedule of private clients and group programs. But I did the best I could choosing from the list for this post. I’ll be popping into Facebook for some live Q and A too.

These questions were common asks from the questions submitted at flipping50tv.com so my hope is those asking are getting help, and so are you.

What is body composition?

“What’s that?”

That’s what I hear too often when I ask a woman 50 or 60 what her body composition is. Body composition tells you how much fat and how much lean muscle (and bone) you have.

If you’re 135 pounds and you have 22% body fat you can fit into jeans much smaller than if you’re 135 pounds and 35% body fat.

Now, that is not the goal or a measure of great success. But you do get the idea, right. That 135 pounds and 22% body fat gal is actively making her happy way through her day with energy and vitality. She’s enjoying meals she loves, movement with less effort, and most likely got a good shape and proportions. She’s probably lifting weights religiously twice a week.

That 135-pound woman with a 35% body fat is classified as “obese.” It starts at 29 or 30% fat depending on which guidelines you’re using. More importantly, she’s gaining weight easier because she’s got less muscle to burn energy, and over time she’ll put on a few pounds a year. She’s potentially spending time doing a lot of cardio when she starts an exercise program. She’s tired much of the time. She’s eating less and less to try to lose weight.

This question is king (queen, if you prefer) of fitness questions. If you don’t know this, nothing else matters.

Why does body composition matter?

If I ask a woman 50, 60, or older how much she weighs, and she knows.

Here’s the problem. If you are assessing your success or failures by the scale (and worse if you’re doing it by multiple scales) and have no idea what makes that number up, you could be getting fatter even while you’re losing weight.

Yes.

You could be getting fatter not fitter while you’re losing weight. Lean muscle tissues is metabolically active. In other words, if you want a faster metabolism, so that you can eat good food, operate with energy, do things you love, and digest well, you want to keep lean muscle.

One of the biggest fitness questions YOU should be asking, is what is my percent body fat? [This is another way to say body composition.]

With age it CAN, it is not mandatory or a “normal” process of aging, be easier to lose muscle than keep or gain it. If you are not lifting weights – appropriately – for the sole purpose of keeping lean muscle you are very likely to have less now than you did at 25, when your lean muscle peaked.

So when you lose weight you lose a percent of muscle along with fat. You can keep that number low (and then offset it with the right kind of exercise) or you could lose as much as 50% muscle weight.

The only way you know what is happening is by getting it measured.

 Where and how can you get body composition measured?

If you ever buy another bathroom scale, don’t buy one without a body fat analyzer in it! It’s that simple and really cost effective. It’s a smart (and small) investment. If you are exercising, or working with a trainer, or me even, you don’t know what you’re doing is even effective without measuring this! It’s a way to validate your time, money, and energy.

Almost any fitness center, parks & rec, personal trainer doing business can do this within minutes. There may be a nominal fee if you do it somewhere you’re not a member or with a trainer you’re not working with regularly.

Hospitals, dietitians, or your doctor may also be able to do this. If you have a dexa scan for bone density they can often tell you body composition if you ask.

The scale in your local fitness center locker room may very well have the ability to measure body composition, too.

I’d love you to add to the comments where you’re doing this regularly. And use the comments as your accountability to yourself for where you’re going to get it done if you haven’t!! Make a phone call today, or stop at your favorite “everything” store and pick up a scale.

Last, fitness questions sometimes reveal confusion. This is the case with body composition AND weight both. Don’t panic if you have two very different measures on different tools. Stop using more than one. You want to measure change and you can’t do that comparing apples to oranges.

fitness questions for midlifeShould I be doing more cardio?

For women, fitness questions almost always start with, should I do more? Truly 7/10 women are doing too much when they do anything. So yes you need to be more active but not necessarily with more intensity or effort.

I’m going to say probably not. Most women do plenty. If you have 1-2 times a week of interval training for 20-30 minutes, and you’re getting a lot of daily movement – not necessarily cardio – and a good long walk or outdoor activity (I’m headed out for a 1-2 hour hike in a bit- it’s finally 70 degrees!!) then you’re covered. “Burning calories” with cardio is not going to help balance your hormones. You many need FAR LESS cardio and more strength training and more REST and better food.

Here’s the line that I hear way too often:

“I’m exercising like crazy and barely eating and still not losing weight.”

EXACTLY!

These things are the problem and mistakenly too many of us are living in the 80’s with the belief you can burn more, and eat less

What do I eat before working out early morning?

I love fitness questions like this, because this matters so much!

It depends. Before high intensity interval training I eat some carbs and some protein/fat. Before long hikes, low intensity work I eat very little and what I do eat is fat. It’s all about the preference of your body and what it need for fuel in order to have the best possible workout AND outcome.

I’d rather burn fat most of the time – how about you? So these two formulas make the most sense. The higher intensity you’re able to work at during HIIT, the more fat you will burn. The more you use fat for fuel and force your body to dip into fat stores (hello toned legs, goodbye jiggle) the better your results.

A pre-HIIT snack may be sun butter on a hearty (I don’t do empty cardboard rice cakes) rice cake, or a half a banana with almond butter.

Before weight training my snack might be a simple smoothie (protein powder and almond milk), or sunflower seeds, or ¼ an avocado.

If I’m hiking… nothing unless I’m hungry and then its nuts, seeds. Longer hikes – 2-3 hours I’ll take a small packet of the same.

On a higher intensity longer bike ride I’ll bring Lara bars for snacks. Not a ton of carbs – but some – and all natural.

This is a whole new way to think about what to eat before exercise for most women. Different activities require different fuel.

What do you do when traveling without a blender for the AM smoothie?

Seriously, I am not above packing a hot water maker for coffee and a Nutribullet. Carry-on’s make it easy to be sure my ‘bullet is safe. And insulated soft coolers allow me to bring small amounts of fresh food along too.

Regulations change making this not always doable and frankly, I can’t keep up, but I do take my ride to the grocery store and then to the hotel when I arrive. What you put into your mouth is your energy or your crash. I don’t have time for the latter, do you?

Yes, takes a little effort, a little shoe space, and some getting used to but there is nothing better than leaving home AND getting back home feeling equally good. I would never think, “I’m on vacation, I’m just going to eat what I want.” I want to feel good when I’m on vacation and when I get home from vacation. And I don’t want to ever feel like I have to “get ready for vacation.”

It’s just easier to eat well, and exercise well, all the time and feel good all the time.

Now, for you! Please share your biggest fitness questions. We’ve just completed filming season III of Flipping 50 so it won’t be immediately that I film again. Meanwhile, I’d love to hear from you here right on the blog or in Facebook about what you need answers to!

P.S. The link to NutriBullet includes $20 savings, and up to $15 off your shipping depending on where you are in the world. I do receive a small commission if you use the Flipping 50 link – just want you to know!

P.P.S. I depend on you to share the Flipping 50 word! Thanks for sharing your thoughts and sharing content that you find helpful with your friends, sisters, moms, trainers, and clients. It takes a village! Thanks for being a part!

Pardon the rant in this post. I received this message in an email from a client who’d recently had a consult with a Registered Dietitian at a fitness club:

“I recently had a session with a new RD at XXXX.  She stated that she did not believe most Americans do not get enough protein, rather the reverse.  She thought many get too much.  When I questioned her, she backed down a bit and said many younger people get too much.  What do you think about that?”

I’m steaming.

That’s what I think about that.

The woman who sent me the email was close to 70. Yes, she’s lifted weights for years. However, yes she’s had cancer, surgeries requiring periods of rest, and meds that deplete protein that combined with her age suggest she does not have room for indecisive support.

“She backed down… ”

What does that mean?

Does that mean for every client that doesn’t ask a follow up question they leave with a top-of-the-head impulse recommendation from a registered dietitian… instead of a logical assessment and application of science?

At first glance, the registered dietitian didn’t use a scientific basis to make the statement. I’m left to believe that in her late twenties at best (and I’m not sure she’s even there yet, she has not had a lot of repetition (certainly not the 10,000 hours that it takes doing one thing that it takes to be an expert) with clients to make a valid statement based on her experience with private clients.

It’s also up for discussion, what the Registered Dietitian in this equation qualifies as “enough.” In fact, this is the entire discussion. An older client with more life experience who has read more articles and hired more fitness and health experts than the dietitian could have accessed in her limited education and work experience could cause a change of belief (and that in itself is a problem) of a young dietitian in seconds. That’s cause for concern.

It’s also a sign of our times. Most adults are confused and sensing the current RDA “norms” are incongruent with current programs and diets. Many contemporary programs are built based on science. Many are not. As with product or service there is a continuum. There will be copycat programs and services that jump on in order to market and make a product that will sell without a basis that supports what, why, and how it works. A promise of weight loss, fat loss, and or a fast metabolism in days or weeks is very attractive and it sells.

Unfortunately, if it doesn’t teach a foundation of good health and eating habits that changes your long term behavior, it’s not a program, it’s a temporary diet. One of our problems is that we continue to look to external sources, like a Registered Dietitian, for answers. At this point many of those answers are available to us in seconds.

I frequently hear, and sadly, even women’s hormone health “experts” talk about their own experience when they were doing “Whole 30” or when they ate Paleo and it’s clear that this was a period of “dieting” that they now are “off.” It is important to remember that behind every registered dietitian, personal training, or health coach certification, degree, or license is a professional with her own emotions and journey. It’s hard not to allow that to influence their advice.

In You Still Got It, Girl I discussed the fact that any diet you go “on” has an “off” ramp. When you’re moving from diet to diet, long-term change and a positive relationship with food that’s good for you is out of reach. Diets are like holidays that comes a few times a year with excitement about possibility and all decorated and pretty. The rest of the year you struggle with the day-to-day consistency and never find your own high energy that comes from adopting to a new lifestyle.

You’re looking for what you should do instead of who you should be. Sound familiar?

registered dietitian alternative

Most American adults know protein is important: 90% of them admit they don’t know how much they need.

How can there be any hope for a clear recommendation under these circumstances?

Here’s the truth about science that’s been publicly acknowledged since at least 2008 (and likely in existence before that). The RDAs and recommendations for more protein taken in at each meal in a user-friendly way are not at odds. They are actually very similar and compatible. It requires a small amount of math. registered dietitian protein book I’m including an excerpt from my short PDF book, The Protein Report. If you’re confused about how much protein you need this short protein report will be extremely valuable to you. Even this brief excerpt will provide some insight.

First, I want to make it clear why I have such a stake in this. Whether it’s me or it’s personal trainers I mentor with attempting to support a client in reaching goals, we simply can’t without the right fuel behind the goal. I personally can’t live day to day in a high-energy and optimal weight, thought, and body composition without the right nutrition.

We’ve seen clearly what happens when decade after decade adults fail to reach their nutritional quota. Frailty and or obesity seem to be the norm still today even though we have answers. We can’t expect to solve problems with exercise not supported with the right nutrition and lifestyle habits in the second half.

I also find no fault with any specific Registered Dietitian. They too have their hands tied until they find their own voice. I do believe however that the time has come when we have to have more functional nutrition recommendations and acknowledge that no one set of standards fits every individual need. We have far too many hormone, metabolism, body composition, and socialization differences. We have life situations and conditions that change our need from one year to the next. Just as exercise has emerged into a personal, functional approach, so too does nutrition have to and is available to you if you look.

Excerpt From The Protein Report:

In the U.S., the current recommendation is for 0.8 grams of protein daily for each kilogram of your body weight, or 0.36 g/pound. That’s about 71 grams a day for the average 196-pound U.S. man, or 60 grams for the average 166-pound U.S. woman. (These are current average weights in America). The Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) provides numerous obstacles.

There is an increased range suggested by sports nutritionists of up to 1.2gms/gm body weight for body builders and often for endurance athletes and rapidly growing adolescents as well.

As more health experts (registered dietitians, nutritionists, fitness professionals, health coaches) move away from calorie counting and encourage focus on high quality foods with high nutrient density this entire system becomes obsolete and contradictory. As our nation has gotten fatter over the last three decades it is obvious that calorie restriction and the old calorie-in and calorie-out concept is indeed a myth.

“The old calorie-in and calorie-out concept is indeed a myth.”

So with our current recommended protein intake range of 10-35%, the average American eats about 15% protein. Popular diets including Atkins diet (not the same name, and no, no relation!) promoted protein intakes of 60%. A protein intake of 35% is still within the dietary percentages recommended yet, is more than double for most Americans. Can you see the dilemma here in using the term “high protein” diet? It’s relative to what you’re taking in now. If you’re one of those at 15% now, increasing to 33% will be “higher” but not necessarily a “high protein diet.” It could be said that most Americans currently eat a “low” protein diet.

[End of the book excerpt]

Let’s do the math on a recommendation of 20-30 grams of protein per three meals a day. (included more in depth in the report)

For that 166 lb. woman ingesting 1.2 grams of protein/kg of body weight a day = 166 lbs. is 75.45 Kg

(providing you with the high end of the range that, by the way is also recommended for older, frail, and sedentary adults) 1.2 gm protein x 75.45 Kg = 90.5 grams of protein

A corresponding more user-friendly recommendation of 3 meals a day of 20-30 grams of protein at each meal means 60-90 grams.

Or what if we use 35% of a 2000 kcal diet. That’s 700 kcals total. Since protein has 4 kcals per gram that equals 175 grams of protein. That’s a lot! That is within RDA recommendations. That’s far higher than most are consuming, and though it may be appropriate for those who are weak, frail, seeking weight loss, without any renal issues (addressed in the PDF), it isn’t necessary for most. But, it IS within RDA recommendations. It’s higher than I’ve ever personally consumed in a day, I’m sure of it, whether I was on the couch for weeks with mono in my teens or training for an Ironman distance triathlon at 53.

Based on the above math and real life example, Registered Dietitians, who in many states are believed to be the best source of nutrition information and who insurance has deemed as the only covered source of nutrition advice, aren’t always providing their own education-based recommendations. Opinion is not a good basis for professional advice unless it’s based on evidence from thousands of either client outcomes or a research study reviews.

At this point, there’s still a problem, right? The answer is you.

A Registered Dietitian and You

No one can make you eat in a certain way.

If you hire a plumber or carpenter the outcome from the service is only as good as that professional. If you hire a doctor, a personal trainer, or a nutritionist, the outcome is dependent both on the professional AND on you carrying out the action items recommended to you. There are two places then where the system can breakdown.

One problem I see on the inconsistent nutrition-information-train is no one is doing math. Registered Dietitian, or you or I, we seem only to be adding calories or trying to subtract them. There is little support for you in determining the right amount to have at each meal. That alone would simplify things considerably. In Flipping 50’s 28-Day kickstart (and Fit-U programs (for those with more than 20 pounds to lose) I coach to aim for grams per meal and the most frequently asked questions are about what good sources of protein are… we’ve some how reached our mid life eating three times a day without knowing.

So that is an easy fix.

You can easily understand how much protein is in a chicken breast (4 oz is about 25-27 grams). You can read a label and enjoy your breakfast smoothie, and post-exercise protein (to avoid muscle breakdown if you’re struggling with weight loss or muscle gain). You can clearly understand if you have a gap between need and reality whether you’re vegan, vegetarian, or a flat-out carnivore. The bottom line for a woman (or man) over 50 is that protein (and adequate calories, the right micronutrient intake from food first, and supplements to fill in the gaps) is required to prevent muscle loss from aging, and from exercise.

These things cause muscles loss:

  1. aging
  2. exercise
  3. insufficient calories and or protein

If you lose muscle (and no it is not inevitable with age it simply requires more focus to avoid it), you will by default be fatter. If you have not been resistance training (with adequate stimulus) muscle loss averages a half-pound a year.

Yes, exercise is muscle breakdown activity. The rebuilding happens between sessions. It requires rest, adequate overall calories, and adequate protein to keep muscle and or build it. These three things are all equally important. It is not unusual to see either a frail older adult or an overweight adult over 50 who exercise vigorously regularly. In many cases (after far more than 10,000 repetitions) both the frail and the obese adult are not eating enough calories or protein or not resting enough between had sessions. If those are improved, sleep – the queen of rest is not adequate. Once you meet your needs? Success.

Your Next Step?

Read on only if you want support.

If you are struggling with what to eat, how much to eat, or following some food “theories”… your next step is not another “diet.” It is finding a dietary lifestyle you can live with, thrive on, that removes counting calories, points, or steps, and that allows you to have a relationship with food AND exercise for energy, and pleasure, that you can continue for life.

“have a relationship with food AND exercise for energy, and pleasure, that you can continue for life”

If you’re comparing yourself to your friends and your colleagues, or you’re basing what you should do 100% on a lab test that tells you what you’re sensitive to but it’s not working? Then take this next step and spend a 28 days with me identifying your high energy habits.

(I’m all for lab testing: I do it, I’ve ordered them and interpreted them for myself since 2013 and you can too but I also listen to the testing that happens in my kitchen and at my dining room table far more: you and I are not lab rats. We have emotions around what we eat too.)

This program and me as a coach are for you if you’re done with dieting and you’re ready to move from a struggle to more flow about your health habits. You’re ready to let your body and energy tell you what’s right. I am not a Registered Dietitian nor a nutritionist. I am a researcher and a hormone & exercise, and optimal aging expert who does her homework. I provide you with facts and a blueprint. We co-collaborate from there.

I am not for you if you want to do something for 28 days and then “go back to normal” eating and habits. It’s not for you if you love to struggle and you want to stay right where you are jumping around looking for the magic bullet. (You already have the magic, tap your shoes Dorothy.)


I would love to hear from you. What are your questions on your nutrition and specifically protein needs after 50?

Carb cycling is one of those buzz phrases that could confuse you. In this post, I answer these questions:

Still curious or want a conversation? I’m going live on Facebook Friday, June 16th at noon MT to chat more about it and how it might hurt or help your exercise results. Reading this after the fact? The recordings are always there after – just click videos when you arrive on the page. (Hint: if you like the page, when I do go live, you’ll see notifications so you can join if it’s convenient)

bag of potatoesShould you try carb cycling?

It depends. If you’ve tried everything else, and you have a sound lifestyle diet that you’ve designed together with a fitness and nutrition expert based on you, it might be time to try. For those with blood sugar issues, known diabetes, or other conditions including disordered eating, check with your physician about whether it is appropriate for you.

What is carb cycling?

Carb cycling is restricting the amount of carbohydrates consumed temporarily. Temporarily is key. There are specific times for increasing the amount of carbohydrate consumption. These times of increased carb intake help prevent the body from slowing the metabolism by dropping carbs, which often creates a calorie deficit, too low. If you eat less, your body will burn less. A slow metabolism doesn’t help the overall goal of decreasing fat stores by burning them.

When you hear a body builder or chronic dieter talk about “cheat days, ” carb cycling is often, but not always a part of it. There is a wide range of ways to apply carb cycling. One of the biggest errors made in having “cheat days” is that these are often really just “binges” without attention to the quality of food eaten.

A lack of conscious decision about what to eat suggests there’s no real behavior change. Actual carb cycling includes quality sources of carbohydrates eaten in greater amounts at certain times and cycling downward for a lower intake at others. Carb cycling is not accidental but purposefully planned.

Why do people try carb cycling?

Most likely candidates have tried everything! You may be reading this for that reason. Body builders who want longevity and better health most often have carb cycling built into their training regime otherwise chronically (extreme) low dietary intake of carbohydrates can cause fatigue and increase cortisol due to the stress on the body. I’m hinting already at some cons I’ll include more on later.

Getting “bulky” with weight training? May be your carbs or overall intake is too high. You’re compensating. Scheduling your days would be very important if you were to use carb cycling. Then sticking to them is even more important! Here’s an example of a six day rotation.

Day    1         2         3         4         5         6

Low   low    mod   low     low     higher

What are the pros and cons of carb cycling?

Read into this heading question or anything you read here on flippingfifty.com, for women going through hormone changes. Short term for most people, there’s no scientific proof of damage and there is some proof there is positive response in heart disease risk reduction.

Beginning exercisers with significant amounts of weight to lose (more than 20 pounds) may be put on this kind of a “diet” during initial stages of exercise. Often exercisers, or their trainers, start with the idea of losing fat first and then regaining muscle. Unfortunately, for women in midlife who are more susceptible to negative effects of stress (cortisol), this calorie deficit that can put the body into starvation mode, can backfire and result in the exact opposite of the goal:

As a result of long-term carbohydrate and calorie restriction, dieters may experience reduced:

Reducing carbohydrates (if protein and fat are kept the same) reduces over all calories or energy. That has consequences. Eat less and you tell the body to burn less.

I’ve watched university students and employees (personal trainers) go through training for body building competitions. Sadly, I’ve watched them attempt to apply their own training and diet methods to women in midlife who have no desire to stand on stage and flex for a few moments but who do want all day energy and better legs, arms, and abs (these do not take extremes)! Those are reasonable goals and there is a safe, sane, simpler way to get there.

Here’s what I noticed about these women training for on-stage presence at figure competitions. They would workout hard at the crack of dawn, between training sessions, and/or often again in the evening, then spend the afternoon napping at the pool, exhausted instead of interacting with their children, or sneaking home between their training sessions to take naps. That’s the reference above to “reduced spontaneous physical activity.” These women get less active in their normal daily lives as they get more active in the gym and running off fat.

The Flipping 50 Approach to Exercise

Here’s where you and I may differ in our opinion of the purpose of exercise and diet. I want, and want for my clients, MORE active lives. Not better workouts or a few minutes on stage that required hours weekly, if not daily, to get there and severe diet restriction that can’t be maintained if you want your health, but better every day all day and pleasure from food that doesn’t have to be measured and weighed or require entering each and every bite into an app.

I completely advocate a whole body 2-3 times a week strength training routine for the best metabolism boost in the least amount of time for my clients. I don’t work with women who have or want to spend hours in the gym doing a “split routine” that requires a daily commitment to the gym and weight lifting. I have not met very many women who have that kind of time!

I advocate using the body in integrated exercises not isolated exercises. With the exception of working on your weak links and preventing injury or rehabbing from one, whole body exercise is safe, sane, and efficient and you are not co-dependent on an exercise routine or a slave to the gym.

Better midlife, metabolism comes from major muscle groups and intensity. You do not need more stress and more time sucked from enjoyment of life. Life happens outside the gym.

I digress!

Though I’ve taken a little detour, it is very worth mentioning this exercise philosophy because carb cycling is so often tied to it. I am all for the long term sustainability of any exercise plan. You may want to try body building or figure competition as a hobby and if that’s your goal, I’m all for that too, provided you enter with caution into diet practices that don’t negatively impact you. I don’t want you to be sorry you’ve begun something that will lead to a need to retrain your metabolism when you return to “normal.” Some of the traditional weight lifting and diet habits of the “sport” of figure competition are distinctly in opposition to hormone balance. [Next week I’m going to do a reveal for you about an “extreme” goal I’m taking on this year and how I’m going to bring you along for training and hormone updates. In a sense, I’m going to throw myself under the bus for you.]

Let me give you even more detail of the cons of extreme carb cycling

When you get into “starvation mode” with fasting:

To stop the doom and gloom I may be spreading, there are some pros.

The good news about carb cycling:

Catabolism…muscles losses are minimized initially (protein loss is spared). It’s here though that there is possible danger. You need to make sure that you have the adequate amount of protein and don’t allow calories to drop too low. In my experience, it is so easy for women, even who have not formally had disordered eating, to have dysfunctional eating. It’s all too easy to let this spiral downward.

brown rice and salmon How do I start if I want to try carb cycling?

Carb cycling really has a continuum. You don’t have to go to extremes. Take the following variations for example:

[Carb cycling is simplified by assuming there are higher carbohydrate days]

Of all of these, the one I use with my midlife female clients is the least challenging to implement. That is, the change of carbohydrate consumption at meals throughout the day. The hardest thing about this for most women is unlearning habits from information that has suggested they should stop eating carbs at night. Almost 99% of women I work with do better in terms of weight loss, sleep, and increased energy for morning exercise by shifting quality carb intake to be higher at the evening meal. (That doesn’t mean bring on the bread basket).

Keep in mind with carb cycling over weeks and months, increasing carbs is best when physical activity is higher. Some will also say earlier in the day, however this may not serve you if you’re a female between 45 and 65.

Last words

Carb cycling isn’t a “pig out” and it needs to be planned. Otherwise it can backfire and result in fat storage increase. Your choices should still be low glycemic index carbs, high nutrient-dense resistant starch options.

Have you tried carb cycling? What questions do you still have about it?

Sources:
Douyon L, Schteingart DE. Effect of obesity and starvation on thyroid hormone, growth hormone, and cortisol secretion. Endocrinol Metab Clin North Am 2002;31:173-189.
de Rosa G, et al. Thyroid function in altered nutritional state. Exp Clin Endocrinol 1983;82:173-177.
Kozusko FP. Body weight setpoint, metabolic adaption and human starvation. Bull Math Biol 2001;63:393-403.
Dulloo AG, Jacquet J. Adaptive reduction in basal metabolic rate in response to food deprivation in humans: a role for feedback signals from fat stores. Am J Clin Nutr 1998;68:599-606.

One of the best ways to try carb cycling safely is take the first step with the 28 Day Kickstart banner with black text

You can combine that with a special upgrade to private coaching available exclusively to group program members.

Kill cravings. Sounds easy and yet if you experience them, it’s anything but. Use these tricks. They’ll get to the heart of physiological cravings. If you’re upset with someone or hating your job and that’s causing your stress-driven cravings, they may help less, but could give you the foundation for making better decisions about what to do about it!

  1. Increase your protein and fiber.

Increased fiber intake can kill cravings, especially soluble fiber, can help if portion control is an issue. Studies with greater fiber there is decreased food intake and increased body fat loss voluntarily. The protein helps retain lean muscle even during weight loss, which is important if you’re over 50 so you can keep the metabolism elevated.

Increase your fiber intake by including both soluble fiber from veggies and skins of fruit like apples that keep you full, and insoluble sources like oats, beans, and legumes, which help with elimination.

In fact, up to 50 grams a day can boost your weight loss without you having to starve, especially if you have significant amount of weight to lose. Increase gradually to avoid discomfort.

Flip: Add veggies to smoothies, and fill your plate with them. Start there. Then add chia seeds, hemp hearts, or ground flax seeds to salads and smoothies. 

  1. Do 6 minutes of exercise before lunch.

A little bit of movement goes a long ways to kill cravings. If you’ve been sitting at your desk all morning, even if your stomach is growling, take 10 before you eat. Research shows as little as six minutes of exercise within 30 minutes of lunch made subjects choose healthier and lower calorie options. This reduced appetite is related to higher intensity exercise. Moderate to low activity does not have the same appetite suppression and can increase appetite.

Flip: Pick a hill near your house and power up it for a minute. Recover down and repeat a total of six times. Alternatively, hop on your treadmill or tackle the stairs in your office building for a minute six times.

  1. Get quality pillow time.

If you’re short on sleep you’ll be long on cravings thanks to cortisol. Just a single night of poor sleep can make you vulnerable, so if you’re sleepless more often you’re definitely going to have to battle snack attacks. Kill cravings with some simple habit changes.

Flip: Create a bedtime and nighttime routine that helps you relax and keep the same schedule seven days a week. Try the Bedtime app on your phone.

  1. Stay hydrated.

The same cortisol hormone that causes cravings due to sleep deprivation will be released if you stress your system by giving it too little water. Drinking more water doesn’t make you a fat burner, but the lack of water can halt fat metabolism and make you a fat packer. Do yourself a simple (easy and economical) fat-burning favor and drink up on pure filtered water.

Flip: Make your water more appealing with one of these…

Sources:

  1. http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0155871

  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4245573/

  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2084401/

  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18617629

“Efficiency” is usually thought of as doing something well with the least amount of effort.

Metabolic efficiency is basically this: wse more fat for energy while using less carbohydrate for energy and you will ultimately have less fat on your body.

Metabolic efficiency means different things to different people:

If you’re a midlife woman it means using the fat you’ve stored instead of the carbs that you ate last night. That means reducing body fat and increasing your lean look while reducing risk of disease and taking weight off your frame.

If you’re an endurance athlete metabolic efficiency is important to you because it decreases your need to ingest food during events, which in turn decreases the chance you’ll get gastro-intestinal (GI) disturbances that can mean bloating, diarrhea, impaired performance, or “bonking.” I, for example, hung over the handlebars of my bike and lost my cookies in the last triathlon I did. It was not the cover-image of the svelte triathlete I had in my head.

So, you’re not an elite athlete (nor am I). Maybe your not even an exercise enthusiast. As a midlife woman running a home, business, and hormone-driven bus you don’t want to bonk either.

One fat-burning enzyme burns a little fat; a bunch of fat-burning enzymes ignites a bonfire. Metabolic efficiency training builds a stockpile of fat-burning enzymes.

What metabolic efficiency isn’t

Metabolic Efficiency (ME) eating is not a calorie-deficient diet and it is not a low-carbohydrate, Atkins-like diet. It is rather macronutrient partitioning – or manipulating your macronutrients (carbohydrates, fats and proteins) – AND exercise adaptation – or manipulating your exercise with correct aerobic training – that allows us to reap the benefits of increased fat utilization.

To reach metabolic efficiency you must manipulate both diet and exercise together. It takes several months to fully flip the switch. Unfortunately, most of us in search of immediate gratification are more inclined to try something like intermittent fasting. More on that below. [do you really think that intermittent fasting for three days only to return to wine, pizza, and lettuce salad is going to create a lean body that craves healthy food so you’ll stay lean will work?]

But then we’re just reverting to the diet-til-Saturday when the big event is so you can get into the dress. The event gets over and you realize that if you didn’t decide that YOU were worth it without the event, when life is the normal crazy, there have been no habit changes, no mindset shift to make it permanent.

Metabolic Efficiency is about crossover

The crossover concept describes the relation.ship between exercise intensity and the use of fat and carbohydrate for energy during that exercise. Even though we burn a mix of both carbohydrate and fat to fuel exercise up to maximal intensities, as the intensity of your exercise increases, your body prefers to use more carbohydrate for fuel.

That means and always has, that if you’re sitting reading this you’re burning 100% fat. If you take a long slow stroll around the block you’re burning a bit less but still probably over 80% fat to fuel that. When you do interval training at a level that is associated with greater fat burning after the exercise, you’re burning mostly carbohydrate to actually do the interval. At least, until you teach your body not to.

The goal of Metabolic Efficiency

Teach your body to use more fat (and therefore less carbohydrate) at higher intensities (higher heart rate). How do you teach your body to do this? Read on.

If you continue longer aerobic exercise without a lot of available carbohydrates, your body adapts by increasing its workforce of enzymes that metabolize fat (the muffin top and bat wings…) for energy. Ahh! So that’s why we do want an aerobic base.

If you’ve fallen into “only intervals for me, please” snobbery, you’re missing out.

Many ultrarunners [now, I know you don’t come here to read about ultrarunners, but bear with me – elite athletes make mistakes too] ignore or “skip over” setting up an aerobic foundation because they don’t see the immediate benefits as they do in speed training. This is not to say that interval training or hill repeats do not produce positive changes – they do – they just don’t improve fat burning. You will be more metabolically efficient if you work on fat-burning (aerobic exercise) first, and then add in the other training regimes.

Testing for metabolical efficiency

If you do even an informal Metabolic efiiciency test on yourself, where you perform a treadmill or bike exercise bout to determine response to intensity, you have a heart rate to stay under. Yes, I know, this feels a little like “fat burning zone” I so often poo-poo. The reality is, you may need to do this if you’re an interval or intensity jockey and you are still fat. If you love the results you have, you’re lean, you’re full of energy, you don’t suffer from brain fog, and you sleep better than a baby… you probably however, are not here.

You don’t even have to do a formal test to find a perceived exertion to stay under. I teach clients how to do this for themselves as well as trainers how to find this for their clients. This may be hard, training at these lower intensities – believe it or not, when you are not metabolically efficient, it is easier to run at a higher heart rate – but it is very important to stay at the lower intensity to induce the cellular responses.

Frequency is the key to successful metabolic efficiency training. Athletes need at least six to seven hours per week in this zone for results, but it is critical to have most of your training in this low zone. Sounds like a lot? If you’re taking a walk every day you’re there. Hike a little longer on the weekend and it’s not as hard as you thought. I’ve told this story – when my son was playing high school golf and summer tournaments, walking 18 or 36 holes of golf put me at the leanest ever, even though I’d been training for Ironman distance triathlons at the same time. You may not be familiar with golf but as a spectator, that’s stop start for hours. It’s extremely low intensity. It works and getting metabolically efficient is not hard. But we get it wrong.

Here’s why. You and I tend to overdo what should be low intensity exercise. We tend to under do high intensity exercise. What you have is the middle-of-the road exercise that does not improve fitness. It is “exercise” instead of “training for success.”

Metabolical efficiency nutrition

Eating too many refined carbohydrates or eating a large amount of carbohydrates at one time leads to an increase in usage of carbohydrates for energy. This may be fine if you are already a “lean-machine,” but not if you are trying to get there. Processed or refined carbohydrates (and even whole grains somewhat) cause an insulin response or spike. As insulin increases, fat break.down and oxidation (burning) significantly decreases and eventually “turns off” while this same insulin increase turns up carbohydrate oxidation. This causes us to seek out more carbohydrates and suddenly our diet becomes unbalanced as we become “carb-driven.”

Do I Want Metabolic Efficiency At 50 and Beyond?

To repeat some of the info above, essentially Metabolic Efficiency is making your body a fat burner as opposed to a sugar or carbohydrate burner. If you’re body can burn fat for fuel you will begin to lose body fat instead of storing it.

How do you become metabolically efficient? It takes a change in both your nutrition and your exercise.

Metabolically efficient exercise is more than just fat burning interval training. In fact the greatest athletes in the world, the ones that go fast and have little body fat, built their bodies on a foundation of aerobic training. That is, the long slow exercise you may have come to love in the 70s and 80s.

Metabolically efficient nutrition is lower in simple carbs, really lower in carbs overall, and higher in fat and protein percentages.

Let’s be clear that your body prefers to burn carbs. It prefers you eat them regularly and it can store them as glycogen and fat to have plenty of fuel to live on just in case. Your body is essentially the quintessential Girl scout. So if you want to reduce your body fat you’re going to have to train your body to use more fat as fuel and less carbohydrate.

It does that easier at lower intensities. Gradually if you develop a good base of aerobic fitness, your body will increase the amount of fat its burning at even slightly higher levels.

That is, if you stop feeding it immediately accessible carbohydrates.

Cross over from carbs to fat burning

It can be hard to go slow enough to help your body “cross over” to being a fat burner. If you love to go for a long slow run, even doing that can increase your heart rate to levels higher than your optimal fat burning zone.

Did you just have a flashback? Fat burning zone? Am I kidding? No. And yes, I have written and spoken about the truth about fat burning on every platform and stage I’ve ever been given the opportunity to use. More fat is actually burned at higher intensity levels and that is why we get the interval training bible out and beat it.

BUT…

(you knew that was coming)

You’re not on a slow track nowhere for eternity. You, at least if you choose to shift to becoming a fat burner, are going to focus for anywhere from 4 to 10 weeks on the changes in exercise + nutrition that help you do that. Then you’re going to get off the long slow track.**This is important and where some women have remained stuck for decades.

That is exactly where 1 of the 2 biggest effective exercise gaps lies for most women. Has this happened to you?

  1. You are used to going long and slow thinking the longer you’re out there the better and the more calories you’re going to burn. [I am NOT condoning this, nor suggesting it is completely true or false]
  2. You have switched from day-in-day out every week doing long slow days and now you only ever do high intensity. You’ve gotten the message that the harder you go the more fat you’ll burn and you took it to heart. Even on the days you’re going longer, you go hard. If you do intervals, you go pretty hard on the recovery interval too.. you know, so you can burn more calories. [Also a fail]

The problem? Too much of the same ignores the facts:

How to Flip Metabolic Efficiency Action:

  1. Start with at least a month of foundation building lower intensity longer exercise while you ingest a diet that is made up of increased fat, protein, and decreased carbohydrates. Definitely sugar is not your friend if you wish to become a fat burner. Sugar feels it’s sole reason for existing is to help you store fat better. Here’s the trick:

The best way to keep yourself into a zone that will help you use fat for fuel.. is first of all not load up on carbs before a workout. Second, keep your heart rate below that place where you first take a deep breath in and expand your rib cage to do it. Watch for it and back down. When I was first doing this 13 years ago I knew where my heart rate needed to be running and I could barely run. I had to be walking at times instead of running. Yes, I felt fine and so the ego in me said, why not run? But the want-to-be-a-leaner runner in me had to stifle that ego. Third, don’t go home and eat carbs. Wait the usual 60-120 minutes I recommend, and make it a higher fat and higher protein meal than you are likely used to having.

  1. If you’ve been doing long and slow forever without results, stick with it for four more weeks while you make more consorted efforts with your nutrition. Chances are you’ve been “eating healthy” without really knowing what that is for you right now. It’s confusing any more. Your hormones have changed. Your activity may have changed. You’re overwhelmed with Paleo, vegetarianism, forks vs knives, those who say animal protein yes and those who say never…it’s endless.

You very likely haven’t created a plan with purpose that’s integrated with an exercise program for your goals.

You can become more metabolically efficient at any age. You need to tackle it from both sides. There will be metabolically efficient meals and metabolically efficient exercise training.

Then, as a babe beyond 50, you must be sure that you’re listening to your hormones talking. [I’ll post more on Thursday about this.] They’ll whisper at first. They’ll scream eventually if you ignore them. Women in their 50s and 60s who try to go for the metabolically efficient body they want in the way a 30 something would end up with adrenal fatigue. Wisdom comes with these years. Use it. Positive thinking is important. But no amount of positive thinking overcomes body truth.

A part of the theory behind intermittent fasting is to boost fat burning by increasing glucagon. Growth hormone and testosterone are important in muscle preservation or too but they much more affected by sleep and proper weight training in midlife women.

Women may lose weight while fasting and most do so knowing that there will be regain when they return to eating. That’s important to acknowledge in order to avoid the disappointment related to fasting. Water weight lost will be water weight regained. The roller coaster is yet to be studied on peri and post menopausal women. The biggest factor in your muscle increase (rather than wasting as you age) is the exercise you do and the rest (including sleep) and the adequate protein and overall diet quality you have to support it. That is, tons of non-starchy veggies, the right type and timing of carbohydrate, and high quality protein (the building blocks of muscles) being a staple of your diet .

You can’t go back to eating junk and retain any benefits of either metabolic efficiency or intermittent fasting. But you also shouldn’t go back to eating a low calorie, low fat diet either. Fast and feast usually works best. It’s life. Cavemen did it, right? They found food and enjoyed it but it may have been long period of time between “kills.” It’s VERY important to realize restriction of calories for weeks, months, or years, on end is not the answer. If you’re still defaulting to looking for the magic bullet you’ll be better off getting moving in the weight room first and foremost. That is the top of the pyramid for results that will flip 50 for you.

The first muscle to work with is between your ears. Are you ready for permanent change? That is, permanently exercising with weights every week. While you travel, celebrate holidays, have stressors at work. Not when it’s a “good time” to start because there’s not much going on. Are you serious? You will not have much going on when you’re dead. You need the strength, the stamina, the resilience, and the confidence that comes from lifting weights and feeling/looking as good as you want to NOW! Life is crazy messy.

A short “metabolic reset” can make a big difference, as long as you do have first a foundation of:

Share your thoughts and your experience with me! Have you tried to become metabolically efficient? Are you confused by how to start? Comment below!

Then, read Thursday’s blog this week!

Trish M. Ward is the Soulful Nutritionist. If you have special needs, or have a child who does, you want a custom path to symptom-free, abundant energy, stamina and joy. Today’s guest addresses it all with us and we share some resources for you on the show you’ll love! 

Connect with Trish at Trishmward.com

Resources mentioned on this episode:

The Calm App

Dr. Joan Rosenberg Ted Talk

It’s not age and it’s not menopause, ladies. A study(1) done on women across the globe in 2012 showed there was zero correlation with menopause and weight gain. Yes, hormones change the game, but the evidence shows lifestyle habits more than your time of life determine winning or losing the game.

The good news is you can change habits. Check any of these five fat loss obstacles and see if you’re unintentionally sabotaging yourself. Choose one to focus on this week. Clean that one up and move on to the next. This way you can avoid overwhelm and layer your success habits such that in a matter of weeks you’ll have boosted your fat burning easily.

You’re eating too often.

The myth about eating five or six small meals a day is just that. There is no evidence that eating this way boosts metabolism. In fact, there is some evidence(2) to the contrary, that eating this way can lead to more fat.

Women who try eating six small meals a day often report that they are eating when they aren’t even hungry but they’ve been told this is the way to lose weight. This kind of force-feeding messes with your hormones. Your hunger and satiety signals can’t possibly work in your favor if you’re always overriding them.

On the other end of the spectrum is intermittent fasting. It is science-backed. The question is on what level should you do it. Before you go on some extreme 2-day or 24 hour fast, shoot for overnight for at least 12 hours. Too few people do even that. Close the kitchen after dinner and make sure breakfast is a minimum of 12 hours away. Then try not snacking between meals. These mini-fasts alone may help you discover your hunger signals again. Fasting more may be right for you, but you want you want to avoid causing more stress(2) at midlife when women are already more susceptible to the negative affects of cortisol, the stress hormone.

You’re eating too little.

Intermittent fasting aside, the diet industry has done a darn good job of sending the message that if you want to lose weight you need to eat less. Unfortunately, the result of eating less is that your body will burn less. Sure, some of us need a little more restraint when it comes to eating the right foods in the right proportions.

Slashing calories and then perhaps attempting to burn them off with exercise causes stress. Your body under stress (3) will hold on to every calorie and store more as fat. It’s a self-preservation response that isn’t going to go away. Your body doesn’t know there’s a refrigerator in the next room and you’re going to be fine.

Even more important, if you reduce calories, consuming high protein(4,5) meals may help offset muscles losses.

Exercise makes you tired but you never reach fatigue.

Reaching fatigue during exercise several times a week is mandatory (6,7) in order to see more lean muscle tissue and improved cardiorespiratory fitness, which both boost metabolism. That means during your intervals you must get breathless. During your weight training, whether you lift heavy or you need to choose light weights, you get to a last repetition that you can do well.

You’re dehydrated.

Your body is stressed if it has too little water. Every single cell in your body requires it to function. Your muscles hold the majority of your water. You can’t work them properly – or feel motivated to do it – without water.

See number two above and you’re back to that stressed body storing calories as fat easier under stress. Your body will naturally shed water when you exercise, you’re in hot environments, or you’re at altitude. During these times you want more water.

If you’re bloated, your body is holding onto water. As counter-intuitive as it seems, the more pure water you drink, the faster your body will flush that extra water out. It may be a higher sodium food that caused it. As odd as it sounds, if you’re a highly sensitive person (HSP: yes, it’s a “thing”) you may find weather fluctuations cause you to retain water, or your cycle.

You can offset your cycle of bloating if you have the tendency to retain water by drinking more water, increasing your fiber and your protein and staying away from sugar.

You’re not getting enough sleep.

You need certain hormones released during deep cycles of sleep (8). The less you sleep and the more disrupted it is, the less chance you have to release Human Growth Hormone (HGH), that necessary hormone for lean muscle. Holding onto lean muscle, and certainly gaining more, is harder with age. You want to give yourself every advantage.

If you’re doing resistance training to fatigue twice a week, eating enough overall and plenty of protein but not seeing results, be sure your sleep quality and quantity are right for you. A sleep needs assessment (I wrote about it in You Still Got It, Girl!) is a good start.

It takes an integrated set of the right habits. Assess your strengths and then tweak those weaknesses so you can get the results you want. Of all of the above, which is the most likely to be your obstacle?


  1. R. Davis, C. Castelo-Branco, P. Chedraui, M. A. Lumsden, R. E. Nappi, D. Shah, P. Villaseca, and as the Writing Group of the International Menopause Society for World Menopause Day 2012 Climacteric Vol. 15 , Iss. 5,2012
  2. Ohkawara, K., Cornier, M.-A., Kohrt, W. M., & Melanson, E. L. (2013). Effects of Increased Meal Frequency on Fat Oxidation and Perceived Hunger. Obesity (Silver Spring, Md.), 21(2), 336–343. http://doi.org/10.1002/oby.20032
  3. Tomiyama, A. Janet et al. 2010 Low Calorie Dieting Increases Cortisol. Psychosomatic Medicine. May 72(4): 357-364.
  4. Soenen, S. et al. 2013. Normal protein intake is required for body weight loss and weight maintenance, and elevated protein intake for additional preservation of resting energy expenditure and fat free mass. The Journal of Nutrition, 143 (5): 591-96.
  5. Churchward-Venne, T.A., Holwerda, A.M., Phillips, S.M. et al. Sports Med (2016) 46: 1205. doi:10.1007/s40279-016-0504-2
  6. Nóbrega, S. R., & Libardi, C. A. (2016). Is Resistance Training to Muscular Failure Necessary? Frontiers in Physiology, 7, 10. http://doi.org/10.3389/fphys.2016.00010
  7. Joan A Cebrick Grossman, Ellen K Payne A randomized comparison study regarding the impact of short-duration, high-intensity exercise and traditional exercise on anthropometric and body composition measurement changes in post-menopausalwomen–A pilot study. Post Reproductive Health. (2016) Mar;22(1):14-9. doi: 10.1177/2053369115623899.
  8. Thomson, CA, et al. 2012. Relationship between sleep quality and quantity and weight loss in women participating in a weight-loss intervention trial. Obesity, 20(7):1419-25
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