Recently I was asked by a client if it was possible to build muscle in menopause. This lead me to do a little more research…….especially since I am approaching that stage in life as well and more and more of my clients are facing this. My initial thought was, “yes,” but it does become more difficult.
During menopause your body goes through so many changes. As we age we start losing muscle and we tend to gain fat around our middle. This begins around the age of 30……well before menopause begins for most. So, it is important that we be conscious of a healthy lifestyle long before menopause begins. However, too many of us don’t and then menopause hits and we wonder what happened.
Once perimenopause and menopause begin our body undergoes natural hormonal changes. These changes lead to muscle loss, bone loss, and a slowed metabolism. The muscle loss and slowed metabolism are the main things that contribute to the weight gain. I will make a side note here. If you notice that your lifestyle has not changed and you have put on a serious amount of weight I would advise you to check with your doctor. There could be some other serious issues causing the gain.
While this may sound odd my next bit of advice would be to embrace the change your body is going through. It is the natural cycle of life that God created……therefore it can’t be all that bad, right? Aging is difficult, and Lord knows I would love to be in my 20’s again……especially knowing what I know now. Also, if you are stressing about this next stage of life, this can contribute to weight gain and muscle loss as well because your body produces Cortisol when you are under stress. So do your best to embrace this part of your life……inconveniences and all. Each day God gives you is a gift to enjoy.
If this is a natural part of life,then its normal to question, “Then why bother doing anything about it?” First of all you want to be able to enjoy life and to be as healthy as possible for those you love and care about. Not to mention the older and more experience you have the more fun things you can do. You want to be healthy enough and have the energy you need to do those things. If you exercise and have a healthy eating lifestyle the benefits during menopause are tremendous. It will help to prevent weight gain, reduce the risk of cancer, make your bones stronger, reduce the risk of other diseases such as diabetes and heart disease, and it will boost your mood, make you feel better, reduce stress, and give you more energy.
Before starting any training program you should check with your doctor and/or have a complete physical. Then the question becomes how does one go about building muscle during menopause if it is more difficult and muscle mass is decreasing. Strength training 2-3 days a week and having a healthy diet is one of the best ways to do that. It is key to building muscle. Strength training involves resistance through either weights, kettle bells, resistance bands, etc. Also, to build muscle your body must have protein. Many people as they get older tend to cut their protein intake but you can not build muscle without it. Good sources of protein are dairy, poultry, beef, fish, and eggs. You can, also, get protein through beans, yogurt (watch added sugar here and make sure it is the greek yogurt), and whey protein.
Other things you can do to help build muscle are to reduce your calorie intake. It is a good idea to find out what your Basal Metabolism Rate (BMR) is. Your BMR is the amount of calories your body burns daily before added exercise. Limit your cardio to a couple of times a week. This is sufficient to train your heart but not so much you will burn the muscle you are trying to build. Reduce sugar, alcohol, and don’t smoke!!!! Some supplements that aid in building muscle are D3 and Omega 3s. Finally, add some flexability, stability, and balance exercise to your workouts. Yoga is a great way to add all 3 at once.
Finally, you need to find ways to stay motivated. Why? It will keep you going when you get tired and want to quit. One of the best ways to stay motivated is to find a group to workout with…..people you are accountable to and who care about you. Sharing life and the interest of getting healthier together makes it more fun. Let’s face it not everyone is like me and is a fanatic about working out (and I still have days I don’t want to). God made us for relationships and I have found those relationships and doing life with those special people make whatever I’m doing or going through that much easier.