Menopause can really break a woman’s spirit, for countless reasons. Her ability to reproduce comes to a screeching halt, her nether regions may start to resemble an arid climate, hot flashes may make her feel like she is spontaneously combusting, and she may have mood swings that would make the Tazmanian Devil look like a calm little bugger in comparison. But it’s the weight gain which often upsets menopausal women the most. Menopausal women will notice that if they drop their caloric intake, weight won’t drop at all, even though it may have easily melted off in the past.
That’s because the plummeting levels of progesterone and estrogen also adversely affect a woman’s ability to mobilize fat. Cortisol levels can go unchecked as a result of the low levels of progesterone and estrogen, and any extra calories will end up getting stored as fat. If a menopausal woman is at a caloric deficit, the switch flips in favor of burning muscle instead of turning to the storage fat she so desperately wants to incinerate. This is especially true for the adipose (fat) tissue around the midsection, because cortisol is notorious for padding that area with extra fat, resulting in an ever expanding belly. Another unfortunate consequence of cortisol is that levels will rise dramatically with prolonged intense exercise. The key is to have more abbreviated, yet still intense, exercise sessions so that the cortisol release is also accompanied by a boost in HGH and testosterone, thus conferring a protective effect on muscle.
Basically, the WORST thing you can do if you are in the midst of menopausal hell and struggling with weight gain is to engage in lengthy gym sessions. That might work for a 20 year old, but it can be devastating for a 50 year old. If you are a gym rat like me, you can still train up to six days per week (that’s how frequently I train), but keep your sessions intense but relatively short, between 30 to 60 minutes. If you train beyond that time window, the excess cortisol release will only trigger your body to cling to fat.
Menopausal women also experience an increase in carbohydrate sensitivity, which means that carbohydrate-rich meals which they used to be able to consume in their younger years without much consequence will suddenly wreak havoc on that waistline. The extra carbs settle in for a long and uninvited stay in the midsection and end up making women miserable. Because of this, dietary shifts need to be implemented in which the intake of starches and grains is dramatically reduced, while the consumption of more lean protein and green vegetables is increased. I also strongly recommend supplementing the diet with digestive enzymes and probiotics to optimize gut health and digestion of different foods.