Menopause

I was lucky enough to interview Rachel Hicks, a registered dietitian and certified yoga instructor for this article. Rachel specializes in nutrition counseling for females, especially those experiencing peri and post-menopause. Every woman who fits this category knows that “the change” significantly impacts their quality of life. It affects sleep, sex life, mood, and weight, among other things. As a fitness professional, I hear women say daily they used to be so thin, and now they have a “spare tire” around the middle of their bodies. In the past, we would eat less, work out more, or both to lose the extra pounds. Well, thanks to menopause, that old stand-by will not work anymore. (For more information on what exactly menopause is, please see a previous article, Menopause: What is it? attach link) Why does it not work anymore, and what can we do about it? The short answer to why it does not work is hormones. The longer answer to what we can do about it can be found in changing our nutrition and exercise habits. This article will focus on some tips from Rachel to help with nutrition.

I asked her a few questions, and here are her answers.

1. What would it be if you could tell women the one thing they can do to optimize their nutrition?

Prioritize protein, focus on adding lots of color to the diet, manage stress, and eat enough calories- no fewer than 1300 ever. Eating too few calories disrupts the hormone balance, and the body is thus not able to properly process the foods you do eat. The resulting stress on the body increases cortisol, which exacerbates weight gain.

2. What is the main complaint you hear from your menopausal clients?

Chronic fatigue, lack of energy, and unexplained weight gain. All things that can be helped with proper nutrition and exercise.

3. What would you say to the person who is not getting enough calories but also does not get hungry and does not like a lot of different foods?

The hunger hormones, ghrelin, and leptin are not working correctly, probably due to GI dysfunction. Eat lots of fiber, and drink lots of water, but not with a meal, so it does not fill you up.

4. What is the biggest myth that people come to you believing?

Intermittent fasting is the answer to losing weight. In reality, fasting can disrupt hormone function in perimenopausal women. A 13-hour fast or “gut break” can benefit post-menopausal women.

5. From my clients, I hear, “I am having trouble losing my gut.” What is your overall advice to help them optimize their exercise efforts?

These clients may need to change their macros to ensure they get enough protein, at least 1 g/ kg of body weight. Also, making sure calorie intake is ideal. Those who exercise should not restrict their intake to less than 1500 calories. Eat a little protein and a little carb within the first hour of waking up. An example would be a little nonfat Greek yogurt, a banana, and some nuts, a rice cake with some almond butter, or just some protein powder or branch chain amino acids mixed with water. Before a workout, do not eat fat.

6. Along the same lines, I have many clients who like alcohol. What’s the deal with drinking alcohol?

Alcohol disrupts sleep, the brain, and hormone balance. If you must drink, stick to clear liquids, which tend to have less sugar. Tequila is best. 7. I have read that the gut biome changes at menopause. What can we do to best support our gut? The gut biome changes throughout life, including menopause. The best way to support your gut is to eat lots of color. Adding prebiotics like onions and garlic is a good idea, and possibly adding adaptogens like ashwagandha.

If, like me, you are unfamiliar with what exactly an adaptogen is or the difference between pre and pro-biotics, come get all your questions answered at Momentum on Thursday, October 18th, from 6-8 PM.

Rachel will be part of our question-and-answer panel on menopause. She will be joined by Lisa Sapp, PhD., a biochemist specializing in skincare and hormone health, Stephanie Bush, a pelvic floor physical therapist, and me, a fitness professional.

Be on the lookout for more information in future articles.

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