Postmenopause: Training and Nutrition Success Guide


In our postmenopausal years (after our period has stopped), we have achieved an important milestone as women! Let’s explore the way the inner landscape of our hormones has changed so we’re better equipped to navigate these new waters.

I’m sharing my Postmenopause Training Trifecta with you so after you finish this episode, you’ll be armed with the specific training and nutrition strategies you need to feel like yourself and build strength, power and vitality to enjoy life to the fullest!

In this episode I’m exploring…

⭐What changes with our hormones in the postmenopausal years and how they impact our body composition
⭐Hormone-supporting options and suggestions
⭐How to mitigate the impact of stress on our body
⭐Custom training guidance for women postmenopause
⭐Custom eating guidance for women postmenopause
⭐Reviewing Betty Rocker’s Postmenopause Training Trifecta

Links to follow up from this episode:

Episode Transcript New Tab

Betty Rocker (00:16):

What’s up, rock stars Coach Betty Rocker here. Thanks so much for tuning in to spend some time with me today. And hey, I’m guessing you’re here because maybe you’re in the post-menopausal years or you’re thinking ahead and wondering what’s on the horizon, or maybe you’re listening for an older relative or friend hoping you can get some great insights to help them no matter why you’re here. I’m so glad because today I’m going to tell you some of the most important things you need to know about training in those years after menopause. Menopause just means the end of your period, right? So post menopause is how we refer to the years after it stops, and perimenopause is how we talk about the years leading up to it. And when you’re done with today’s episode, you’ll know my post menopause training trifecta, my key formula for women in this life stage to really dial things in for yourself.

And all of the links for today’s episode and the transcript to are available in the show notes page for this episode right on the betty website, so you can find that and reference it absolutely any time. And this stuff is just so important, right? Because I find we’re so often underserved in this stage of life, and I hear from so many women that their concerns about their weight gain or their hot flashes or their muscle loss, these concerns are just being dismissed or minimized or they’re told that’s just the aging process. And of course, we are all going to age. There is a component of these changes that we all go through that is about acceptance and accepting that life does have a progression. But I also know that a lot of the changes you may be experiencing can make you feel really powerless and like your body is a total stranger to you, and it does not help to be told that there’s nothing you can do about it because there actually is a lot you can do.

Now, I might not have all the answers about what you are experiencing specifically because we do all have unique health histories and you of course are unique. But I do have some excellent custom training and nutrition strategies that really work for women post menopause. And there is a lot more great scientific research emerging where it’s focused specifically on women and starting to be more specifically focused on women in different life stages. And that is what I have been really immersed in recently. And I’m just really interested in how all of this works because of course I’ll be menopause myself very soon and I’m fascinated and I want to set myself up and the process help set you up as well and make sure that you know what I know so that we can all get stronger together and enjoy life in these capable strong bodies.

After all, everything that we’re doing right now sets us up for our future self. So let’s take a look back to see how we get to the post-menopausal stage of life and what led us here. So when we’re in those regular cycling years, it’s the fluctuation between our estrogen and progesterone that happen with our monthly menstrual cycle, which kind of give us an edge when it comes to building that muscle and reducing our body fat. And that regular cycle of those two key hormones fluctuating back and forth as well as the higher levels of estrogen that we experience in general in those years means that we recover a bit more easily. We have more resilience to training more frequently, we can regulate our body temperature more easily and we just have an easier time in general rebuilding our muscle tissue than we do in the later life stages.

Additionally, we also have our highest levels of testosterone during that time in our lives. And testosterone’s a really important one for women and contributes to our libido function and the growth and renewal of our bone and body tissue, including our muscle tissue. Now, muscle tissue is what we call metabolic currency. So the more muscle you carry, the more efficiently you will burn body fat and regulate many body functions including your immune system. And muscle is the body tissue we most want to hold onto as we go into the perimenopause years and then the post menopause years, that muscle tissue doesn’t make us bulky, it gives us our muscle tone, the tightness and strength in all of the activities that we do. Now, it was also easier for you to build and hold onto your muscle back then despite all of the diets you maybe tried.

One of the reasons for that is that we also were absorbing more of the amino acids from the protein we eat during those earlier life stages. And that really helped provide us with maximum access to the building blocks our bodies needed for muscle repair and regrowth after our workouts. Now, I’m not saying we didn’t have to work for it back then, but it was a lot easier then than it is now for some of these reasons. So when we go through the perimenopause years, it’s like this kind of transition phase when your menstrual cycle starts to become really erratic and the hormone levels can become really imbalanced as a result. And since most of our sex hormones are produced in our ovaries, as we have more sporadic and less menstrual cycles, we’re producing less and less of these essential hormones that do so many important things for us.

So perimenopause, that’s the life stage where you may have first noticed your body just not responding as easily as it did before, and that might be when you first started to struggle with your energy or your weight or mood or you noticed your sleep got disrupted or your body’s temperature was dysregulated and you were having hot flashes and things. So flash forward to now we’re in post, our cycle has stopped completely and estrogen and progesterone levels have dropped down dramatically. So has testosterone. You might experience symptoms like weight gain, muscle and bone loss, which you might not notice at first. It can feel like you’re just gaining weight. You might not realize, oh, you’re also losing muscle tissue and your bone density is decreasing. You might not notice that at first unless you’re getting a specific test. You may notice things like erratic energy or lower energy in general.

You may have more disrupted sleep or you’re just getting less sleep in general. You might still be having some hot flashes or mood swings. Your skin may be dry, your joints may be more sore more often. Now, some of the symptoms you may experience can be addressed and mitigated by working with your doctor to monitor your hormone levels. And you might consider using some type of hormone replacement therapy or HRT for short to really help ease the transition symptoms and support your energy levels. Replacing some of the hormones that you’ve lost can really help make you feel a little bit more balanced. And in perimenopause, I’ve personally been using various forms of hormone replacement therapy off and on just for the past couple of years, and my doctor has suggested that I probably will want to continue some type of that through menopause and into post menopause as well.

And speaking of my doctor, that’s Dr. Jill, Dr. Jill Carnahan. If you’re interested in hormone replacement therapy and hearing about the different options of available, there’s a podcast where she came on recently and shared about hormone treatment options. She offers her patients. That podcast also covers all the lab tests she liked to have people do as well. So if you just want to listen to the part about hormones, you can skip to the halfway point in that podcast episode, but I’ll put a link to that episode in the show notes because that’s a really good one to listen to because it’s really interesting to hear a functional medicine doctor explain why she recommends some over others and you can kind of learn the landscape of treatment options available and be a little more armed with the knowledge that you need when talking to your own doctor.

And it’s ideal of course to have blood work or a urine test done. For example, the Dutch test is one that’s prescribed by your doctor to just determine what treatment option is right for you. Of course, when it comes to treating our hormones, we always want specificity. And then there are supplements like DHEA, which is a commonly available supplement that acts as a precursor to testosterone and estrogen, and that can also be really useful in stimulating their production. Again, I just suggest working with a doctor on dosing and determining if that’s appropriate for you, but that’s a really easy one to look up and read more about and find over the counter. And of course, while most of your sex hormones are made in your ovaries, some are also made by your adrenal glands. And as we lose our production of the majority of the sex hormones when our cycle stops supporting a healthy stress response and robust adrenal function will really help keep the adrenals producing the low amounts of hormones that they’re responsible for.

And this can also contribute to how you feel and mitigate some of those more uncomfortable symptoms. You can support the production of some of your hormones over time, even post menopause with healthy adrenal function, and this is one of the reasons I’m always talking about and personally focusing on being proactive with building stress resilience in order to support a healthy stress response. Because when the stress hormone cortisol is elevated for prolonged periods of time, it really breaks down our muscle and it makes us more prone to store body fat. And as our estrogen levels really drop in post menopause, we’re even more sensitive to this cortisol impact and it can make the muscle and bone loss we experience even greater. And we really want to be mindful of things like not over consuming caffeine or over training, which we’ll get to shortly as these can really increase our cortisol levels.

This is a great time to start a daily meditation practice or breathing practice or just make it a priority again, if you’ve sort of fallen out of the habit of it. Even if you take five minutes to sit and breathe or listen to the sounds of nature, this practice can really help ground you and bring you back into equilibrium and stimulate that parasympathetic or rest and digest nervous system response. And this over time when you practice this regularly can help you develop more resilience to the stress that you face in life, which in turn supports your system and those lower levels of estrogen that we have now. So if you want another podcast to listen to, I did one recently where I went more in depth in how the stress response impacts every system in our body at different life stages, and I gave you 12 ways to build more stress resilience.

So that’s a great episode to use for more ideas. Now, speaking of stress, adaptogenic herbs are also really promising for supporting the body’s stress response and also supporting hormone balance. I have a great article about six adaptogenic herbs I studied for their balancing properties that I’ll link to in the show notes for you if you want to follow up on that or just do your own research about adaptogens in general. The six eye featured included things like maca, rho, rosea, eeu root, and a few more. And they’re just a few of the many natural herbal supplements that really can support your hormones. But these things take time to work. They are gentle, so you won’t want to expect an instant response. What you need will also be unique to you. Again, here’s one where I recommend having a baseline of your hormone testing done so that you could see what herbs might be really beneficial for you.

Specifically, like I was saying, while they’re gentle, they still impact your body and it is good to be a little bit customized with our approach. Just knowing the body’s changing and that we won’t bounce back as quickly from an injury or build strength as quickly means that our self-care and the consistency with stress managing techniques, it becomes just very invaluable to helping our entire system work holistically as a whole because of course we lose some collagen and elastin over time. Just being more proactive with things like warming up and cooling down around your workouts, doing your stretching, your mobility work, maybe more yoga, those pieces can really help you stay more limber and more flexible and help support your joint health. And I’m going to talk more about that in a moment as well. Just wanted to remind you that the intentional mindful movement piece can really calm and restore our nervous system and lower the stress response and they’re just so essential.

I feel like sometimes it’s hard to get out of that going hard all the time mentality, but this is exactly what we want to find balance with post menopause because over training and undereating are going to really backfire on us at this time when it comes to your workouts, staying active and being consistent with your training is still super important. But this is the life stage where we want to get really strategic and specific about the training that we do, about how we take rest days and about how we’re eating around our workouts. Rather than trying to follow every diet and every influencer with six pack abs, I do see a lot of women just inadvertently making things harder for themselves by training more and eating less. And this sadly has the opposite effect as it just creates a greater inflammatory response in the body, which leads to greater loss of muscle and even more increased fat storage.

And I think one of the reasons a lot of women accidentally are over-training post menopause is because they expect to get results during their workout. So more workouts must equal more results, and that’s sort of the feeling that’s there, but actually muscle tissue does not develop or strengthen when you are exercising. It develops and strengthens after your workout and after you have challenged yourself when you are resting and refueling. So when you’re working out, you’re breaking down your muscle tissue, you’re creating an inflammatory response in your body, and it’s during the recovery period where we’re rebuilding. And this is also I think one of the reasons why a lot of women undereat. We think that eating less means we’re going to become smaller and depriving the body of nutrients actually means we create this really stressful environment internally that deprives us of the building blocks we need to hold onto our muscle.

It weakens our bones, it diminishes our energy and it creates more fat storage. It’s just that during the post menopause life stage especially, we need a little bit more of a workout stimulus to get those adaptations to rebuild the muscle tissue, to stimulate fat loss. We need a little bit more protein stimulus to help repair and rebuild the tissue that we break down in a workout and we need a little bit more of an intentional recovery period to support the tissue repair and regrowth process. This is the path to seeing great results. Again, we just have to really dial in and get more strategic and specific in our approach, and this is totally accessible and it totally, totally works. So we want to do a sort of polarized sequence with our exercise and our rest days to really drive those results in our body composition.

So remember what I was saying, how when we are working out, we create an inflammatory response in our tissue. We’re creating these micro tears in the muscle tissue. This is why I always say exercise is a healthy stress to the body when we are healthy because exercising when our system is already stressed out does not contribute to muscular strength or fat loss. It creates more muscle loss and it can be a contributing factor in fat storage. So if you don’t get enough rest, you’ll just stay in an inflamed state from your workouts and not be able to repair that muscle tissue, which means you’ll always be losing it faster than you can rebuild it. And this is where a lot of women go wrong. They keep training and training and training and thinking they’re going to lose the weight, but it’s actually keeping them stuck in an inflamed state that contributes to that weight gain and that muscle loss.

And not to mention a heightened state of inflammation doesn’t do us any favors in general, it weakens our immune system. It means that we’re not probably absorbing the nutrients in our foods as easily. It’s contributing to achy joints and soreness that just doesn’t go away sometimes. So really paying attention to the recovery you need post menopause is crucial. In the past, those higher levels of key hormones like we talked about, allowed you to kind of get away with a little bit more. You could recover a little bit more quickly because you had more estrogen in your system. But at this stage of life where we just don’t have those hormones to help us sort of bounce back more quickly, we can seek an alternative pathway to the tissue to support it. And we do that by just getting smarter about creating an effective stimulus with the workouts we do and then we give our body long enough to recover around the workouts to repair and regrow in the absence of those hormones.

Now, an effective stimulus just means that your training is challenging enough for you to stimulate the muscle tissue to respond. And when you do workouts that really challenge you triggering that adaptive response in your muscles, then because you triggered that stimulus effectively, you then want to recover without forcing yourself back into another workout. There are three specific types of training that will help you improve your muscle and bone density and lose body fat including resistance training, which I know you’ve heard of high intensity interval training, which is going to be things like explosive cardio, plyometrics, tabata, sprint training. All of these can be types of high intensity interval training. And the third one is actually self-care training types, which we’ve touched on already, which are the yoga, the mobility and stretching you do around your workouts. So when it comes to the resistance training piece, this is incredibly beneficial for your body and the amount of resistance that is right for you where you’re going to be getting that effective stimulus like we talked about, really depends on what you’ve been doing before.

And if you’re new to training and maybe building a base up, body weight training is a great way to build a strong foundation and really challenge you appropriately as you are building strength and balance and confidence. If you’ve mostly been doing body weight training, now is the time to start to explore how you can make that more challenging for yourself and start to add some weighted objects to some of the moves that you’ve been doing to trigger even more of a stimulus to your muscle tissue. Of course, if you’ve already been training with some equipment like dumbbells or bands, maybe now you want to start getting more specific with how you approach using the resistance. So if you could start working within rep ranges, say an eight to 12 rep range for example, you’re going to give yourself a ceiling of how much weight is appropriate for you to use and a benchmark to really get stronger from if you choose a weight for bicep curls and you can do 20 reps with that weight go heavier, you want to find a weight that makes it very hard to go past the 12 reps, but that you could do at least eight reps with and you’ll of course need to do some experimenting with this, but you want to try some different things out and start to build your confidence in doing things with more and more of that resistance because your muscle tissue adapts to the load that you give it over time, and so you want to continue to progress and challenge yourself.

Now as you build confidence with this type of training, you will get stronger. You’ll need heavier weight to do the same amount of reps as before so that you can keep going. And if you start finding an eight rep weight range that’s fatiguing, you can start building into even lower rep ranges and using heavier resistance working into say a six to eight rep range with some of your moves and maybe even down to a four to six rep range with some of your moves. Now, this is something that you might want to do with friends or with a trainer in person or of course if you’re using any of my programs, we provide really thoughtful guidelines and form cues and we help you progress through all of these different types of training options, especially in rock your life where we have the complete spectrum. And if you’re training from home and you want to go heavier, you might want to slowly start expanding on your collection of homework workout equipment, or maybe you want to go to the gym and start using the options that they have there.

I just don’t recommend going from body weight training straight up to barbells in a day. What I do recommend is starting to get more specific and strategic with what challenges do you and start to really push yourself in the workouts that you do. Sometimes we’re going through the motions with light resistance thinking that’s toning us up when what we really need to be doing is focusing on that muscle tone and the way to stimulate the muscle to respond and strengthen, which is done when you work against enough of a load where you are challenged personally because..

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