In the second part of our menopause series, we explored the physiological changes that occur during and after menopause. While this transition is a major landmark, we’ve helped countless women to turn the tide on menopause and discover their power when it comes to creating positive health after the change. This final part of the series tells you everything you need to know about navigating this transition, whether it’s for you or a woman in your life.
What is HRT?
You have likely heard of hormone replacement therapy, or HRT, which is a synthetic form of oestrogen taken along with progestin. HRT appears to decrease most of the adverse effects of menopause, such as:
- Bodyweight increases,
- Body fat increases and distribution shifts,
- Increased heart disease risk.
- Decreased bone density.
- Inflammation and oxidation.
It is important to begin HRT soon after the onset of menopause, however. HRT can come in several forms, such as pills, patches, nasal sprays, skin gels, creams, which have varying effects. There is no one-size-fits-all approach, and it is important to tailor HRT delivery to the woman’s symptoms, medical history and preferences. Most forms of HRT also appear to improve insulin sensitivity, which can help reverse the shift of body fat from the hips and legs to the midsection that typically happens during this time.
Why is HRT controversial?
HRT has received a bad rap in recent years due to a long-term study by the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI), in which some participants saw their risk of breast cancer increase. However, more recent analyses of this data have shown that this increased risk is not as severe as was once thought. Studies have demonstrated that HRT-administered oestrogen reduced fractures and prevented heart attacks in the 50-60 year age group. The benefits generally appear to outweigh risks, such as an increased risk of heart disease, as long as women begin HRT early,,.
The choice of whether or not to undergo HRT is very personal. For women who have a family history of breast cancer, the risks of HRT may not outweigh the benefits. However, oestrogen supplementation has been shown to significantly reduce the risk of mortality, heart failure and myocardial infarction when initiated early after menopause first starts. Therefore, for those women for whom cardiovascular health is a more significant concern (heart problems kill more women on average than breast cancer), starting HRT is highly beneficial for their long-term physical and mental health.
HRT advice must, therefore, always reflect a woman’s unique circumstances. If you believe you are peri-menopausal or menopausal, or you know someone who is, the best advice is to speak to a registered medical practitioner about the most suitable options for you and your medical history.
Can I achieve a body transformation through menopause?
All of the above means that, for a peri- or post-menopausal woman, a body transformation holds another level of challenge. From a purely psychological perspective, the menopause brings several obstacles such as:
- Impaired insulin sensitivity, which negatively impacts the metabolism of carbohydrates and can increase appetite and cravings.
- Oestrogen is essential for the production of dopamine and serotonin, the two neurotransmitters responsible for feeling happy and the “drive” that gets you going in the morning! During menopause, the loss of oestrogen means these neurotransmitters also fall, and menopausal women may find dieting harder as we often turn to food and drink for comfort.
- Oestrogen increases the production of leptin, the satiety hormone. This poses an additional obstacle when attempting to control caloric intake.
- Oestrogen is closely linked to cognition so women may often experience ‘brain fog’, which could negatively impact decision making around food or render this process more stressful.
- Disturbed sleeping patterns negatively impact recovery as well as metabolism, insulin sensitivity, cravings, cognition and mood.
- Oestrogen has a strong influence on bone density, so menopausal women are at a slightly higher risk of injury.
- A lack of oestrogen increases unwanted inflammation and oxidative stress. Oxidative stress damages cells, proteins, and DNA and speeds up the ageing process. It may also contribute to a range of health conditions, such as diabetes, cancer, and neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s.
However, that doesn’t mean we can’t achieve an outstanding result in menopausal women – we simply need to be smarter and more organised in how we train with them. We’ve helped countless women achieve the body of their dreams and empower them to build positive long-term health through our simple yet proven methodology.
Removing processed and high-calorie foods from the diet not only decreases inflammation but improves insulin sensitivity. Typically, a woman starting her transformation at U.P. undergoes what is known as the “low-carb bootcamp”, a two-week period during which carbs are drawn from fibrous vegetables only, accompanied by high-quality proteins and fat sources. This has several positive impacts:
- It decreases inflammation from processed foods.
- It helps improve gut health, which plays a central role in mood, cognition and immunity.
- The breakdown of fibrous vegetables in the gut is essential for the production of neurotransmitters. 90% of serotonin (the “happy neurotransmitter”) is produced in the gut – dietary improvements are therefore crucial for helping improve the low mood and anxiety that frequently accompanies menopause.
- Oestrogen plays a crucial role in muscle building and remodelling, a benefit lost during menopause. A high-protein diet can help offset this.
- Alcohol has several adverse effects on female endocrinology by increasing testosterone and can heighten visceral fat storage and the risk of diabetes. Removing alcohol from the diet is a fundamental requirement for improving health, whatever your stage in life.
- Oestrogen controls where and how women store body fat. When oestrogen production stops, this can increase the amount of visceral fat (fat stored around the organs), which can be a predictor for diseases such as heart disease or diabetes.
- Cleaning up the diet reduces inflammation and oxidative stress.
- Timing your carbohydrates around your training window when the body is most insulin sensitive and primed to use them for recovery and muscle growth.
Training through menopause
Training has several benefits that have countless positive benefits that offset the negative effects of menopause:
- Resistance training has been consistently shown to improve insulin sensitivity, especially in older populations, meaning that the body is better able to process, store and uptake carbohydrates when it needs them, rather than storing them as body fat.
- Resistance training improves bone density and increases muscle mass. As oestrogen is heavily involved in bone density and muscle maintenance, its loss during menopause can put women at greater risk of breaks, osteoporosis and sarcopenia.
- Resistance training increases metabolic rate by increasing fat-free mass, which typically drops after menopause.
- Women living through the menopause often report disturbed sleep, which resistance training has been shown to improve.
- Staying active through low-intensity exercise:
a) If your goal is to improve your body composition, keep stress to a minimum by prioritising low-impact activity. The body utilises fat as a fuel source during low-intensity exercise and carbohydrates during high-intensity exercise like weight training.
b) This also reduces stress on the body and is less likely than intense cardio, such as running or cycling, to increase appetite.
c) Low-intensity exercise, such as walking, is much more joint-friendly than running if osteoporosis is a particular concern.
- Following a tailored training program provides a source of focus when many other factors feel out of control. Strength and neurological improvements in the gym provide an additional positive aspect of identity aside from gender and physical attributes.
Lifestyle changes in menopause
- Manage stress. Not only does this put you in a better position to deal with the symptoms of menopause, it gives you a greater chance of being able to navigate life’s ups and downs without having to resort to food or alcohol.
a) Create a positive morning routine that gives you time to eat a nutritious breakfast, stretch, journal or meditate before you go head-on into work mode and the hustle and bustle of daily life.
b) Stick to a regular evening schedule and avoid blue light devices, chores or anything stressful close to bedtime.
c) Schedule in time during the week for “me” time that isn’t fitness-related, whether that’s reading your favourite book, catching up with friends or booking a massage or pamper session.
- Improve sleep. This is a factor that many find difficult, particularly during menopause. To give yourself the best shot of a good night’s sleep, try the following:
a) Install blackout blinds or curtains, or invest in a sleep mask.
b) Keep your room cool and quiet; invest in earplugs if you live with a lot of ambient noise.
c) Avoid heavy meals close to bedtime.
d) Establish a bedtime routine: in the hour before bed, avoid your phone and chores. Use this time to read a book, take a bath or meditate.
e) Supplement with our sleep supplement stack.
While for the most part, supplementation should complement the diet, menopause is an instance in which supplementation is well worth the investment. While it is possible to consume many micronutrients or minerals through diet alone, menopause has several knock-on effects that we cannot accommodate purely through food intake. That’s where smart supplementation comes in.
Vitamin D is vital for the absorption of calcium and the maintenance of healthy bones. D3 Replenish provides a balance of vitamins D3, K1 and K2. Vitamin D has a wide range of benefits including improved cognition, bone health and general wellbeing, all while reinforcing the immune system. Taking vitamin D supplements has been shown to reduce the risks of cancer, heart disease, diabetes and multiple sclerosis.
As oestrogen heavily influences the production of serotonin, levels of this crucial neurotransmitter drop during and after menopause. Serotonin Support boosts serotonin production in the body. The main ingredient in Serotonin Support is 5-HTP, a precursor to serotonin, that can create more restful sleep, and improved mood after waking when taken before bed.
Dopamine production drops alongside oestrogen during menopause. Drive is designed to support the body’s natural production of dopamine, essential for brain functions such as motivation, attention, movement, balance and mood.
Estro support is made from all-natural ingredients ensuring that the body optimally metabolises oestrogen, reducing the risk of producing harmful metabolites. Estro Support may help with swings in the physical or emotional feelings associated with short-term changes in hormone levels.
Omega 3 Concentrate contains the two most important components of fish oil – EPA and DHA – both with the benefit of fighting depression, improving heart health and reducing liver fat, joint pain, inflammation and muscle pain. DHA and EPA appear to improve both physical and mental health, while also reducing the risk of disease or health complications – not only enhancing your training but improving your overall vitality.
NT Support blends zinc, B vitamins, magnesium, selenium and molybdenum to support and benefit cognitive functions. Our NT Support blend is specially formulated to aid the production and function of neurotransmitters in the brain. This performance boost translates to improved central nervous and immune system function, which in turn promote better sleep and healthier hormone levels in the body – giving you more energy and equipping you to make the most of your day in and out of the gym.
UltraMag contains a highly bioavailable form of magnesium, playing an essential role in the health of brain and body, directly impacting training, recovery and muscle activity. Magnesium is an essential dietary mineral playing key roles throughout the body, from the maintenance of bones to enabling the function of nerves, muscles, and activating enzymes.
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