More than 90% of the clients that work with you as a nutrition coach will be female- with a large portion of them, looking to lose weight, especially around menopause and perimenopause,
Changes in hormones can impact energy, sleep and stress, and where these clients store and lose fat. Making the entire situation seem IMPOSSIBLE. Unless you have the right science-backed nutrition and training strategies, which I’m going to share with you today.
Losing Belly Fat in Menopause
Understanding the hormonal dynamics during menopause is pivotal to addressing the common woe of abdominal and belly fat gain. As women approach menopause, estrogen and progesterone levels decline, ushering in changes in insulin sensitivity and fat storage patterns. This shift from a traditional female body fat distribution to a more male-like pattern, particularly around the midsection, can be perplexing for many.
The luteal-like phase created by the hormonal changes leads to a prolonged decrease in insulin sensitivity, increased fat storage, heightened hunger, decreased energy levels, and an undesirable impact on cortisol levels.
To counter these effects, nutritionally, a moderate carbohydrate, higher protein, and moderate fat macro breakdown are recommended. This nutritional strategy aims to mitigate hormonal challenges and manage weight gain effectively.
If you want to help menopausal clients lose belly fat you need to understand that their nutritional and exercise needs change.
BECAUSE, the things that worked in the past like normal “healthy” meals with plenty of carbohydrates and different forms of exercise like longer duration cardio and high intensity physical activity, aren’t working any more. And if anything, it may be making the situation worse.
So what can be done nutrition wise?
Reduce Carbohydrates, Raise Protein and Fat
One of the primary shifts in nutritional needs during menopause involves reconsidering carbohydrate intake. Contrary to previous norms of promoting normal healthy meals rich in carbohydrates, menopausal women may benefit from a slightly lower carbohydrate intake. The goal is not to plunge into a low-carb diet but to adopt a moderate approach.
Starting with the highest level of carbohydrates that still allows for weight loss is recommended. Aim for 1.5 to 2.0 grams per kilogram of body weight, complemented by higher protein and anti-inflammatory fat sources.
Prioritize fiber-containing carbs from fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and potatoes while steering clear of overly processed or sugary options. Striking the right balance supports weight loss without triggering adverse hormonal responses.
While you're reducing carbohydrates you want to increase protein and fat. Typically for protein this is 1.5 to 1.8 grams per kilogram of body weight per day, and for fats 0.8 to 1.0 grams per kilogram of body weight per day.
Stress, Sleep, and Exercise
Menopause doesn't only bring about changes in fat storage; it's accompanied by a plethora of symptoms like sleep disturbances, fatigue, stress, mood swings, and cravings. These symptoms, often attributed to hormonal shifts, can significantly impact a woman's quality of life.
Addressing Cortisol and Stress
The decrease in progesterone levels during perimenopause contributes to heightened stress effects, impacting sleep quality. Chronically elevated cortisol levels, triggered by disturbances in the stress response, worsen symptoms. To manage stress, recommend restorative practices like yoga and meditation. Encourage spending time outdoors and incorporating low-intensity exercises like walking, which not only aid in stress reduction but also promote overall well-being.
The Weight Loss Connection
Weight loss emerges as a multifaceted solution to alleviate menopausal symptoms. A study observing post-menopausal women found that those who lost at least 10% of their body weight and maintained it for a year experienced a reduction in hot flashes and night sweats. While weight loss may seem counterintuitive amidst hormonal changes, it underscores the significance of maintaining a healthy body weight to manage symptoms effectively.
Exercise for Optimal Results
Exercise plays a pivotal role in mitigating the impact of hormonal changes. Weightlifting, often overlooked by women in this age group, is non-negotiable. Resistance training not only helps build muscle but has been shown to burn visceral and belly fat, crucial for women experiencing shifts in fat distribution. Incorporating weight training sessions two to three times a week, with an emphasis on heavier loads, contributes to overall health, including improved bone density.
To optimize the benefits of exercise, pay attention to exercise nutrition. Recommending protein intake around the workout period is vital. Advise menopausal clients to consume 15 to 20 grams of protein before exercise and a larger dose of 30 to 40 grams after their weight training sessions. This approach supports muscle protein synthesis in the context of hormonal changes.
Menopause is a transformative phase in a woman's life, and understanding the intricacies of hormonal changes can empower both nutrition coaches and clients. Navigating the challenges of fat storage, energy levels, and overall well-being during menopause requires a nuanced approach to nutrition and exercise.
By adopting a moderate carbohydrate, higher protein, and moderate fat macro breakdown, women can better manage weight and address the hormonal shifts that contribute to abdominal fat gain. Encouraging weight loss, incorporating restorative practices to manage stress, and emphasizing the importance of weightlifting and exercise nutrition further contribute to a holistic strategy for menopausal well-being.
As a nutrition coach, recognizing the individuality of each client is paramount. Tracking progress, making necessary adjustments, and promoting mindfulness around nutrition and exercise lay the foundation for success. Menopause may bring about inevitable changes, but with the right strategies, women can navigate this phase with grace, optimizing their health and vitality.