Sunday, June 25, 2017
Do you groan when you step on the scale and see you haven't lost any weight? It's frustrating when you've been walking to lose weight and you aren't seeing the results you want. Take a step back and examine why you may not be seeing the scale move in the right direction.
Thursday, June 22, 2017
Monday, June 19, 2017
Wednesday, June 14, 2017
To be continued.......
Friday, June 9, 2017
The following post is the 4th in a 4-part series about hormones and weight gain after age 40. Parts one, two and three can be read by clicking on the links below.
- Part 1: Women And Weight Gain After 40 - Part 1
- Part 2: Women And Weight Gain After 40 - Part 2
- Part 3: Women And Weight Gain After 40 - Part 3
Part 4: Weight gain and sleep
After hot flashes and night sweats, what are the two most common complaints of peri-menopausal women? (other than husbands who can’t seem to clean up the counter or put the toilet seats down after themselves…)
I’ll give you a hint; one tends to go up and the other, down.
Weight gain (especially around-the-belly poundage) and sleep (or lack thereof).
Did you answer correctly? And did you know that the two might be related?
Study after study of sleep duration and body mass index show an inverse relationship between the two; people that get less sleep also tend to be overweight.
When we eliminate the participants whose disordered sleeping is a consequence of being overweight (recall that correlation can’t, by itself be used to infer causation; check out my post on understanding the results of human health studies if you’re unclear on the concept), we find that moderate sleep deprivation disrupts a number of hormonal systems, several of which are involved in appetite, carbohydrate metabolism and fat storage.
- Cortisol. Production of cortisol varies rhythmically throughout the day, being highest upon waking and declining to its lowest levels of the day at the time you typically go to sleep. Chronic, moderate sleep deprivation interrupts this diurnal cycle, causing end-of-the-day cortisol levels to remain high. Over time, elevated cortisol levels can lead to insulin resistance (the body’s inability to respond to insulin’s message to store nutrients), obesity and diabetes. Elevated cortisol levels are of particular concern to menopausal and peri-menopausal women, as the combination of high cortisol and low estrogen contributes to middle-of-the-body weight gain (aka the “muffin top”).
- Leptin. Secreted by fat cells, leptin is the satiety hormone, telling your brain when you’ve consumed enough calories and reducing appetite to prevent overeating. Leptin regulation is markedly affected by sleep duration. Chronic sleep deprivation results in lower circulating levels of leptin, increased appetite and higher caloric intake, even in the absence of increased physical activity (i.e., short duration sleepers have potentially more wakeful hours to be physically active; in the studies cited above, they weren’t, either because they chose not to be or their activity was restricted by the researcher). Given that many menopausal and premenopausal women experience insomnia and middle-of-the-night awakening, even those that attempt to get an adequate number of hours of sleep each night may not.
- Ghrelin. Working in opposition to leptin, ghrelin is secreted by the stomach and stimulates appetite. Short sleep duration is associated with elevated ghrelin production and increased hunger and appetite, in particular an appetite for foods high in carbohydrates (hello chocolate!). Similarly, declining estrogen levels (both during the period leading up to menopause and during the second half of the menstrual cycle in regularly cycling women) also trigger an increased appetite for sweet and starchy foods.
- Glucose tolerance. The sweet and starchy carbohydrates you consume are broken down, by the gut, into smaller, glucose molecules, to be used as fuel by our muscles and brain. Excess glucose is stored as fat, a process triggered by the release of insulin by the pancreas. Chronic short sleep duration results in a marked reduction in acute insulin response; glucose remains in the blood stream for a much longer period of time after consumption leading to a pre-diabetic state after as little as a week of sleep restriction.
So ‘yes’, in answer to the question posed in the title of this post, sleep does play a role in weight gain after 40. In particular when short sleep duration is frequent, consumption of starchy carbohydrates is chronic and estrogen levels are in decline.
The bottom line? In addition to paying attention to nutrition (less processed please) and adding strength training to your fitness schedule (build muscle to burn fat), developing good sleep habits appears to be key to long term health, happiness and quality of life during the midlife years. How are you going to improve yours?
Sunday, June 4, 2017
Saturday, June 3, 2017
Way back on May 21st I started a 4-part series about Women and weight gain after 40.
In that post, I highlighted the physical changes that many women experience during pre-menopause and the menopause transition itself. The picture I painted wasn’t pretty and many of you wrote to say that you’ve experienced the changes I described, including muscle loss, weight gain, insatiable food cravings and a belly or ‘muffin top’ that won’t go away
I outlined what I believe (based on research, my experience training many 40+ female clients and what I know works ) to be the four most effective strategies for dealing with hormonally-induced mid-life weight gain; (1) nutrition, (2) exercise, (3) sleep and (4) stress management and promised to write a post about each, in turn.
Exercise for hormonal balance
We all know that exercise is good for us.
It strengthens our heart, our lungs and our muscles. It helps to regulate blood sugars and fat storage. It improves bone density and stimulates the production of ‘feel good’ hormones. It’s essential for weight loss and weight maintenance.
Indeed, many women experiencing premenopausal weight gain increase their frequency and duration of exercise in an attempt to ‘out run’ middle-age spread.
The thing is, exercise also creates stress on the body. Not just mechanical (wear and tear on the joints) and muscular stress (aches and pains as muscles repair the micro tears created by exercise), but hormonal stress as the adrenals increase their production of cortisol to keep energy levels high and the body’s various systems running effectively.
While chronically high cortisol levels are never desirable (resulting in extreme fatigue, reduced immune response and low blood pressure, among others), they’re even less welcome in a premenopausal body whose production of progesterone is at an all-time low.
Why? The adrenals cannot make cortisol without progesterone. The more cortisol they’re required to make to offset stress, the less progesterone will be available to balance estrogen and testosterone. Without the balancing effects of progesterone, excess estrogen often leads to weight gain, in particular, an increase in the body’s central fat stores. Hello muffin-top.
Clearly we need to balance the benefits of exercise with the potential costs of elevated stress. I call this ‘exercise for hormonal balance’ and suggest the following:
- Lose the ‘more is better’ mindset. Shorter, more intense workouts will stimulate cortisol production less than longer, less intense workouts. Think cardio intervals rather than long, slow runs. If you’re having a hard time letting go of this mindset, think of how many over-40 women you know who’ve trained for a half- or full-marathon and failed to lose or maintain weight despite the volume of their training.
- Practice efficiency in exercise. Choose compound, whole body movements rather than isolation exercises. Involving more muscles in your workout not only burns more calories (both during the workout and later), it also reduces the length of your training session. I prefer metabolic circuits over body-part splits for myself and my 40+ female clients.
- Add more non-exercise movement to your day. As cliche as it sounds, taking the stairs, parking farther from the mall, carrying your groceries rather than pushing a cart, hanging the laundry to dry and washing floors all help to increase your metabolism without causing hormonal stress on your body.
- Engage in formal exercise 4 or 5 days per week. For best results, alternate strength and cardiovascular training days, keeping each workout between 30 and 45 minutes in length.
So what might this look like in practice?
(Recall that although I am a certified personal trainer, the following program is a general one, and may not be appropriate for all individuals depending on their fitness goals, current fitness level and physical abilities).
Monday: Cardio intervals on the elliptical. 30:60 s work:recovery intervals for a total of 20 minutes. Cool down and stretch.
Tuesday: Metabolic strength circuit. 12-15 repetitions of each of the following exercises, in rapid succession, 2-3 times through. Dumbbell squats, pushups, walking lunges, TRX inverted rows, barbell dead lifts and Russian twists on the stability ball
Wednesday: Active recovery. 60 minute leisurely walk and chat with a friend.
Thursday: Cardio intervals on the treadmill. 60:60 s work:recovery intervals for a total of 20 minutes. Cool down and stretch.
Friday: Metabolic strength circuit. 12-15 repetitions of each of the following exercises, in rapid succession, 2- 3 times through. Weighted squat jumps, chest press on the ball, alternating lateral lunges, assisted pull ups, single leg straight leg dead lifts and Bosu abdominal curls.
Saturday and Sunday: Active time spent with family and friends. Perhaps a yoga class for relaxation and meditation.
Remember"Today Iz The Day".