I was running – yes running in the park this morning, well actually doing 3 x 4 minute runs as fast as I could do them without dying. The song with the lyrics “The things we do for love” (10cc, 1976) kept on spinning in my brain as an earworm. Shows my age right?
I started the running schedule around November last year in preparation for the Rakino “Fun Run” a coast to coast and back again run that happens every New Years eve morning. Usually around 130 people run, including kids and dogs. There are impressive cups for the winners of each category. (Rakino is where we have a little holiday bach, a peaceful off the grid escape from the city)
As you can see Rakino is a very small Island, the run is around 4 k long. The hills are killers. So I wouldn’t really describe it as ‘fun’! My goal was to beat last year’s time. I did by a minute. I was hardly fast though, however due to the small number of entrants in the women’s 45 – 60 age group, and the speedy runners not taking part, I managed to win much to my surprise.
Here is me with my very impressive cup. This is the first running race I have ever won in my life, actually the first anything I’ve won in any sport.
Which brings me to menopause and the things we do for love.
I’ve written how tedious I have found menopause, the transition stage in particular where I had a big drop-off in testosterone, the weight gain, especially around the middle, the hot flushes. I did update about a year ago but thought another was due as I’ve been further experimenting.
I’m now 6 years post menopause and things are definitely better
Re the hormonal stuff – if menopause supplements don’t help you, (I tried a few different ones and they did help a little) I’d suggest bio-identical hormones. I recommend you talk to a doctor who is familiar with testing and prescribing bio-identical hormones. However they are also freely available online – for example from Iherb, creams with progesterone and estrogen. Progest-E was recommended to me as well. (Note – New Zealand does not allow importation of hormone creams). There are however a number of doctors in NZ who will test and prescribe bio-identical hormones, they are made in Auckland at the compounding pharmacy. I’m using a little daily and definitely reduces the hot flushes.
Post menopause diet
I gain weight far more easily than I did when I was younger, and it is harder to shift once gained.
I still follow a mainly paleo diet – lots of plants, highish protein. A little dairy – usually unpasteurised French Brie. Legumes are fine for me, and I think they are pretty healthy if prepared properly – soaking and cooking well. This diet keeps my auto-immune issues at bay, particularly joint inflammation. Fats of choice are monounsaturated – olive oil, nuts, avocado, I don’t add much if any fat to meals. I’ve noticed weight gain when I do.
My diet now is high in protein, lowish – moderate in fat, and moderate in carbohydrate.
Experiment! Some women swear by a ketogenic diet, some by intermittant fasting, others find increasing vegetable carbs and decreasing fat works best. My own experience is that appetite regulation is critical, and for me that means protein and plenty of fibre. I eat around 2 grams per kg net protein per day. My current weight is 52 kg, and I eat about 100 grams net protein per day spread over 3 meals. I usually have egg white protein powder and collagen in a berry and green smoothie or ‘porridge’ for breakfast. I eat fish or seafood at least every second day at another meal and poultry or meat at the third meal. Breakfast has 40 grams protein the other 2 meals 30 grams (approx). In my post on protein you can find out how much protein to eat to get 30 grams. To help – I’ve put together this chart which shows how to get protein from different sources. As you can see some protein sources have a lot of fat or carb calories before you get the 30 gram amount.
I find supplements useful, I take a multivitamin daily – I use Life Extension Foundation mix, however use a 1/4 of the dose they suggest. I continue to take OmegaRx2, (New Zealanders can purchase OmegaRx2 here) as the difference in energy and reduction of inflammation are noticeable. Omega 3 can be hit or miss, much on the shelf is oxidised and poor quality. I take extra vitamin D especially in the winter to keep my levels around 100nmol/L (40 for those in USA). Vitamin A either as a supplement or liver (My gene test tells me I don’t convert beta carotene to Vitamin A well), vitamin K2 – (this brand), K2 facilitates the calcium being deposited in your bones and keeps it out of your arteries. Something I want to avoid as my grandmother and father both had blocked arteries in their mid 50’s. I take CO-enzyme Q10, the ubiquinol form, as levels drop off as we age, and a vitamin E with mixed tocopherols and tocotrienols (Did you know there are 8 different forms of vitamin E and typical vitamin E capsules only have one form?). Magnesium helps me get a deep sleep – I’ve found magnesium orotate to be excellent, it helps well-being also. Plus a little 5HTP to help make serotonin/melatonin. I mostly sleep very well now. If you have trouble sleeping – here are a number of things that help in this post.
(Please note – this is not a prescription for you – this is what I found works for me. I recommend professional advice prior to starting a supplement regime)
Postmenopause exercise – Powerlifting and high intensity training
The other reason besides satiety that I eat more protein is to maximise my muscle strength and recovery. About 18 months ago I decided to give powerlifting a go. In 2009 I started doing CrossFit, however due to niggling injuries and finding I was not recovering well from the long intense sessions, I stopped in 2012, got physiotherapy for the niggles and continued doing weights including deadlifts and backsquats at the local gym. I was guided by my body in terms of length of workouts and recovery. My niggles have all gone, and one nutrient I credit is collagen. I take around 10-15 grams a day – in New Zealand I purchase it from NZ protein.
To keep me focussed – I work with a personal trainer once a week for 1/2 to 1 hour. This keeps me consistent, and she spots me on heavy squats and benchpress. I’ve been putting my max weights into strengthlevel.com and this is were I am now – pretty damn good for my age and weight.
Considering I’ve never been a sporty person or showed any promise or talent at anything physical, this progress is encouraging! I’m truly shocked at how strong I have been able to get.
There are multiple positives to doing strength training as you age, in fact, in my opinion, it is imperative:
Maintaining muscle mass and strength has profound metabolic effects such as maintaining insulin sensitivity and burning visceral fat (internal abdominal fat). Keeping strong makes everything easy – such as this – getting up from the floor without hands – a test for strength and flexibility that predicts health in old age (Sit to stand test):
Being strong is awesome, being able to lift heavy stuff like bags of compost into the car without asking the lads at the plant shop. Hauling heavy boxes and suitcases.
Strong arms mean you can easily do full body pushups:
Tight muscles and a pert bum. Your body looks and feels years younger. I’m stronger now than at any other time of my life.
Strong bones and straight back. See this earlier post on the powerful effect of lifting in reversing osteoporosis in post menopausal women.
High intensity work
This brings me back to my run this morning. Since I started doing the high intensity runs – about twice a week, my waistline has gone down. Clothes I couldn’t fit into since pre-menopause actually fit now. I’m not sure for sure if it’s the interval running, however it is the only thing I’ve changed recently.
I don’t particularly enjoy my run when I do it, but after all the puffing and sweat, the positive feelings, the increased mental focus and sense of well-being make it worthwhile.
So ‘the things we do for love’ – seemed and appropriate song when I was puffing and sweating while running.
Let me talk about the love thing:
I love my body, I marvel at what the human body is capable of, I love my brain (I wouldn’t mind being a bit brainier, and notice my memory is not as sharp as it used to be, but it does a pretty good job most of the time). I respect my body and mind. Respecting and loving ones body is a bit like loving your child, some of the things you do to keep it functioning at it’s best take consistency, and a bit of hard work, they are not always fun at the time. However in the big picture – it’s worth it.
And the thing is – the more I treat my body well, giving it nutritious food, avoiding foods that don’t work for me, making it strong, and making it run, the more it pays me back for treating it with (tough) love. Mental wellbeing, strength and no inflammation or pain give me quality of life that I don’t take for granted.