So you’re approaching or already past menopause. Are you doomed to carrying fat until the day you dirt nap? Is losing a few sets of fat-filled love handles resting on your belly is impossible now?
Although losing weight during menopause may seem like an arduous task, you’re not doomed. For the most part, the same methods apply that most people find effective.
Before I open up Pandora’s box with 4 methods, you need to understand the problem. What happens to your body during menopause that turns your life into a fat-gaining nightmare?
Why Does Menopause Make It So Hard To Lose Weight?
You can assume menopause if you haven’t had a menstrual cycle for 12 months. That’s when you may find it very hard to drop fat from your frame. In fact, you may accumulate some extra fat even if you don’t change your lifestyle whatsoever.
This mostly comes down to your hormonal production turning off. Both estrogen and progesterone drop to very low levels. Estrogen plays a vital role here and when it drops1:
- Fat patterning changes:
A woman‘s normal fat patterning is to have less abdominal visceral fat (fat that wraps around your abdominal organs). The reduction in estrogen levels results in higher visceral fat accumulation.
Here comes a brand new set of fat-filled love handles!
- Muscle mass loss accelerates2:
The drop in muscle mass means less daily activity, which means fewer calories burned, which means more muscle loss, which means fewer calories burned which…You got the idea.
The cycle that drives me bugshit bonkers knowing that people still keep ignoring resistance training.
- The loss of bone mineral density occurs3:
That’s one reason why women suffer osteopenia and osteoporosis4 more than us, men do.
Just like with muscle mass loss, this means less daily activity, which means fewer calories burned, which means more muscle loss, which means more fat gain.
Once again, the cycle that gives me a mild myocardial infarction thinking of people slothing on the couch instead of exercising.
- Fat mobilization gets impaired5:
At menopause, a woman’s body becomes less efficient at mobilizing (using) stored fat for energy needs. This can be easily fixed by supplementing with caffeine. More about that in a sec.
- Insulin resistance develops6:
With menopause, women often become insulin resistant to some degree. This can make losing weight more difficult because cells in your muscles, fat, and liver fail to respond normally to the hormone insulin.
Not complete obesity but some unwanted fat accumulation is definitely possible.
- Sleep becomes inadequate7:
Many women have trouble sleeping during menopause. Poor/insufficient sleep is linked to higher calorie intake8 and, thus, weight gain.
This can be offset by supplementing with melatonin. More about that in another sec.
These are the key factors why weight loss during menopause becomes harder and might make you pray for a massive meteor strike. You might also think it’s because your metabolism slows down like, dramatically.
Truth is, the drop in resting metabolic rate (RMR) during menopause is very small in the grand scheme of things.
Your metabolism slows down only by 14 calories per year or 140 calories per decade. That’s a bite of a banana, a medium banana, or 30 extra minutes of exercise.
So your metabolism is fine. The problem is, among others, that you become less physically active. Which brings me to my 4 recommendations for losing weight during menopause:
1. A Calorie Deficit & Physical Activity
Your body doesn’t fuck around. It’ll not tap into stored fat unless you consume fewer calories than you burn. You have to be in a calorie deficit to lose weight. It’s non-negotiable.
A metric shit-ton of studies shows that postmenopausal women lose fat just fine so long as a calorie deficit is applied.
I’ve written so much about calorie intake to lose weight that writing more about it would make me want to start taking a set of steel toes to people’s shins. Read this or start my 8 Week Nutrition Education Program.
Next, strength training is CRITICAL for postmenopausal women9. It’s non-negotiable too. It’ll help you avoid age-related muscle loss and limit bone mineral density loss.
Get yourself a properly heavy resistance training program (6-12 repetitions for compound exercises). No half-assing your training, m’kay?
2. Cardio & Caffeine
Remember when I said the reduction in estrogen levels results in higher visceral fat accumulation and impairment of fat mobilization? You can easily offset this with cardio and a few shots of caffeine.
Is there anything caffeine can’t do?
Visceral fat is highly metabolically active and your body releases it pretty easily. With a calorie deficit and aerobic exercise (it’s better than weight training for that matter), visceral fat comes off quite easily.
3. Improve Insulin Sensitivity With Diet & Exercise
As I said, with menopause, women become insulin resistant and this makes losing weight more challenging. The good news is that you can offset this with exercise and a proper diet.
Strength training is the best way to improve insulin sensitivity11. That’s why I said it’s non-negotiable. I mean, really, if you’re still not convinced of the importance of strength training, I don’t know what to tell you.
When it comes to diet, you want to adopt one that’s a higher protein (at least 1.4 g/kg per day), moderate carbohydrates (30-40% of total calories), and moderate fat (30-35%).
The combination of strength training and sufficient protein intake is going to be the solution to almost all of your problems.
4. Improve Sleep With Melatonin
Gajillion studies show that insufficient sleep results in weight gain. So I dunno, sort that out, maybe?
Melatonin is a hormone that regulates your sleep/wake cycle, is non-toxic, not addictive, and is not associated with any side effects. Anywhere from 1-3 mg 30-60 minutes before bed will get you some heavenly sleep15.
- Prioritize a calorie deficit. Adopt a higher protein, moderate carbohydrate, moderate fat diet.
- 2-4 heavy weight lifting sessions per week. Keep it heavy and challenging and prioritize compounds lifts such as squats, lunges, hip thrusts, barbell bench press, deadlifts, chin-ups/pulldowns. 6-12 repetition range will prevent from losing muscle and bone mineral density.
- 2+ 20-40-minute cardio sessions per week16. While cardio has zero effect on preserving muscle mass and bone mineral density it can help with losing visceral fat. Take caffeine prior to the cardio session too.
- Consider supplementing with 1-3 mg of melatonin to improve sleep quality and 100-200 mg of caffeine to improve fat mobilization.
Ladies, losing weight during menopause gets harder. I know, it sucks, but you’re awesome so smile. There are menopausal women participating in bodybuilding shows, goddammit. It’s not impossible.
It can be done as long as you nail the big rocks like regular exercise, calorie deficit, and a higher protein diet. None of this “I’m going on keto or a 60-day juice fast” crap.
And if you want me to be at your side the entire way and help you avoid the scams and pitfalls, consider hiring me to coach you, what do you say?