Category Archives: nutrition

Peri-menopause, and Endurance Part 2

Perimenopause and Endurance Training Part 2 

This year so far has been different. Different in lots of ways, kids growing up, and developing new interests. Me wanting to spend more time with them, and also needing to keep my endurance training going, as something purely for me. Life seems in a state of flux, and in some ways, I suppose that is what living with children is like, especially when they start changing so quickly. But I have also noticed a change in me, I don’t feel like I’m recovering as well from training, and I sometimes get depressed when I shouldn’t have PMS. A few months ago I had some pretty bad depression creeping in and just didn’t know what was wrong. I went to see my GP, and explained that I thought my hormones may be playing up, and also that I thought I may have low iron, (I did a home test and it was abnormal) Peri-menopause was dismissed, due to my age (I’m 43) but I still feel like my hormones have got something to do with what’s going on. The blood tests that I had confirmed that I was anaemic, but I’m still not feeling quite right after the course of tablets, I’ve been sweating at night and early morning, and have had heavy bleeding some months.

Hormones#2

What is Perimenopause?

Because it is difficult to diagnose peri-menopause (hormones fluctuate too much to get accurate test results) I still don’t know for sure, and that is what Peri-menopause is like. I’m 43, which puts me on the lower age for Peri-menopause, but I know that I feel different, and trying to persuade myself that I’m imagining it won’t help. The facts are, that your oestrogen starts to decline as you get older, and this causes symptoms, symptoms that may be impacted by the demands of endurance training. 

There is very little information about training through this period of your life, possibly because women experience it so differently, but there are a few things to bear in mind.

Tips to take away

Any training causes stress in the body, which causes the hormone cortisol to rise. Cortisol is an essential hormone, with many functions in the body, one of which is regulating hormones. I’m not a health practitioner but it seems to me that if cortisol is raised regularly then this will also impact on symptoms of perimenopause. Therefore it is essential to ensure you recover properly from sessions, eg doing Yoga, stretching, 5 minutes of meditation all help with reducing stress and kick-starting the recovery process.

Recovery may be impaired by poor sleep. If you are waking up feeling hot and bothered then that will impact on your recovery. There is some evidence to show that drinking Tart Cherry juice before bed can help with sleep, as it contains melatonin. Drinking it cooled may help to lower your core body temperature before bed and help with night sweats. 

As estradiol declines, recovery can be reduced (spotting a pattern!) as estradiol has anti-inflammatory properties. So eating a healthy and diverse diet to reduce inflammation may help. Avoiding refined, fried, and processed foods will help.

 

 

Stay on top of post-recovery protein intake. Your body uses protein less efficiently, so you can increase your protein intake over the day, and consider eating a small amount of protein before bed to help with recovery.

Bone mass starts to decline, so doing some plyometric and strength work helps to counter this. It doesn’t have to be much to get a benefit, a few minutes of jumping, loading your bones in a way that they are not used to, helps to stimulate bone growth. Regular strength work also translates to performance benefits, so it’s worth incorporating this into your training if you don’t already.

Knowing what to do is helpful, for an athlete who is used to a certain lifestyle and way of training. Making some adjustments, to your routines will probably be necessary, and accepting that it is a normal part of life and embracing the change is essential. 

But coming to terms with the unpredictability of this period (symptoms can last up to 10 years, whereas other people have no symptoms) will be a challenge. I’m aiming to have a supportive network around, along with seeking inspiration from older female role models. 

Remember that you are not broken, that you don’t need fixing, and be open to talking about it.

Useful links

https://www.fitnchips.com/2019/04/dr-stacy-sims-talks-menopause/

https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/ob-gyn/gynecology/menopause-blog/january-2017/menopause-transition-don-t-miss-this-important-pre.aspx

https://www.zrtlab.com/blog/archive/menopause-all-in-your-head

https://www.precisionnutrition.com/feel-your-best-during-menopause

Perimenopause and Endurance Athletes

Perimenopause and Endurance Athletes

So, after another sleepless night, I think I may be perimenopausal. I’ve noticed a pattern of depression before my period, which is out of sync with how I normally feel. I had noticeable heart palpitations a few months ago, and have been getting hot at night sometimes.

To be honest I don’t really want to admit to it, because, well, the word menopausal has many negative connotations to me. Maybe I just don’t want to admit that I’m getting older, just yet; However I also know that until I accept this part of myself then I’m not going to be feeling more positive any time soon!

During the last few months, I have found that there is information for women out there, but as symptoms can be so different. I could attribute my feelings and symptoms to so many other things. It feels a bit like being in the dark. I have talked to friends about it, and we all feel a little bit confused.

Symptoms of perimenopause can vary but here are a few of them

  • Changing periods – length of cycle, duration of period
  • Hot flushes
  • Night sweats
  • Insomnia
  • Fatigue – tiredness or a loss of zest
  • Anxiety, mood swings, irritability and depression
  • A feeling of being invisible and a loss of confidence
  • Decreased libido or sex drive
  • Vaginal dryness
  • Breast tenderness
  • Bloating
  • Increased PMS
  • Urinary leakage or urgency
  • Aches and pains in muscles and joints
  • Heart palpitations

Perimenopause and Endurance Athletes

What to do?

The last few months I have found myself in a very dark place, at times, and its hard to know what to do about it. Standard advice for perimenopausal women is to get your nutrition right, exercise, get enough sleep etc, but there is not much information out there for women who are already doing these things, and who are also training for endurance events. The standard advice of exercising may not be the best option here. If you are training a lot, then your stress levels may be raised, so it might not actually be the best thing for someone who is already pushing themselves close to their limits.

It may be more beneficial to incorporate a bit more recovery, and some strength work at this time in your life.

A lot of information is also for menopausal women, who have already stopped their periods. So what happens in-between? It seems to be a kind of no mans land, possibly because everyone is so different in how they experience this transition. It makes it difficult to study. There is no way of knowing if you are perimenopausal, as the tests that can detect it are based on hormone levels, which fluctuate throughout the month anyway.

Future research

It would be interesting to see some research in this area, but I’m pretty sure that perimenopausal women and endurance are not going to be the focus of many scientific studies in the near future. Talking about it can help us to realise that we are not the only ones going through it, and may help you to feel supported. I’d be interested to hear anyone else’s experience during this time, so feel free to get in touch if you have any ideas or information that you want to share.

If you’re looking for some more resources I have listed a few below, and you can read about my experience at a race when I was suffering with symptoms here

NHS site

Ride strong through the menopause, cycling magazine

The British Menopause Society

Why diets won’t work

why diets won't work

Why Diets won’t work

When someone says “I need to go on a diet”, my heart sinks. Why? Because going on a diet implies a short term, quick fix. Think about the new year magazine articles promoting detoxing, and going alcohol free. How often have you tried one of these diets or detoxes and then gone back to old habits, sometimes making your habits even worse!

Why does this happen? Because eating is a habit, and habits are hard to change. If you make extreme changes, for example by going on a “detox” or diet, then you will be able to stick to it for a short time (for the length of the diet/detox) then you will inevitably go back to what worked for you in the past. What you eat is determined by so many factors that it needs a bit more thought than just blindly following a plan.

How can I improve my diet?

Instead of going on a diet. I would encourage you to think about what you are eating, and ask yourself some questions

  • Why am I eating? bored, hungry, upset?
  • Am I really hungry?
  • Is it a good choice of food for me right now?
  • Is this going to make me feel better or worse?

This is just a start, your diet is a complex thing and everyone has different priorities and feelings about food. There are no bad/unclean foods. The “clean eating” trend encourages obsession about certain types of foods, and in my opinion, encourages eating disorders.

If you truly want to see change in your diet then be more aware of your eating habits, and realise that there is no quick fix. Change happens gradually, start with one sustainable change and then others will follow, and remember that small changes add up to big changes in the long term.

If you are interested in nutrition advice, then have a look at my packages here