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Menopausal Weight Gain: Is it Really Inevitable?

Posted by Monica Monedero on September 18, 2010 at 5:26 PM

Excerpts from American College of Sports medicine CEU training;

 

Menopause is a transition period in many aspects.  It is associated by many women with an undesirable change in body composition, as well as a redistribution of fat from the periphery to the center (particularly abdominal fat which is considered the most unhealthy); In general, body composition shifts include greater fat mass and less lean tissue for postmenopausal women. 

 

Menopause of course really does mean the decline of estrogen levels.  But does it really mean weight gain?  Not necessarily according to studies from the American College of Sports Medicine.

 

It may have more to do with aging than menopause.

 

Energy Balance;

Energy balance is simply how body weight is related to the difference between energy intake and energy expenditure.  Bottom line; calories in=calories out!

 

But guess what? BMR (basal metobolic rate-; the energy expended for basic body functions, and the thermic effect for food) declines approximately 2% to 3% per decade. 

 

It is not clear if menopause specifically influences this rate of decline.  One factor influencing the BMR is the amount of fat-free mass.  Muscle tissue has somewhat higher energy requirement than fat tissue.  Unfortunately, losses in muscle mass are the norm with aging, as body composition shifts to a higher percentage of fat. 

 

Since the thermic effect of food is part of the BMR, your diet requirements also decline with age.  In general, meals with more carbohydrates and protein elevate energy expenditure following the meal to a greater extent than a high fat meal.

 

Although the BMR and the thermic effect of food can differ over time, the energy expenditure due to physical activity can vary widely and potentially be a major factor related to the total daily energy expenditure.  Sedantary individuals may expend as little as 15% of calories in physical activity (daily activites etc..).  In contrast, highly active individuals may expend up to 50% to 60% of calories taken in on a daily basis to fuel their activities!  Good reason to get active...NOW!

How much exercise is needed? The amount of physical activity needed to prevent weight gain in adults seems to be between 150 and 250 minutes per week of moderate-intensity physical activity.  I.e. brisk walking.  Thus, if a person planned a walking program 5 days per week, the goal time would be 30 to 50 minutes per day.

 

To actually promote weight loss?  ACSM suggests that higher amounts of physical activity (moderate to vigorous) may  be necessary.  (>250 minutes per week)  Higher amounts may be necessary to maintain weight loss (not regain the weight). Translation=spend everyday getting some type of exercise...i.e. walking etc..Then, spend a minimum of 4x per week doing a vigorous exercise that includes some type of strength/resistance training (to make up for the loss of muscle due to natural age related decline, and thereby help better metabolize fat).

 

And finally, although menopause may not be a direct reason for weight gain, we all know how hormornes can affect our moods.  And what do some of us do to help with mood swings?  Eat and drink of course!

 

Try this; find some transitional foods, drinks and behaviors that will help you get through these times until you are able to better control your appetite by finding alternative, healthy behaviors to combat these times. 

 

Suggestions;

 

instead of; going through the drive through...have an ice chest ready with your favorite fruit, nuts or low calorie snack ready and waiting knowing that you will be hungry on your way home from work

 

instead of; meeting at a bar with your friends...suggest you all go on a bike ride, play a game of volleyball at a park, or take laps around the mall for a set number of times with the first one to finish (the winner!) getting everyone to chip in for their low-cal, no sugar added smoothie. Did you know Jamba Juice has a happy hour at many of their locations?  And, make sure you order from their low-cal or all fruit menu!

 

It is encouraging to consider that small and sustained changes in modifiable behaviors could prevent further weight gain, including adjustments in dietary intake, increased physical acivity, and decreased sitting time. 

 

Is weight gain at menopause inevitable? The answer clearly is no!

Source; American College of Sports Medicine...CEUs training. Author; Barbara Bushman, Ph.D, FACSM who is a professor at Missouri State University where her research focuses on the role of exercise for women throughout the life span., particularly the benefit of exercise at menopause.

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