Find out what you really need when it comes to working out when you enter mid-life and how much protein you need to keep your muscles healthy during menopause and beyond.
Disclosure: Crunchy Menopause is a professional review site that receives compensation from the companies whose products I review on this website. Each product has been tested thoroughly and has been given high marks only if it really is the best. Crunchy Menopause is independently owned and the opinions expressed here are my own. That means, if you purchase something through one of my links, I get money for it. ~ Sincerely, Kat
As we age, our muscles becomes weak, especially during menopause. We focus on eating right, and keeping fit, but what exactly does keeping fit mean?
What level of exercise will maintain our muscles to the point where we will be able to do the things we want to do as we age?
If you ask a young person, they will tell you about their extensive work out program and tell you it’s exactly what you need.
But is it?
My younger self went through the ‘Flash Dance’ craze in the 80’s where intense cardio was the norm. I remember the leg warmers and the neon bodysuits that I wore to my aerobic classes.
Did that make me fit?
I don’t know. Nowadays I question everything. Was all that aerobic exercise actually good for my heart? Probably, but sometimes I think people overdo it. I think I overdid it back in the 80’s with my aerobic classes.
Today, I see the same trend happening all over again. Intense workouts seem to be popular and young women make it look so easy. In fact, the premise behind the intense workout is to sweat, as if somehow, sweating alone can make us healthy.
But we sweat every day when we’re in menopause without benefit, so that can’t be true, can it?
Sure, there are different reasons to sweat, but what is really going on when we sweat? And why is that supposed to be good for us? Why is sweating when you work out, considered a must? Is that the only way our hearts can be healthy?
It is a must for older women?
As I began to question this sweating theory, I was surprised to find some unusual answers.
Recently The New York Times published an article about sweating, saying that it produced no health benefits whatsoever. The only purpose for sweating, according to this article, is to cool down the body.
You can find the article by clicking here.
You can decide for yourself.
The idea that the more we sweat, the more toxins you release, is also questionable. Perhaps there is a tiny bit of toxic materials in our sweat, but not a lot.
Sweating should never be a barometer for health.
In fact, sweating can be the first sign of a heart attack!
Or just menopause.
According to another New York Times article, the toxins excreted by our sweat glands are so miniscule that we hardly benefit from sweating at all. Our kidneys and liver do a far better job at detoxifying our bodies than sweating ever can.
Click here to read the article that supports that.
And so, my questions go on.
How then, pray tell, does sweating benefit us?
Is it good for our hearts?
I can’t count how many times I’ve been told that I need to push my body to the point of sweating for at least thirty minutes a day to reap the benefits. This may be true to a point, to get our cardiovascular system pumping blood, but beyond that may be dangerous, depending on your circumstance and who you are.
Studies show that extreme sports can harm your heart, causing arrhythmias, valve damage, and murmurs, to mention a few.
During menopause, or for older adults, we are often given fitness misinformation. For example, we are told to work out to stay healthy, but that’s not the complete story, or even necessarily the best advice.
So, to what extent should be work out?
Too much exercise can actually throw our hormones out of balance, but too little won’t get our hearts pumping enough to keep us healthy.
We all know that exercise is good for us, and that’s not what I’m disputing. What I’m saying is as we age, we need a healthy balance. Exercise in moderation and do what’s right for you, not necessarily what the trend is.
That doesn’t mean an intense workout is for you.
What we forget, is that exercise is stress.
For the most part, stress is good for us. We want our body to work hard to restore itself by releasing stress hormones to restore torn muscles, exhausted respiratory and cardiovascular systems, and make us stronger than we were before.
That’s how it works.
But, throw menopause into the mix.
Menopause is one of the biggest body stressors out there, and when you add that stress to a workout, you could have a recipe for disaster.
Your already stressed body, during exercise, is in double stress mode now if you do it too intensely. The same idea goes with pregnancy, postpartum, and breastfeeding. Your body is already stressed, so you have to be careful how much more stress you add to it, so you don’t have a stress overload.
And if you are under any other kind of stress, like job stress, or some form of mental stress, you are even more sensitive to stress overload.
Some would say you need to exercise to relieve stress, and that is correct, but only to a point. We have to have a balance and that depends on the amount of stress we already have, and the kind of stress your body is under.
You wouldn’t tell a pregnant woman to go rock climbing up a mountain because it’s going to help her with her body stress. That’s ridiculous. Same rules should apply to women during menopause, or the elderly. We can’t all run marathons, climb Mount Everest, or compete in a weight lifting completion.
Some do, but it’s not the norm, nor should it be.
Remember, when it comes to exercise, balance is the key.
So, if we shouldn’t overdo it when we exercise, how do we maintain muscle health as we age?
Weight lifting helps, but once again, only to a certain extent.
When I hurt my shoulder a few years ago in a car accident, I spent a year in physio. The doctor worked on my arm every week until it finally got to a point where I felt comfortable using it again.
I started going to the gym thinking weights would help it.
The doctor warned me not to push myself too hard.
But I didn’t listen.
Little by little I started working my shoulder by using weights. At first I felt it was helping, but then ended up back in the doctor’s office with pain again. The doctor smiled and told me he warned me. He said weights are overrated.
We do more harm than good with weight lifting.
Sure there are some that master weight lifting or have a personal trainer and enter completions, but they aren’t the norm. In fact, many bodybuilders have joint and muscle problems once they become older.
I know some.
So, if you shouldn’t overdo it with exercise as you age, and you shouldn’t overdo it with weights as you age, and sweating doesn’t have much health effect. And you eat right. What else is there to maintain good muscle health as we age?
What are we older adults supposed to do?
Something I recently discovered is protein powder. Up to this point, I never really considered it. I always dismissed it thinking it was far better to just eat more meat and focus on eating a balanced diet.
But can we get enough protein from our diets?
That is the question.
The average 50 year old woman needs to eat 1-1.2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. That’s a lot. That means if you weigh 140 lbs – 150 lbs, you need to get at least 40-75 grams of protein a day. And considering a large chicken breast the size of your palm, gives you about 20 grams of protein, you’d have to scarf down at least three of those.
Who can do that? Who even wants to?
In a day and age when portion size is so important to prevent overeating and weight gain, how can we get enough protein every day? Especially those who don’t eat meat.
Perhaps you could calculate how much protein you’re eating in your regular (non-meat) foods, and do the numbers game, but for me, that’s just tiresome. I tried it for a while, but it gets old fast, even with apps to help you calculate. And mostly, I don’t want to be burdened by that.
In order to eat enough protein in a day, you’d have to constantly eat. For me, that is simply not going to happen. I’ve been doing intermittent fasting for a few years to maintain my weight during menopause. So eating more is counter productive. If you want to read about my fasting journey, you can check it out here.
For me, taking a scoop of whey protein powder with my meal every day is easy and effective. When I started doing this, I discovered many changes in my body almost immediately. Other women may have different results, but this is my perspective.
My once sagging batwing arms started taking shape. And I did nothing.
I wasn’t going to the gym, I wasn’t doing resistance training.
My muscles just started smartening up, the moment I started feeding them.
And it wasn’t that I wasn’t eating meat. I love meat. I have never been a vegetarian, though I do respect those who are. I just don’t agree that eating meat is bad for your health, especially as you age. I think we’ve all been brainwashed, but that’s just my opinion. Don’t beat me up. I have a lot of opinions, and who’s to say I’m right or wrong. But one thing I do know, is meat provides protein, and that’s what we need right now!
It’s difficult to get enough plant based protein.
Difficult, but not impossible. That doesn’t mean it can’t be done.
It’s just not my choice.
As I started seeing changes in my muscles, like stiffening, and strengthening, I discovered other benefits. My muscles were not as sore anymore.
Because I sit at a desk all day, muscle and shoulder pain is a reality.
Sometimes I come home in such pain, I can barely function. I’ve tried many things to alleviate it, but nothing seemed to take it away completely. I’ve tried natural remedies that temporarily fix the problem, like turmeric/curcumin, and magnesium, but the pain would always return. Albeit not as intense, but it would still come back.
Don’t get me wrong, I love my natural remedies, but something else was going on, and I didn’t realize it was a lack of protein in my diet that was causing muscle pain.
Under normal circumstances, one might just think to work out more, or stretch to relieve muscle pain, but seldom even consider that they might need to supplement with protein powder.
Most of us think it will make us fat.
Most of us think it’s just for competitive bodybuilders.
I was surprised when I realized protein powder was benefiting a middle-aged woman like me. And it didn’t make me fat either. It made me lose weight.
I had read a great deal about the benefits of protein powder. I didn’t believe all the hype until I actually tried it for myself and saw my own body benefit.
Whey protein powder should be in every menopausal woman’s arsenal!
I also saw changes in my neck. I know that’s weird to say, but perhaps that’s one of the more profound changes I noticed. Before protein powder, my neck would wobble willy-nilly all over the place. It simply wasn’t strong. Neither was my back.
Sometimes, my neck felt out of place and I would experience mild lightheadedness. At those times I just figured my neck was out again. My back would go out regularly too.
What I didn’t realize was that because my shoulders were extremely sore at those times when my neck felt bad and I experienced light-headedness, the muscles were cramping my nerves around my neck and head due to tightness. Same thing with my back issues.
I didn’t put it together at first. I thought my shoulder tightening, back issues, and muscle pain, was unrelated to my neck issues.
Then I started taking whey protein powder, and the shoulder pain stopped.
My neck issues stopped.
I was shocked. No more bobble head. No more light-headedness. No more throwing my back out. My issues had become non-existent by simply increasing my protein.
It clearly was what my body needed. My muscles were literally crying for protein and I didn’t even know it!
So that is what I give it now.
I’ve tried many kinds of protein powders, and found whey to be the best. I’ve tried protein powders from health food stores that are deemed healthier for you.They’re great, but are very expensive. There are also generic brands. Vegetarian brands. Brands with added fibre and plant based. All good. Protein is protein.
But my favorite is whey protein because it works for me. This is a picture of me with my new best friend, Whey!
You have to find out what works for you!
You can pay a fortune for protein powders at a health food store, or even in your local department store, but buying online is a great option that saves you money.
You can even buy in bulk because protein powder last a long time without going bad.
For me, it has been one of the best natural remedies for menopause symptoms.
I hope it will be for you too if you decide to try it!
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