The As young women, we are taught that our bodies will transition through many hormonal seasons of life. From initiation of our menstrual cycle to childbearing years and onto the dreaded “menopausal” transition. We watch as older women in our lives endure symptoms like hot flashes, poor sleep, mood swings, and creeping weight gain. It’s so common that mainstream healthcare makes it seem like a completely acceptable and inevitable phase of misery for women. Significantly impacting the quality of life for many!
We often associate this change as something we anticipate facing in our 50s and 60s. But what if in our 30s and 40s we could be proactively taking steps throughout our perimenopausal years to ease this transition? What if we could slide into the natural phase of menopause instead of slamming into it like a brick wall? We can do just that with the proper attention to your metabolic health in your perimenopausal years.
What is the difference between perimenopause and menopause?
While variable for each woman, perimenopause is defined as the 5-10 years leading up to menopause, where menstrual cycles change in length, flow or symptoms due to inconsistent ovulation. The Menopause phase is an entire year without a menstrual cycle. Ovulation is the main event that kicks off progesterone production, and without it, hormones are on a bit of a roller coaster ride.
Low progesterone relative to circulating levels of estrogen accounts for many of the symptoms of perimenopause, commonly referred to as estrogen dominance. When estrogen is dominant, you’re more likely to experience perimenopausal/menopausal symptoms like hot flashes, anxiety, poor sleep quality, fatigue, weight gain, poor thyroid function, and depression.
So if it’s all about progesterone, how do I support progesterone production during perimenopause?
How we treat our metabolic health in our perimenopausal years will be a significant determining factor in managing menopause. However, for many women, our 30s and 40s are spent having/raising children, cycling on / off hormonal birth control, taking care of aging parents, balancing a full-time career. All while dieting and exercising themselves into the ground to get back their “pre-baby body.”
If we had to sum it up, progesterone deficiency is intimately tied to sources of stress. Stress is an imbalance of energy. There is too much metabolic demand for the energy provided through food and rest. As a result, hormonal systems compensate by slowing down processes like thyroid & sex hormone production.
Most menopausal women can tell you their symptoms are worse under times of stress. Contrary to popular belief, stress management is not eliminating stress. It’s recognizing controllable stress and creating a more resilient metabolism. If we want to support progesterone and the perimenopause transition, we must make sure we mind our metabolic health in the following areas:
Ditch the 1200 calorie diets.
While it seems logical to want to eat less and less when your weight isn’t budging, this tactic backfires when supporting your perimenopausal stress levels. Most fad diets and food tracking apps will recommend calorie intakes below your estimated basal metabolic rate (BMR), which means you are purposefully under-fueling your body’s basic metabolic needs every day. The hypothalamic-pituitary axis in the brain senses a lack of energy/resources, which further suppresses ovulation and progesterone production.
Stop the keto confusion
Your cells’ primary and preferred fuel source is glucose. When you drastically cut calories and carbs, you crave sugar – it’s an entirely healthy response of your body to tell you it needs fuel. Restriction of carbohydrates often leads to subsequent binges setting us on a trend toward insulin resistance or other progesterone deficiency disorders like PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome). Instead of demonizing all sources of carbohydrates, incorporate balanced meals throughout your day. Include high-fiber, blood sugar-stabilizing carbohydrates at every meal and watch your cravings (and sugar binges!) drastically diminish.
Fuel without fasting
As the old saying goes, breakfast is the most important meal of the day (and no, coffee is NOT a meal!). Our stress hormone, cortisol, is also our “rise and shine” hormone that wakes us up in the morning. Cortisol is released from our adrenal glands when energy (blood sugar) levels are falling. Which makes sense why it’s highest coming off of an overnight fast! Eating a balanced breakfast within 60-90 minutes of waking sets the tone for more steady energy and blood sugar responses. Perimenopausal women should focus on eating at regular intervals throughout the day and not extend beyond a 12-hour fasting window overnight.
Cut back on cardio
When it comes to managing menopause, muscle is your metabolic investment strategy. Perimenopause is a time to give your adrenals a break from the endless cardio and high-intensity interval classes. While cardiovascular exercise has its benefits, it can also increase stress hormone signaling, appetite and delay ovulation. Gone are the days of using exercise as a means to “burn calories”. It’s time to build muscle! Focusing on resistance training 2-3x/week and adequate protein intake over time helps build lean muscle. Lean muscle increases basal metabolic rate and improves insulin sensitivity.
How do I make the metabolic health transition?
If you’re in your 30’s and 40’s, it’s time to put menopause on your radar! Instead of the restrictive fad diets and two-a-day Bootcamp classes of your 20s, be protective of things draining your energy bank. Even well-intentioned “healthy” dieting and exercising behaviors can be a source of stress heading into the perimenopause and menopausal years. Learn how to switch your focus to building meals that support blood sugar balance. Hitting the gym to build muscle. And setting aside time and boundaries not to overload your plate.
Are you interested in learning how to ditch the fad diets for good and support upcoming hormonal transitions? Visit re-newinstitute.com to schedule a complimentary coaching consult with Lauryn today!
Want to learn more about managing your metabolic health? Check out this blog from Lauryn – 6 Sneaky Ways You Are Sabotaging Your Metabolic Health and Diet Success