Can Menopausal Cyclists and Runners Regain Their Competitive Edge?

October 12, 2020

Menopausal Cyclists and Runners Can Use Fueling, Strength, and Protein to Counteract Declining Hormonal Levels.

(This is one in  a series of articles based on Stacy Sim’s groundbreaking book Roar.)

Menopause is tough on all women.

And for menopausal cyclists and runners, the hormonal changes can be life-altering.

The good news is that according to Sims, changes in nutrition, including food and supplements, strength training, and exercise can help women get back their mojo and their strength.

Changes in fueling, strength training, and exercise can help menopausal cyclists and runners get back their mojo and their strength.
Changes in fueling, strength training, and exercise can help menopausal cyclists and runners get back their mojo and their strength.

Decreases in Hormonal Levels Affect EVERYTHING!

For women, the time leading up to, during, and after menopause brings about significant physical, emotional, and mental changes due to gradual reduction in estrogen and progesterone.

These changes occur over years, sometimes a decade.

  • Estrogen levels fluctuate and eventually decline. Estrogen plays a big role in metabolism, and that means a tendency to accumulate fat in your belly rather than hips and thighs.
  • Your muscle mass and strength decreases when the hormonal shift makes it tough to synthesize protein.
  • As women lose estrogen, they become more insulin resistant, which triggers more fat storage and puts you on a blood sugar roller coaster that can leave you hungry and fatigued.
  • Changes in fueling, strength training, and exercise can help menopausal cyclists and runners get back their mojo and their strength.

Menopausal Cyclists and Runners: Beware of Fructose!

Post-menopausal women have a harder time metabolizing fructose (fruit sugar) than women still in reproductive years. Post-menopausal women cannot store excess energy from fructose as fat so more fatty acids circulate in their blood, causing metabolic havoc.

Plus, for menopausal cyclists and runners, that means there’s less glucose energy when the fructose doesn’t break down.

So most sports drinks and fuels like gels are fructose aren’t being absorbed by post-menopausal women, and instead just stay in their gut, causing GI distress.

This also causes fatigue and poor recovery since the fuels weren’t being utilized.

Work on Sleep Disruptions

Both estrogen and progesterone help women get to sleep, sleep well, and sleep deeply.

As those hormones decrease, a menopausal woman can have sleep disruptions.

  • Establish regular bedtime
  • Avoid alcohol and/or caffeine at night
  • Eliminate light and screens from your bedroom
  • Keep your room cool
  • If you have sleep problems, try tart cherry juice and/or valerian root extract first
  • If those don’t work, try very small dose of melatonin

Improve Your Fueling

A relatively easy way to counter-act some of these changes is through good fueling.

The biggest change for menopausal women is the amount of protein they need. It’s a constant source of discussion with the women I work with at the gym.

Protein intake throughout the day gives women who do endurance sports and strength training the fuel their muscles need to get stronger.

Here’s a list from Sims:

  • cut down on high-glycemic carbohydrates
  • eat more fruit, veggies, and whole grains
  • increase protein (use whey protein to supplement regular food, if needed)
  • increase overall fat intake
  • include BCAAs and protein before and after workout, especially leucine.
  • keep fuel separate from hydration

Sims Recommendations for Menopausal Cyclists and Runners

  • Consider using a beta-alanine supplement to enhance blood circulation during exercise since blood vessels are less compliant
  • Cool showers and or cool-water immersion is good to facilitate blood flow for recovery since women have a harder time regulating heat.
  • Focus on hydration and hydrating before your event. Food in your pocket and hydration in your bottle.
  • Aim for fewer carbohydrates in favor of a more balanced protein/ carb/ and fat intake.
  • Since your body uses protein less effectively, and you need more overall, airm for about 15g of whey protein isolate before workout, 25g with casein after, 20 to 25g whey isolate two hours after your workout and another 10 to 15g before bed.

6. Focus on high-intensity power training that builds speed and strength.

“Roar” is Ground-Breaking For Me as a Male Coach

I’ve never dog-eared, highlighted, and made notes in the margins as much as I have with this book.

It opened my eyes to so much about women’s health, and in conversations with the women I train, many women don’t know current research about their body and their health.

I’m a dude, and obviously my experience with women’s challenges is limited to my research.

As an endurance sport and strength coach, though, I use what I learn in my research and reading to help women become as strong, fast, and powerful as ever.

If you have questions, comments, or feedback about this article for menopausal cyclists and runners, please contact me.

Thanks for reading!

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