Female Menopausal Cyclists and Runners Can Still Improve Speed, Strength, and Performance

Changes in nutrition, strength training, and exercise can help menopausal cyclists and runners improve speed, strength, and performance.

Three Things to Consider for Everyday Athletes in Menopause

1. Work on Sleep Disruptions. Reduced levels of estrogen and progesterone can cause sleep disruptions.

2. Improve Your Fueling. A relatively easy way to counteract some of these changes is through good fueling, especially adding more protein into your diet throughout the day.

3. Beware of Fructose! Decreasing hormone levels make fructose harder to digest.

Menopausal cyclists and runners do not have to give up dreams of PRs and adventure goals. 

For menopausal everyday athletes the hormonal changes can be life-altering.

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

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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.

Menopausal Cyclists and Runners Can 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 of nutritional information for menopausal women rom 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.
  • Focus on high-intensity strength training that builds speed and strength.

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