Why do we need a different approach to exercise as we approach perimenopause?

Tired, itchy, can’t sleep, anxious, dry, irritable, emotional, angry, brain fog, night sweats….What is happening to me? 

If like me you’re looking to gain some control of your hormones and health and you’re bored of so much conflicting information, here’s my super simple explanation with my top 7 ways to regain control!

According to Dr Amy Shah we have 2 sisters that have been causing us trouble since hitting puberty.. sister 1 is called Oestrogen .. she’s lively, fun, full of energy, smart, focused and sociable. Sister 2 is called progesterone.. now she is way calmer than her crazy sister, she’s level headed, makes good decisions, keeps you safe, in control and grounded! She likes an early night and centres your nervous system.

So.. all of our lives these 2 sisters have been controlling our emotions.. every month the 2 of them rise and fall.. which is why many of us experience PMT .. because every month these sister hormones fall away just before your period causing you to feel tired, irritable and emotional!

During perimenopause (average age 45) this PMT simply extends for a much longer period of time.. and it’s the fluctuations which lead you to think.. OMG what on earth is happening to me?! 

There’s also a 3rd sister who doesn’t live with the other 2… but she is the masculine leader.. testosterone .. think energy, vitality, strength and sex! She pipes up around ovulation in the hope that you get yourself pregnant ! 👌🏻and yes.. she also declines and fluctuates during perimenopause. 

So.. these 3 sisters start to go a bit nuts from the age of 45! They become super unpredictable and start to fluctuate wildly .. some months more than others..and they can do this for 10 long years creating all sorts of havoc in the mean time. Some months it may be your sleep that goes off.. other times it’s your focus.. temp control, anxiety etc.

Symptoms like brain fog, mood changes, tiredness lack of zest are caused by sister oestrogen dropping her levels of hormones.. and symptoms like anxiety, sleeplessness, going a bit mental 🤪 are caused by sister progesterone dropping her levels. Low sex drive? That will be sister testosterones no show! 

Because sister oestrogen isn’t so bouncy our energy levels tend to drop and we also can become less active.. which doesn’t help with weight gain. As a result we often panic .. and begin calorie counting ourselves into a living hell taking on smaller and smaller amounts of food but never getting anywhere! 

Anything else? Oh yeah.. insulin resistance incoming… which basically means our bodies begin to resist glucose and store the energy as fat instead.. always around the middle! Perfect 👌🏻

Ok.. so that’s what’s happening in a simplified nutshell.. but what do we do? Quite frankly.. I’m not accepting this, and neither should you! 

Natural path.. 

  1. Prioritise sleep. Put yourself to bed early ..black out, cool room.. create a bed time routine. No phones and try a meditation before bed. I use Insight Timer (free app) Take 300mg magnesium glycinate.. this is a game changer. Start your day by getting out into sunlight to set your circadian rhythm. You can’t necessarily rely on your body anymore so take intervention and treat sleep as your number 1 priority! 
  2. Exercise daily (even if that’s just going for a walk ) Every piece of science prioritises strength training as muscle is the armour to protect you from so many of these fluctuations. The more muscle you have the higher your metabolic rate. Try to avoid HIT at the latter half of your cycle when you are less stress resilient because of higher levels of cortisol. (And less progesterone to calm you down) This is why we include strength work in every single session on Nickys Bootcamp.
  3. Increase your NEAT (non exercise activity ) ie steps each day. Keep moving, stay active.
  4. Sugar is your enemy. Protein and fibre are you new best friends. Don’t reduce your food intake by counting calories, eat well with the right nourishing whole foods. So many clients are scared of protein drinks .. the reality is they really do help put on muscle mass which lights up our metabolism. Supernova Living is the best (use code Nicky) Every meal try to prioritise protein and fibre. 
  5. Avoid alcohol which is a depressant and full of sugar. It really isn’t your friend any more.. sorry to say.. try and get it boxed into the 80:20 rule! 
  6. Switch your milk to soy (contains oestrogen) other foods which contain oestrogen are seeds (so make the granola recipe ) chickpeas, vegetables edamame beans.
  7. Intention setting daily and mindfulness exercises will also really help calm down your nervous system. Feeling anxious? Try breath work. 

Eventually you will hit the menopause (when you no longer have any periods) by then the sisters have tired themselves out and stay so low that you no longer get the fluctuations. However, the problem is that because these hormones are now low, we are more at risk from other inflammatory diseases and heart disease become our number one risk factor. So what can we do about that? All of the above helps .. but.. 

There’s more and more compelling evidence to suggest HRT (hormone replacement therapy) not only levels out the symptoms of perimenopause by stabilising the sisters .. but also reduces our chances of long term disease such as heart disease. HRT does not help with weight gain though… that part has to be controlled by strength training, increasing protein intake and higher levels of activity. Talk to your doctor when the time is right…this is not a resilience competition.. if you’re suffering get help and take control of your own life.

What are you waiting for?

Grab your trainers and a pair of dumbbells and let’s get cracking! You can build the rest as we go along.. 

Sometimes all you need to do is START