As we go through the menopause, food timing becomes very important because we become insulin sensitive (or carb sensitive). What this means is it’s harder for your body to use starches and blood sugar effectively as it used to and get that glucose into your cells (for energy). The result is fat storage as your body pulls that blood sugar into fat cells to get it out of circulation. And this applies whether you are on HRT or not. But I will go into what HRT actually does and doesn’t do in another post (as I don’t want to give you brain overload).
So why is food timing and food combination important? Because we don’t want to raise that blood sugar at the wrong times and create more fat storage.
Let’s talk about food combination first. Because we become carb sensitive, struggling to use them effectively, there is one way we can stop them raising our blood sugar and that is to eat protein before eating carbs as protein blunts the glucose response (blood sugar) so it turns those starchy/sugary carbs to be more slow absorbing and therefore not raising that blood sugar. It does also work by combing a meal with protein in it as well. Just make sure that every meal has protein in it (protein is meat, fish, eggs, dairy, legumes (beans, lentils, chickpeas), nuts, seeds, and there are small amounts in certain vegetables.) Because, ladies, you need to be upping your protein intake anyway to keep hold of your muscle & bone strength.
Also, you need to be reducing, to eventually get rid of, processed food, because all this does is cause inflammation and inflammation causes belly fat storage amongst other things because it is a stress on the body.
So, think of getting your carbohydrates from lots and lots of different types of fruit and vegetables, grains, wholemeal varieties, and fibre rich foods.
Now let’s look at food timings as this becomes important!
- You MUST eat breakfast before you do any forms of exercise, because cortisol hormone is high in the morning and for women it puts our bodies into a sympathetic position (Sympathetic Nervous System is your fight or flight response to stress) then exercise causes cortisol to rise even higher. As you keep increasing that stress, it keeps your sympathetic drive high (fight or flight response) and reduces your ability to relax. Your thyroid activity is depressed, which messes with your menstrual cycle (if you are still having them). Your body also starts storing more belly fat.
So now you’re looking at disrupted menstrual cycles, higher anxiety and stress, impaired performance and often weight gain, pretty much the opposite of what you’re looking for! By eating a breakfast, and it doesn’t need to be anything big, of protein and carbohydrate (e.g. banana with peanut butter on it) you can lower that cortisol level and put yourself into a more Parasympathetic Nervous System (rest and digest). Don’t ever do workouts fasted, it does not work for women!!!
- Make sure you fuel your workouts, remember your 3 meals a day are to keep your body alive and working and general movement, it’s not also for your workouts, so you must fuel your workouts on top and again, it can be just something small & simple of protein and carbohydrate to top up. If workouts go over 90mins then you need to fuel during them too.
- You must ALSO refuel after your hard workouts (HIIT, hard strength or endurance exercise over 1hr) and this includes 35-40g of protein (a protein shake can work well for after exercise as quick and easy to get down) and some carbohydrate (think fruit is a good carb for afterwards) and within 30mins because females finish hard workouts with high levels of, again, that stress hormone cortisol and it is catabolic (which means eating into our own muscle stores & breaking down our tissues) So we need to get out of that state as quickly as possible to start the repair process: pulling carbohydrate back into the liver and muscles and synthesizing that protein into STRONG, LEAN MUSCLE TISSUE, that helps improve your blood sugar control and body composition. These are the benefits of this hard training – STRONG, LEAN MUSCLE, STRONG BONES and REDUCED BODY COMPOSITION!