Why We Gain Weight
The reason we gain weight is a matter of calories in vs. calories out - as in, there are more coming in than going out. What prompts this weight gain, however, is where the frustration comes in since, as some of my active clients say, the weight gain seems to come from nowhere. "I'm doing the same workouts and eating the same as always, yet I suddenly have this belly," one client said.
Unfortunately, there’s a Bermuda Triangle effect that happens before and during menopause, three things that, when put together, lead to weight gain:
It's obvious that estrogen plays an important role in weight management. It affects our appetites, how active we are and the foods we crave. The lack of it even changes how fat is distributed, depositing it around the belly which puts us at risk for heart disease and diabetes. There are other age-related issues that can make things worse: Loss of muscle and aerobic power as well as a decrease in the number of calories you burn during exercise. In Exercise, Weight Gain and Menopause, Wendy Kohrt states that a young, healthy woman can increase her energy expenditure by 8-10 calories per minute during exercise, while a middle-aged woman may only be able increase it by 6-8 calories per minute. That means maintaining the same calorie burn may require more frequent and/or more intense exercise.
That doesn't mean you're doomed to gain weight and exercise is your first line of defense against the Bermuda Triangle of menopause.
4 Things You Can Do to Avoid Weight Gain
If you're frustrated with changes in your body that seem to come from nowhere, there are things you can do about it. By creating more effective workouts and looking at other areas of your life that may be contributing to the problem, you can get your weight under control.
- Add Intensity to Your Cardio – How hard you work is directly related to how many calories you burn and raising the intensity can help you burn more without having to add time or frequency to your workouts. Here's what you can do:
- Try Interval Training or High Intensity Interval Training
- Learn 5 Ways to Add Intensity to Your Workouts
- Learn How to Burn More Fat With Cardio
- Increase Your Frequency - If you're not maxed out on your workout days, try adding another day of cardio. Even a brisk 20-minute walk is enough to boost your calorie burn.
- Increase Your Duration - Another option is to make your workouts longer. Try adding 5-10 minutes to one or more of your workouts to burn a few extra calories.
- Make Friends With Strength Training - Of all you do, strength training is the most important for maintaining your strength, balance, muscle mass and weight as you get older. Studies show that older adults can increase resting metabolic rate and energy expenditure by adding resistance training. One study even shows that a combination of high intensity cardio and strength training, along with a balanced diet, is the best way to reduce abdominal fat. Get the most out of strength training:
- Lift heavy – Most women don’t lift enough weight because they’re afraid of bulking up or injuring themselves. If you're a beginner, work up to heavy weights over time but, if you’re experienced, going heavy enough that you can only complete 8-10 reps of each exercise will help you build more muscle. Your last rep should be hard, but possible with good form.
- Mix it Up – Try split routines where you work different muscle groups each day to focus more attention on each muscle. Try different training techniques such as drop sets (starting heavy and dropping your weight by 20% for each set), supersets (doing two exercises for the same muscles, one after the other) or other training methods to shock and challenge your body.
- Hire a Trainer. If you feel like you're doing everything right and you're still not losing weight, a trainer can help you figure out the best way to change what you're doing to get better results.
Next Page: More Ways to Manage Your Weight