The Phases of Menopause

First up – let’s be really clear about what Menopause is. 

It’s the end of a woman’s fertility and therefore, her menstrual cycle. 

Menopause is one moment in time which signifies the absence of periods for 1 full year. It happens naturally with age but can also stem from surgery, illness or treatment of a disease. 

Before this moment, once you start experiencing symptoms, you are perimenopausal and after that moment you are post menopausal.

The age at which you will hit menopause is mostly determined by your genes. 

Lets examine the three stages:

Perimenopause

This stage begins the you start noticing symptoms. The average age for women to hit this stage is 47 but it can start earlier or later. During this phase you can still get pregnant. 

Menopause

That one date in time that signifies the absence of periods for one year. At this point your ovaries are no longer make estrogen and progesterone, the two hormones required for fertility. 

Postmenopause

Once you have hit menopause, you are into postmenopause.

The Symptoms

When occurring naturally the first sign is usually an irregular menstrual cycle. The average length of time to experience perimenopause is within 4 years from your first symptoms but, as we are now talking more about this major facet of women health we are learning that so many people are affected in different ways. 

There are cases of teenage girls going through the menopause, women in their 30’s experiencing perimenopausal symptoms that last well in to their 40’s. 

Whatever your experience knowledge is power so the more you can learn about what is going on, the better. 

Alongside the irregular cycle there are many common symptoms:

  • Hot flashes
  • Night sweats
  • Mood swings
  • Low mood
  • Low sex drive
  • Painful sex
  • Vaginal dryness
  • Headaches
  • Insomnia
  • Brain Fog / Lack of focus and concentration 

These symptoms can be so severe that they can massively effect quality of life. Women have believed they were suffering from early onset dementia and some have even felt suicidal. 

If you are struggling, please speak up and please get help. 

  • The Phases of Menopause
  • Recovery Training???
  • Power through your PMS
  • Can Herbal Adaptogens help Perimenopause? 
  • 75Hard… This is what discipline looks like
  • IM Training Blog w/c 07.03.22
  • IM Training Blog w/c 28.02.22
  • IM Training Blog w/c 21.02.22
  • IM Training Blog w/c 14.02.22
  • IM Training Blog w/c 07.02.22
  • Power through your PMS

    A few months ago I decided to try the bio hack that Dr Stacy Sims talks about in her book ROAR. (Side note – if you are female and care about your athletic performance, you really need to read this book!) I got pretty decent results so thought I would share it here as it may help many of you.

    In the book she shared an action plan that she created for a mother daughter duo who were talking the mountain biking world by storm, with both women rising to the top of their game.

    This action plan helped both women master their cycles and not let PMS affect their power or performance.

    The plan

    The plan is in four stages and is this:

    1. Peak Performance during PMS:
      For the 7 days before your period starts, at night take the following;
      250 milligrams of magnesium, 45 milligrams of zinc, 80 milligrams of aspirin (baby aspirin) and 1 gram of omega-3 fatty acid (flaxseed and fish oil)
    2. Pre-training:
      Take 5 to 7 grams of BCAAs (branched chain amino acids).
      *Stacy doesn’t state how long before training you should take this. I did this around 30 minutes before starting my session.
      The science behind taking the BCAAs is that these amino acids cross the blood-brain barrier and therefore help to decrease the estrogen-progesterone effect on central nervous system fatigue. In other words it can hep fight the lack of mojo and help you find some energy.
    3. In Training:
      Consume approx 0.45 gram of carbohydrate per pound of body weight, per hour.
      During this high hormone phase you want to consume a few more carbs per hour and should be aiming to get close to the above amount. During the first 2 weeks of your cycle, the low hormone phase, you can go lower at about 0.35 gram per pound of bodyweight, per hour.
      *I used this for longer endurance based sessions only. For my CrossFit classes I only ever consume water during and make sure my pre and post fuelling strategy is on point. I am however going to rectify that and follow this part of the plan too.
    4. Post Training
      Consume 20 to 25 grams of protein within 30 minutes of finishing your session.
      Recovery is key. It is often overlooked yet so critical, especially as this point in your cycle. Progesterone, which is peaking during this phase, is extremely catabolic, which means it breaks down muscle. Getting that protein in post workout means you will be able to fight this process and boost, rather than inhibit, your recovery.

      What did I notice?
      It definitely helped me beat the bloat and keep my usual energy levels… something that never normally happens. I’m lucky that I don’t get super moody (although my husband may say otherwise!) but I do get a bit lazy, a bit “can’t be arsed” and a bit “m’eh”. Following this protocol meant I felt like me regardless of the time of the month 🙂 Who doesn’t want that!

      If you feel PMS is holding you back, give this power protocol a go and see if you can learn to master your cycle too.

  • The Phases of Menopause
  • Recovery Training???
  • Power through your PMS
  • Can Herbal Adaptogens help Perimenopause? 
  • 75Hard… This is what discipline looks like
  • IM Training Blog w/c 07.03.22
  • IM Training Blog w/c 28.02.22
  • IM Training Blog w/c 21.02.22
  • IM Training Blog w/c 14.02.22
  • IM Training Blog w/c 07.02.22
  • Can Herbal Adaptogens help Perimenopause? 

    In short, Yes! 

    I’m currently 44 and for the last year or so I’ve been feeling like I’m suffering from some perimenopausal symptoms. Not enough to warrant talking to my doctor about HRT but enough to make me look for some answers and find some help. 

    Having opened up the conversation within Forza Fitness, talking very open and honestly with pretty much all my female clients, it’s clear a lot of feel the same way. We might be experiencing different effects, we might be different ages but we’re all looking for things we can change to help us with this period of hormonal chaos.  

    I had a lot of people who’s voices I trust talking about herbal adaptogens so I decided to explore this avenue as they were all saying how this has helped. 

    I’ve been taking Ashwagandha and Schisandra now for over 7 months, as they were the two best suited to help me with my particular symptoms, and I can honestly say they have been the answer for me. I am under no illusion that further down the line I may need to look seriously at HRT and if that time comes, trust me, I will not hesitate, but for now this is enough and I feel like myself again. 

    As your oestrogen levels decline your stress levels increase which in turn upsets your mood and concentration – brain fog was a big one for me for sure – I have, in the past, even forgotten my own post code!

    To help your body combat this stress, you can introduce adaptogens. Herbal adaptogens work by increasing your body’s resistance to stress and they do this by targeting the neuroendocrine system that controls your reaction to stress and regulates multiple bodily functions such as mood, temperature control, immunity and digestion. 

    Taking adaptogens means that over time, they build up in the body and block your cortisol response. This means you experience less stress. 

    Here’s the low down on the three different herbal adaptogens that have come up most often in my research: 

    Ashwagandha

    Ashwagandha increases your DHEA testosterone, which helps lower anxiety and cholesterol. It also improves insulin sensitivity meaning you’ll better blood sugar control and less prone to storing fat. 

    Research on athletes has shown that it can help increase endurance and power. 

    It is also an anti-inflammatory so can help reduce soreness after those tough workouts. 

    It has also been known to help regulate body temperature so can help reduce hot flashes. 

    Recommended Dose: 250 to 300mg twice a day (tablet)

    Contraindications: Can affect your T3 and T4 thyroid hormones so those on thyroid medication should avoid. 

    Schisandra 

    Schisandra is widely used in Chinese Medicine and is commonly known as Five Flavoured Fruit. 

    It is is the adaptogen for brain fog as it stimulates the central nervous system and improves cognition. This means it can clear the fog and help with your concentration and focus. 

    It helps strengthen your mitochondria (where energy is created in the cells) so it can improve aerobic capacity. 

    Finally it can help regulate fluctuating hormone levels and reduce hot flashes. 

    Recommended Dose: 500mg to 2grams a day (powder) 

    *I add mine to my morning coffee

    Caution: It has a caffeine like effect increasing alertness so can disrupt sleep. It best taken in the morning and avoided in the afternoon / evening. 

    Maca

    Maca Root is often referred to as Peruvian Ginseng and is a hormone modulator. It also works as a steroid hormone so is a powerful herb! 

    It helps improves the onset of night sweats, hot flashes. 

    It can increase mood and help overcome the onset of anxiety and/or depression which are common during perimenopause. 

    Research has found it can improve energy levels as well as mood and some people describe Maca as giving them a natural high. 

    It also has anti inflammatory properties so can help reduce muscle soreness after workouts/ 

    Recommended Dose: 450mg three times a day (tablet)

    Contraindications: Can affect adrenal and thyroid function so those on thyroid medication should avoid. 

    Some products containing Maca are also on the WADA banned substance list so if you are a competing athlete subject to drug tests either avoid or be 100% the product you are taking is ok. 

    ***Please remember I am not a doctor. The information shared here is purely for general information purposes. It is not medical advice. 

  • The Phases of Menopause
  • Recovery Training???
  • Power through your PMS
  • Can Herbal Adaptogens help Perimenopause? 
  • 75Hard… This is what discipline looks like
  • IM Training Blog w/c 07.03.22
  • IM Training Blog w/c 28.02.22
  • IM Training Blog w/c 21.02.22
  • IM Training Blog w/c 14.02.22
  • IM Training Blog w/c 07.02.22
  • Ladies, this one’s for you…

    Hormones, Training and Fat Loss

    There’s something we don’t often talk about but it can have a major effect on our training and our results and that thing is our menstrual cycle. 

    Do you really know what happens during your 28 day cycle? Do you understand which hormones are spiking when and what that means for your body and your performance? 

    I am about to break it down for you so that, being armed with knowledge, you have a better chance of hitting your goals, or you might at least stop you beating yourself up when you don’t (as long as you’ve done the work!)

    Here are the things you need to know: 

    The Phases

    The day count of the menstrual cycle begins on the first day of menstruation (the first day of your period). 

    The cycle has been assumed to be 28 days, which is the average amount for most women. 

    The entire duration of the cycle is broken down into 4 main phases:

    Menstrual phase (From day 1 to 5)

    Follicular phase (From day 1 to 13)

    Ovulation phase (Day 14)

    Luteal phase (Day 15 to 28)

    I am not here to give you a biology lesson or talk to you about eggs, ovaries and fallopian tubes. In relation to your training, performance and body composition the phases are the important bit.  

    The Hormones

    There are 4 main hormones involved in your cycle but these are two that you need to understand:

    Estrogen:

    This hormone gets a really bad rep and it’s not really fair. The general consensus is that this hormone is responsible for all the crap we can experience but this just isn’t true. 

    The truth is that it reduces your appetite, improves insulin sensitivity and can protect you against muscle soreness. This is great news for your diet and your training.

    Estrogen is the dominant hormone during the follicular phase and this is when we are at our most productive. 

    Progesterone:

    This is actually where you should be directing your anger. It is the dominant hormone during the luteal phase and generally this is when we can find things a struggle. 

    This is because it can raise our metabolic rate, meaning we usually need between 100 to 300 calories more a day but, thanks to the fact that it makes us insulin resistant (meaning we may not handle carbs as well the in phase and that our sugar cravings are likely to increase) it is common for women to eat around 500 extra calories a day!

    How to use this knowledge

    Some women will not be affected at all. If you are one of these, count yourselves lucky! 

    Others will find that they are hugely affected and for you ladies, being aware of what phase you are in may help you manage things better. 

    If you do find yourself affected by your cycle you may find that, as well as throwing your diet out of balance, your coordination, balance and general ability can also suffer during the luteal phase. 

    I know that personally, my lifting suffers. In the first two weeks of my cycle I can hit my 1 rep max and if I’m going to get a new PB, it will usually be during this phase. In the last two weeks I can often struggle to get about 80% of my usual lifts. Now that I’m aware though, I don’t beat myself up.

    Instead I actually use this info to plan my diet and training around my cycle. I slightly reduce my carbohydrate intake in the luteal phase. I plan my heavy resistance work during the follicular phase and I load more metabolic conditioning type workouts during the luteal phase to increase my calorie burn. All of these actions enhance the positives of my estrogen spike and help to balance out the negatives of my progesterone spike. 

    The other main consideration is a biggie….

    When to measure your progress

    If you are tracking your progress with either photos, body measurements or body composition stats (% of fat and muscle) then it makes total sense to ensure that you are in same stage of your cycle when checking yourself. If you take your first measurements in week 1 but then take your next set when you are in week 3 or 4 you could find that you don’t get an accurate reflection of your progress. This may not be because you haven’t done the work or got your diet on point but purely because of your menstrual cycle. Make sure, where possible, you take your stats at the same point every time. 

    I know sometimes it can suck to be a woman but hopefully this little bit of knowledge can empower you to take back a little bit of control. It has definitely helped me and some of my clients. 

  • The Phases of Menopause
  • Recovery Training???
  • Power through your PMS
  • Can Herbal Adaptogens help Perimenopause? 
  • 75Hard… This is what discipline looks like
  • IM Training Blog w/c 07.03.22
  • IM Training Blog w/c 28.02.22
  • IM Training Blog w/c 21.02.22
  • IM Training Blog w/c 14.02.22
  • IM Training Blog w/c 07.02.22