Everyone knows that during menopause the metabolism slows down, right?
WRONG! In fact, a recent study published in the journal Science shows that the extra kilos accumulated after the age of 45 are not ascribable to a general slowdown in our metabolism, rather to factors that are entirely subjective.
Aggregating the data collected over a 40-year period by some 80 researchers who interviewed more than 6,500 men, women and children, the study revealed that our metabolism actually physiologically slows down only after the age of 60, dropping by about 0.7% a year.
Basically, claiming you have a slow metabolism and using it as an excuse for putting on weight and fat is something that no longer works. Metabolism is influenced by the shape of our body: each genotype tends to express itself differently in terms of metabolism and body composition. Our intestine’s health also determines metabolism efficiency: alcohol, antibiotics, over-the-counter drugs such as paracetamol, along with the consumption of food we are intolerant to, as well as stress, undermine the health of our intestine.
You might be thinking that learning about this new study won’t really help you lose weight, but the good news is that you can do something through strength training to offset sarcopenia (progressive muscle loss) and keep your bones strong. With menopause – and this is a consolidated fact – the body’s oestrogen levels drop, as well as their cardioprotective effect; but through specific exercise programmes that focus on endurance you can prevent the accumulation of visceral fat (fatty tissue surrounding internal organs), thus greatly reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease.
For women falling in the 50-60 age group, doctors recommend a body fat range of 22-33%, though it is best to aim for 21-22% when you’re in your 50s, possibly keeping it below the 31-33% threshold as you’re nearing 60. Muscle tissue is more active, metabolically speaking, and therefore burns more energy at rest: therefore, increasing movement and exercise will speed up metabolism by around 50-70%. In order to keep track of these values it may be useful to use a digital scale that can gauge visceral fat, body fat percentage, resting metabolic rate, BMI and skeletal muscle percentage. There are several of these scales available on the market and they can even by synchronised with smartphone apps.
Finally, another piece of advice is to increase your protein intake (especially if you’re a vegan or a vegetarian) to help build muscle mass. Protein powder is an option, but if you resort to do it, always do it under the supervision of your physician.