After menopause one of the things most women notice is that they have a slow metabolism. It can be frustrating and you are probably wondering why this you feel like you can’t eat anything without gaining weight. Keep reading to find out the reasons your metabolism slows down during menopause and what you can do about it.
What does a slow metabolism look like?
The obvious symptom of a slow metabolism is unexpected weight gain or difficulty losing weight, but if your metabolism is really slow, there may be other signs as well:
- Feeling tired all the time
- Feeling cold
- Sugar cravings
- Loss of hair
- Dry skin
What causes your metabolism to be slow?
A while ago I discussed what metabolism actually is. To recap there are biochemical reactions that occur in your body where nutrients and oxygen create energy. Your metabolic rate is how quickly or slowly this happens. It is measured in calories (of course).
It seems like weight gain and menopause go hand in hand. Many women who were not previously overweight start to put on pounds during menopause. Women who were previously overweight may find that they have an even harder time keeping pounds off. So why does this happen?
Some of the reasons your metabolism may have slowed down are:
- Estrogen levels
- Loss of muscle mass
- Lower activity levels
- Lack of sleep
Lower estrogen levels
Lower estrogen levels seem to be associated with a lower metabolic rate and an increased difficulty with keeping weight under control.
What can you do? The only way to do anything about dropping estrogen levels is to take some form of hormone replacement. However you should not take hormone replacement just for the purpose of losing weight.
Low Thyroid hormones
Hypothyroidism is common in menopausal women. Your thyroid is the master controller of your metabolism. When it produces fewer hormones your metabolism slows down. The thyroid hormones (T3 & T4) tell the cells in your body when to use more energy and become more metabolically active. Ideally it should work to keep your metabolism just right. But there are several things that can affect it and throw it off course. Things like autoimmune diseases and mineral deficiencies (e.g. iodine or selenium) for example.
What can you do? If you have symptoms of hypothyroidism (weight gain, hair loss, feeling cold) then ask your physician to check your levels.
Loss of muscle mass
As you age you lose muscle mass. Muscle mass loss occurs mostly because you don’t use it. There is also a natural decline due to lowering levels of testosterone and other age related factors. Muscle uses more calories than fat so it helps to keep your metabolism from slowing down. Chronic dieting also contributes to lower muscle mass.
What can you do? Include a resistance training program in your exercise program.
Lower Activity levels
As women get older, their activity levels tend to drop. We spend less time playing sports and less time in family activity. Menopausal women are often too busy with careers, and families to even think about exercise.
Aerobic exercise temporarily increases your metabolic rate. Your muscles are burning fuel to move and do “work” and you can tell because you’re also getting hotter.
What can you do? If you can’t fit in a regular exercise program, then incorporate movement into your day . Take the stairs when you can, park further away than you need to, or power clean your house.
Not enough sleep
There is plenty of research that shows the influence that sleep has on your metabolic rate. The general consensus is to get 7-9 hours of sleep every night. Often increased anxiety at menopause or night sweats contribute to sleepless nights.
What can you do? Mindfulness meditation is one way of getting better sleep.
A slowing metabolism during menopause can be frustrating. Take action with one of the steps listed above. As a special bonus you can download this sample workout program to start building muscle mass today. This sample workout is presented for information purposes only, please see my disclaimer here.)