How incredibly fast did 2020 become a thing of the past, and in terms of COVID-19, we are not out of the woods yet! It has been a bit of an overwhelming time, hasn’t it? On top of this, I am battling menopause and my body feels like an alien. I am sure I am not alone when I say that I started this year with a little less of a sparkle than I normally do. 

After the festive season I just felt bloated and a little depressed. As usual, I jumped into the research materials I could find about my own situation and I found some very interesting snippets to share with you.

1. Covid-19 Blues
2. Training during Menopause
3. The role of bodyfat in hormone functioning

1. Covid-19 Blues is a thing! If you are not feeling quite like yourself, and you experience the following symptoms, you could be experiencing Covid-19 blues:

– feelings of sadness, tearfulness, emptiness or hopelessness,
– feelings of restlessness, guilt, anger or irritability more than normal,
– withdrawing from things you used to enjoy,
– avoiding talking to friends and family,
– changes in sleep (sleeping too much or not enough)
– thoughts about harming yourself,
– changes in appetite or weight (more or less)

How can you tell the difference between depression and Covid-19 Blues, and what can you do about this?

According to the experts, Covid- 19 Blues normally comes in waves, where a more serious depression will often last for two weeks or more and affect your ability to perform your normal roles in life. 

The experts advise that you do the opposite of what your body is telling you to do. If you don’t feel like exercising, do some exercise. If you don’t feel like eating, eat something. Apparently your body will try to maintain the state of depression. 

Also, talk to someone about how you feel. Your friends and family might understand and be going through the same thing. If you want to keep it private, chat to a therapist.

2. Training during menopause. As I mentioned, I have been battling full blown menopause and after the festive season, felt myself very bloated and with a nice “menopot” belly that seems to have grown overnight. 

I am very active, and for the last decade have lived a healthy lifestyle, so it came as a bit of a shock that my body suddenly stopped responding to my training and nutrition regime. I know many other women also experience this. I spent the better part of three months researching the topic, and while the science is not extensive, there are experts like Dr Stacy Sims who have produced a lot of material about this. 

There are a few things to change in your regime, should you be experiencing this situation as well:Firstly, your estrogen and progesterone levels are decreasing. Estrogen improves muscle mass and strength, and increases the collagen content of connective tissues, so, as your estrogen decreases you will experience difficulty in building and maintaining lean muscle mass, especially fast twitch muscle fiber. Your joints are also likely to be more susceptible to injury, due to decreased collagen in connective tissues. The impact of progesterone on muscle growth in postmenopausal women was demonstrated in a 2013 study. According to the study, it also increased the activity of the gene (MYOD1), which is useful for building muscles. According to a 1982 study, progesterone affects the metabolism of macronutrients. It leads to hyperinsulinemia, and at the same time promotes glycogen storage in the liver. Hyperinsulinemia is a state in which the level of insulin in the blood is higher than normal. This effect is likely to be due to the islets of Langerhans. Progesterone reduces the impact of insulin on glucose metabolism in skeletal muscle and adipose tissue. Most importantly, however, it has a catabolic effect on protein metabolism and promotes the storage of body fat.

But what does this mean in practical terms? According to the experts: 

1. Have your hormone levels tested and get advice from your gynecologist or endocrinologist on hormone replacement therapies.

2. Reduce long, low intensity training and increase your short, high intensity and heavy weight lifting training. This will focus your efforts on building and maintaining muscle, improving bone density and joint strength and triggering your metabolism. 

3. Change your nutritional macro ratios to reduce fat intake, and increase lean protein intake. Reduce your calories slightly, but never go below your base metabolic rate. 

4. Do not do fasted training. When you wake up in the morning your cortisol levels are already raised, training on an empty stomach will cause a spike in cortisol. Cortisol will reduce your body’s ability to use calories and increase your body’s focus on fat storage. Eat a small amount of carbs and lean protein before your training session, or use a good BCAA drink. 

5. For improved energy, look into adaptogens, such as rhodiola rosea or ashwaghanda. Supplements such as coenzyme Q10 may also be beneficial. Research the benefits and possible side effects and see what will help you. I use Rethink CBD Shot for energy and focus, before hard training sessions.

This is a complex topic and our bodies are not all the same. Sometimes it takes a bit of trial and error to find what works specifically for you. I have reduced my menopause bodyfat % from 18.1% to 15.48%, following the above suggestions.
3) The role of bodyfat in hormone functioning is a topic that we do not often see discussed. Body fat is mostly portrayed as an undesirable body flaw. 

The truth is, you NEED  a certain amount of body fat. Fat has the following job to do inside your body:Fat insulates and protects our vital organs,Fat acts as a messenger that helps proteins work in the body,Fat starts chemical reactions that help control growth, immune function, reproduction and other aspects of basic metabolism.The cycle of making, breaking, storing and mobilizing fats is at the core of how humans and all animals regulate their energy.Fats help the body stockpile certain nutrients as well. The so-called “fat-soluble” vitamins—A, D, E and K—are stored in the liver and in fatty tissues.

This being said, being over-fat is unhealthy and scientific studies have linked this to the following health problems:
-heart disease
-high blood pressure
-liver disease
-osteoporosis, or fragile bones
-sleep apnoea,
-type 2 diabetes
-Cancer risk increased

Similarly, too little body fat can also be unhealthy and can be linked to the following health problems:
-Osteoporosis, or fragile bones
-Lowered immune system
-Loss of reproductive function
-Heart function impact
-Organ shrinkage
-Loss of muscle tissue
-Digestive problems
-Nervous system damage

Your weight on the scale is much less of an indicator of health than your fat percentage is. Get a fitness professional, such as myself, to help you measure and manage your bodyfat percentage.

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