Sometimes, amidst the hustle of life, we barely notice the subtle changes happening within us. Then one day, it dawns on us: our bodies aren’t what they used to be. This realization isn’t just about seeing a few more wrinkles or feeling a tad slower. It’s about sensing a shift in our strength, in the very muscles that have carried us this far through life.
You might think, ‘Yeah, so what. I’m finally confident enough to not worry so much about what I look like.’ Good for you! That’s awesome!
But the truth is that maintaining muscle mass as you age isn’t about how you look and feel. It’s absolutely critical to preserving your quality of life.
The natural decline of muscle strength and mass, a condition known as sarcopenia, can lead to decreased mobility, increased risk of falls, and a general decline in health.
So even if you are comfortable in your skin, you still need to eat right and exercise, so you can retain, and even build, muscle strength. Consider it critical to your survival.
Understanding Muscle Mass and Aging
Did you know that starting in our 30s, women begin to lose about 1% to 2% of their muscle mass each year? It’s a subtle shift, that’s amplified by menopause. The hormonal changes of this phase amplify muscle loss, making it harder for our bodies to build muscle in response to our efforts and nutrition. There are several factors that can increase the risk of age-related muscle loss:
- Reduced Physical Activity: Less activity means muscles are not regularly stimulated, leading to atrophy.
- Inflammation: Chronic low-grade inflammation can damage muscle tissue over time.
- Nutritional Deficiencies: Inadequate protein intake can hinder muscle repair and growth.
- Hormonal Changes: Declines in hormones, particularly testosterone, can adversely affect muscle maintenance.
Your Muscles Matter More Than You Realize
Maintaining muscle mass isn’t just about strength or aesthetics; it’s a cornerstone of your overall well-being, with benefits that ripple through various aspects of your health:
- Stronger Bones: Your muscles and bones share a deep bond. Strengthening your muscles through resistance training is like sending love letters to your bones, encouraging them to become denser and reducing the risk of osteoporosis.
- Taming Hot Flashes: Exercise, including strength training, can be a gentle balm for hot flashes. By maintaining muscle mass, you help manage their frequency and intensity, making nights more restful and days less disruptive.
- Heart Health: Your heart rejoices with strong muscles. Improved muscle mass helps in enhancing lipid profiles and lowering blood pressure, and reducing the risk of heart disease.
- Maintaining a Healthy Weight: Muscles are like little engines, burning calories even at rest. By preserving muscle, you help manage your weight and keep your blood sugar levels in check.
- Pelvic Floor Health: Just as the foundation of a house needs to be strong, so does our pelvic floor. Strengthening these muscles is key to preventing urinary incontinence and ensuring your internal organs have the support they need. So don’t forget your Kegels.
Maintaining Muscles in Perimenopause
Maintaining and building muscles in perimenopause doesn’t have to be complicated. It’s about simple life style tweaks and daily routines that nurture and strengthen you:
It’s important for women to lift heavy things. Not super heavy. But you shouldn’t struggle picking up your little niece or a case of wine. So you should do strength training at least twice a week. This isn’t just about lifting weights. It’s about engaging with resistance bands, exploring body-weight exercises like squats and push-ups. Rediscovering your inner strength and helping protecting your precious bones.
Imagine protein as the bricks that rebuild and fortify your body. Incorporate a variety of sources like eggs, fish, beans, and yogurt into your meals, each one offering the essential amino acids that are the secret ingredients for muscle health. Eating protein isn’t just feeding your body; it’s nourishing your strength, bite by bite.
Every day brings a new opportunity to move and dance with life. Whether it’s a gentle walk, climbing stairs, or an energetic aerobic session, each movement is a step towards improved mobility and sustained muscle strength. Think of daily physical activity not as a chore, but as a way to show your body gratitude for all it does for you.
Rest and Recover
Don’t forget to let your muscles rest and recovery. These quiet moments of cool down and relaxation aren’t just pauses in your routine; they’re important for muscle growth and injury prevention. And don’t go hard every day, this only amps up your cortisol levels which can lead to inflammation and weight gain.
Increase Your Omega-3s
Introduce omega-3 fatty acids into your diet, through the richness of salmon or the simplicity of a supplements. Omega-3s anti-inflammatory properties help with muscle recovery and overall health.
Avoiding Lifestyle Pitfalls
Be cautious of lifestyle pitfalls like consuming too many calories or not getting enough vitamin D. Balancing your diet with the correct amount of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. And add in regular exercise to prevent unnecessary weight gain and support muscle maintenance.
Just because aging and menopause makes muscle maintenance harder, doesn’t mean it’s not possible. Like all good things in life, it requires some effort and consistency. But remember, every step towards nurturing our muscles is a step towards embracing a stronger, more vibrant self. Trust me. You’re worth it.