Menopause: How does it affect training?
Dr Nicky Keay explains how the menopause can affect your training, and how can you best manage the symptoms
Menopause means cessation of menstrual cycles due to shut down of the ovaries. The average age this occurs is around 51 years, so plenty more years of training and competing ahead. Although no more menstrual bleeds means less hassle and higher levels of iron, it is the lack of regular hormonal cycles that can present challenges. In particular low levels of female hormones oestradiol and progesterone.
Changing hormone levels can provoke hot flashes, which can disturb sleep and therefore recovery between training sessions. So where possible try to consider other strategies to ensure adequate recovery.
A further result of changing hormone levels is mood swings and cognition “brain fog” which are common symptoms of menopause. So planning a realistic training schedule is helpful.
Body composition tends to change with menopause, so ensuring that training includes resistance/strength work will help to maintain muscle mass. In fact, rather than a high intensity interval session, substituting with a resistance session would be a good strategy.
The other benefit of including multi-directional skeletal loading exercise in strength and conditioning work is to support bone health. Oestrogen is a key hormone in women for maintaining health bones. So absence of this hormone means that extra attention needs to be paid to bone health in terms of mechanical loading, nutrition and vitamin D sport informed supplementation, especially during winter months.
So what about HRT? There are some women for whom HRT is not advised; nevertheless for most women, especially those training and competing in sport, this is an option worth considering and exploring. After all, hormones are key in driving beneficial adaptations to exercise training.
Dr Nicky Keay is the Chief Medical Officer at Forth Edge, a company that provides biomarker testing and profiling for athletes, so they can use the latest science to improve their performance