When I was going through menopause, I noticed a huge number of changes to my body. Not only did I gain belly fat, but I also lost a lot of the toning and strength in my muscles. Muscle loss is normal during menopause, but it can leave you with flabby arms and not feeling confident in your body.
Hormonal changes affect your metabolism and how your body burns fat and builds muscle, so menopausal women lose muscle mass. To stay healthy and prevent muscle loss during menopause, you need to change your exercise routine, adapt your diet and focus on toning your muscles.
If you are becoming less toned and flabbier as you go through menopause, read on to find out more about how to maintain your muscle mass and tone your body during menopause.
Why do menopausal women lose muscle mass?
As a woman entering menopause, your hormones are about to go through a massive change. Menopause hormonal changes impact your metabolism, making it harder to build muscle. When hormonal changes happen, your body doesn’t store fat or build muscles in the same way again.
During menopause, your oestrogen levels will drop significantly, causing a change in your metabolism. As your metabolism slows, your body can no longer turn food into muscle the same way, so menopausal women gain fat and lose muscle tone.
Research found that oestrogen plays a vital part in building muscles mass and strength.
Not only does your metabolism change during menopause, meaning fewer muscles and more fat, but a drop in oestrogen directly changes how your muscles and bones develop.
As oestrogen declines during menopause, it’s harder to grow muscle, existing muscles start wasting away, and the bones and cartilage that support your muscles also weaken.
Can you rebuild muscle after menopause?
Despite the drop in oestrogen and change in your metabolism, you can build muscle after menopause. It might be a little harder to do, and you will have to consider that your body isn’t the same, so you will have to work out differently. Instead of cardio and weight training, menopausal women need to focus on muscle-building and toning rather than conditioning.
Does Menopausal Hormone Therapy Prevent Loss of Muscle Mass?
Some women choose to try menopausal hormone therapy to prevent muscles loss. But artificially boosting oestrogen levels, you can minimise the changes to your metabolism and continue to build muscle the way you did before menopause.
However, using menopause hormone therapy to maintain muscle mass does come with some pretty extreme side effects, including:
- Digestive trouble
- Weight gain
- Memory problems
- Change in sex drive
Furthermore, you could still see changes to your metabolism and muscle mass as you come off hormone therapy. You could just be delaying the inevitable.
To find out more about how menopause affects your metabolism, check out this article:
As you enter menopause, your hormones fluctuate, and your oestrogen levels decrease, causing your metabolism to slow down and your body cannot build muscle the same way. Oestrogen is crucial for building muscle, so you may lose muscle as oestrogen decreases. Hormone therapy can help, but it has unnecessary side effects.
How to stop muscle loss during menopause
Since hormone replacement therapy can cause nasty side effects, finding natural ways to prevent muscle loss during menopause is crucial for your fitness and health.
You can balance your hormones naturally and adapt your diet to ensure you give your body the best chance to maintain muscle mass during menopause. You should also focus on your bones which support your muscles and help keep you mobile.
Balance hormones to prevent muscle loss during menopause
Since muscle loss is caused by a change in your hormones, balancing your hormones can help minimise muscle loss as you age.
During menopause, your oestrogen drops dramatically and then rises again. These fluctuations can cause you to lose more muscle mass than is healthy.
Your oestrogen works in conjunction with your progesterone levels, so balancing these hormones can stabilise your metabolism and ensure your body is still building muscle strength.
One way to balance your hormones is to add certain foods to your diet that contain phytoestrogen properties. Herbal teas such as papaya, ashwagandha, liquorice root and burdock root are all good at balancing your hormones naturally to ensure you stay as healthy and fit as possible during menopause.
Check out this Hormone Balance Tea Équilibre blend to naturally balance hormones during menopause and increase your chances of preventing muscle loss.
Learn more about hormonal imbalance and how to balance your hormones during menopause here:
- How can I balance my hormones naturally during menopause?
- Ashwagandha: A Natural Remedy for Female Hormones
- How do I Know if I Suffer from Hormone Imbalance?
Menopause diet for muscle growth
You should also change your diet during menopause to prevent muscle loss and improve your metabolism. What you eat can make a massive difference to your physical health because your body can digest some foods and use the nutrients to build muscle.
To maintain muscle mass during menopause, try increasing your protein intake. High-protein foods can contribute to healthy muscles and help your body build strength and stay toned rather than becoming flabby.
Protein-rich foods are also high in amino acids, which are the building blocks of muscles, so the more protein you eat, the more your body can build muscles.
Good high-protein foods to maintain muscle mass during menopause include:
- Red meat
- Milk and yoghurt
- Seeds and nuts
Another key nutrient to add to your diet is Vitamin D. In studies, Vitamin D is shown to contribute to building healthy muscles to improve strength and muscle mass and help prevent injury and weakness.
You can add Vitamin D to your diet to help prevent muscle loss during menopause by consuming more of these foods:
- Cod liver oil
- Orange juice
- Fortified cereals
You could also take a Vitamin D supplement, but as these are highly processed, your body cannot break it down and digest it the same way, so some of the vitamins won’t be absorbed. A more effective way to get a high Vitamin D concentration is to drink green tea and herbal tea containing lemongrass. These herbal teas are naturally high in vitamin D, and your body can absorb as much as possible, so you get the full benefit.
Find out more about using herbal teas to help with menopause weight loss and boosting muscle growth here:
Improve bone density during menopause
Your bones really help to hold your muscles in place and support them, so as your bones weaken with age, you lose muscle mass faster. Ensuring you keep your bones healthy will help prevent menopausal muscle loss.
Muscles and bones have a strong relationship because they connect everything together. Loss of bone density can mean your muscles aren’t supported properly, and your body will shrink your muscles to match the bone.
You can improve your bone density during menopause by ensuring you get enough calcium. Good sources of calcium to improve bone density and muscle mass during menopause include:
- Leafy greens
To prevent muscle loss during menopause, you need to give your body the proper nutrients to keep your bones and muscles healthy. Vitamin D, calcium and protein are all important to build muscle mass. You should also balance your hormones to stabilise your metabolism and stop muscle loss.
Best exercises after menopause to build muscle
You can also help prevent muscle loss by actively building muscle. After menopause, your body doesn’t build muscle the same way, so you need to change your workout routine.
Menopause workouts should focus on building muscle rather than slimming down. Using weights, resistance training in water and stretching can help build muscle mass during and after menopause.
Read on to discover the best exercises to build muscle after menopause.
Water sports for improved muscle mass
Anything in the water such as aqua aerobics, swimming and water sports can help build muscle after menopause. The water provides greater resistance, and therefore your muscles have to work harder, so they get stronger.
Research shows that water-based activities are also great for menopausal women because they take some of your body weight and place less stress on your joints. As your bones become less dense as you age, this helps keep your skeleton healthy and prevents pain.
Walking every day during menopause builds muscles
Gentle exercise daily is essential for helping ensure your muscles stay strong. The less you use your muscles, the more you will lose muscle mass. Research suggests that frequent mild aerobic activity such as walking and light jogging can help improve muscle strength and bone mass.
Walking helps minimise shocks in your joints while toning your muscles all over your body. As you go through menopause, walking can help balance your hormones, improve your metabolic rate and ensure you keep lean, toned muscles.
Pilates during menopause for fitness
Another great activity for women going through menopause is pilates and yoga. If you want to avoid weight lifting and want slim, toned muscles instead of large muscles, pilates can help. Slow stretching and holding poses can grow lean and long muscles rather than bulky.
The slow, steady movements help tone muscles and ensure your muscles, bones, and connective tissues are all in harmony.
One study found that just eight weeks of pilates and stretching can help tone muscles improve flexibility, breathing, and core strength in menopausal women. It’s low-impact, and breathing can help manage other menopause symptoms.
If you want to learn more about exercising during and after menopause to help manage your weight, you can read:
The best exercises for menopausal women to help increase muscle mass and help keep you healthy include pilates, yoga, walking and swimming. You should avoid anything high-impact to keep your joints healthy, and remember to exercise several times per week to keep muscles strong.
When should I be concerned about the loss of muscle during menopause?
As you go through menopause, you will experience many changes to your body, including loss of muscle mass, weight gain and joint pain. When your hormones change, your body changes how it processes foods, and you will change physically and mentally.
However, as you age, other conditions have similar symptoms to menopause but are more problematic. You should keep an eye on your body as it changes to see if you have any more age-related conditions.
Some conditions that could be confused with menopause but require medical help include:
- Multiple Sclerosis
- Heart diseases
If you think you might have some symptoms or changes to your body that aren’t related to menopause, you should speak to your doctor. A medical professional can make an official diagnosis and help ensure you stay healthy as you age.
Speak to your doctor if you notice any of the following symptoms while you go through menopause:
- Unable to stand unassisted
- Rapid weight loss
- Loss of appetite
- Memory loss
- Blood in urine
- Trouble breathing
Muscle loss is a normal part of entering menopause. If you want to know more about signs of menopause and to see if you are going into menopause early, check out:
Although muscle loss, weight gain and joint pain are normal during menopause, other age-related conditions could cause changes to your body that are more serious. If you notice other symptoms such as shaking, fainting, vomiting or memory problems, speak to your doctor.
As you go through menopause, you will find your body changes dramatically. Hormone fluctuations change everything from your metabolism to your muscle growth to your emotions. Most women lose muscle mass and find they have flabbier limbs with less tone and definition.
You can try to prevent muscle loss during menopause by balancing your hormones with natural remedies, changing your diet to include protein and more Vitamin D and changing how you work out. Menopausal women should try yoga, pilates and water-based activities to stretch and lengthen muscles rather than bulking out.
During menopause, it can be hard to keep track of what is normal and what is not. If in doubt, speak to your doctor and for more information on menopause, check out these articles: