Mini Pause #1: You Can Eat Oats. Yes, Really.

Welcome to the The Mini Pause!

This is your weekly roundup of the BEST actionable steps for women 40+ who want to gain control of their hormones during perimenopause and menopause.

I am going to get back to what I love — teaching. I get to research, write, and then share evidence-based strategies for you to apply however you see fit! 

How you can get the most out of this newsletter:

  • You can either luxuriate in the details, or just skip to the good stuff.  
  • At the top of each newsletter you will find the summary, lovingly entitled TL,DR  (short for “too long, didn’t read”). Skim that for the general topics covered in the newsletter.
  • Just want to know how you can make use of the info? Go to the HOW and NOW sections below to get the specific tools or action steps to try.
  • Want the know everything? Read it top to bottom, click the links and resources, and reply to this email with your feedback.

Whatever you have time for, and whatever your inclination, I’m here for all of it.

Let’s begin.

Oats: Toxic Peasant Grub or Muscle Food?

TL,DR (too long, didn’t read)

Oatmeal is not as bad a food as some influencers online would have you believe. It’s a surprisingly good source of protein, fibre, minerals, and a great option for pre-workout fuel. Oats with protein before a lift session also will improve your performance. There’s a reason many bikini competitors and bodybuilders have oatmeal as a staple in their diet.

WHY

There’s also a lot of discussion online about oats and the merits of its consumption. Some have called it peasant food, others call it a toxic soup that “steals” your nutrients, with the basic premise being that it should never be consumed.

Or…should it?

If you want to improve your performance at the gym-leading to all those muscle gains), it’s worth considering oats as a staple in your pre-workout arsenal.

WHAT

In the grain family, oats are the heavyweight champ for fibre. Whole oats clock in at about 11% fibre. If the name of the game is a long, healthy life, you want fibre in your diet and lots of it. Aim for 25g daily.

Fibre has a multitude of benefits; it:

  • regulates appetite by making you feel fuller, longer. That, in turn, regulates your calorie intake.
  • reduces total peaks and valleys of blood glucose levels, which improves your insulin sensitivity, mood, and energy swings.
  • lowers the risk of cardiovascular disease (the No. 1 killer of women).
  • improves lipid profiles (like total cholesterol numbers, LDL(c), and Triglycerides)
  • reduces blood pressure.

Oats contain many minerals that can help you with energy, mood, and sleep. They’re high in iron, magnesium, and potassium — all crucial minerals every woman needs.

In a 50g packet of oats, you get 34% of your daily magnesium requirement (clocking in at about 135 mg per serving), 15% of your daily iron requirement, and 5% of your daily potassium requirement.

Finally, while oats are not usually considered “high protein,” they actually DO have a pretty decent amount of protein compared to other grains. A 50g serving has 8g of protein! While oats are mainly carbohydrates (that same serving size has 28g of carbohydrates, with 6g of fiber) — it’s still a decent amount of protein for a grain.

HOW

To maximize the benefits of oats, eat them with some protein 45 minutes to an hour before your workout. The easiest way I do this (especially for my morning lifts), is to combine 1 scoop of protein powder with some instant oats. Simple. Easy. No mess or prep.

If you’re feeling like a Domestic Goddess, here’s my tried and tested Overnight Oats recipe:

  • ½ cup oats
  • 1 scoop chocolate protein powder (like EquipFoods or Schinoussa)
  • ½ cup Greek yoghurt
  • ½ cup milk (of your choice)
  • Sprinkle of chocolate chips

This makes 1 serving. (I usually quadruple this recipe to have pre-workout fuel over four days.)

This will render about 309 calories, 46g of protein, 20g net carbs, and 4g of fat. For pre-workout fuel, this is the perfect carbs and protein combo to feed those working muscles! If you want to bulk up the fat, you can add 1 Tbsp of nut butter, too.

NOW

Try some protein and carbs before your next few lift sessions and see if you notice a difference in your performance. Prep the Overnight Oats recipe above, or just pour water over some instant oats and add in your favorite protein.

I lifted fasted for years but I have abandoned it as of late as there is a distinct difference in performance when I’m fed vs. when I’m fasted.  

Question of the Week

Q: How do I measure my hormone levels and at what point do we start taking hormones?

I love this question! It’s a great one to kick off this newsletter.

EVALUATING

Ideally you would start measuring hormone levels in your 20s so you can take baseline levels of your estrogen (the main one being estradiol), testosterone, and progesterone. This is easily done through blood work. There are urine tests like the DUTCH (the DUTCH complete or the Sex Hormone test) that also can evaluate these hormones and their metabolites.

Irrespective of the way you measure, you want to be evaluating the relationship between estradiol and progesterone in the second half, or luteal phase, of your menstrual cycle. 

In other words, you want to evaluate: “What does my progesterone look like relative to my estradiol after I ovulate?”  

If you have MORE estradiol than progesterone in the luteal phase, this can set you up for a greater risk for fibrocystic breasts, uterine fibroids, endometriosis, breast pain, and horrible PMS. This is precisely what I wrote about in my book, The Betty Body.

It will also tend to make perimenopause symptoms worse, as early stages of perimenopause you have naturally declining levels of progesterone. This natural decline can make an already imbalanced estradiol-progesterone relationship worse.

TESTING & NEXT STEPS

So to answer the “how” part of your question — blood testing is great for most as it is the most accessible and you can take several blood draws over a month if need be.

If you are financially able, a DUTCH test can provide further information about how you process the estrogens in your body (there are certain pathways that are more troublesome than others). You can also evaluate DHEAs and the androgen pathways there, as well.

If you are in your 20s or 30s with a regular cycle, I typically recommend making your appointment on Day 21-22 of your cycle to try and capture peak progesterone. If your cycle is longer than 28 days, you want to be capturing progesterone about a week before your bleed week.

For women who are more irregular in their cycle, this becomes harder to figure out when “peak progesterone” occurs because the cycle tends to be shorter. Let’s say your cycle is 25 days in length, you would take the test about six days before the onset of your period (25 days/4 = 6.25).

If you have not been diligent since your 20s, start getting yearly blood work now. Aim to do a complete blood workup every six months so  you can detect any patterns of change. For most of women, progesterone levels decline first — so that’s an easy “tell” that things are changing.

Taking hormones should be evaluated for the individual, so there is no hard timeline for you to start. Depending on your history, your current symptoms, your quality of life, and your blood/urine data, this should be a conversation you have with your primary health care provider.

YOUR TURN!

I’ll be answering your questions every week right here in the Mini Pause! Let me know what’s on your mind. I’ll be checking for both questions and feedback at support@drstephanieestima.com.

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Dr. Stephanie