Mini Pause #18: Deload Weeks & Physical Breaks: Rest=Progress

You Must Squat Before You Jump: Deload, Take a Break, and See Even More Gains

TL,DR (too long, didn’t read)

Deloads are a necessary part of training hard [*] when you are chasing all those gainz. They are often a welcome relief when you have accumulated sufficient stress and fatigue in your training regimen. This happens somewhere between four to eight weeks of intense training and allows for proper recovery.

Deloads can be a drop in weight or volume in your regular program, or you can choose to take a week off altogether. This week I am opting for a reduction in both volume and weight to help with my own (very overdue) deload week.

WHY

I’ve been feeling kind of run down and tired lately, and I’ve been trying to put my finger on what it is. I’ve been sleeping well (better than I ever have, truthfully, consistently hitting new PRs at the gym, and my nutrition is no different than it normally is.

But somehow, I’m exhausted, recovery is taking longer, and I’m even dreading the gym.

Now y’all know something is off when I am not excited about gym time. That’s my happy place!

I took a look at my volume and my progression over the last six months and then it hit me like a 1 Rep Max sumo squat. I’ve accumulated too much physical fatigue, and I failed to schedule a deload week [*].

When I first wrote about training around your cycle in The Betty Body, I naturally built a deload week into Week 4 of the cycle of training with lighter weights than usual. Although it wasn’t intentionally programmed as a deload week in the book, for cycling women it’s a nice anchor to be able to think about a lighter workout in the late luteal phase of your menstrual cycle. This helps to reduce the physical and often psychological stress that accompanies this time of the month.

I find I require a lighter week either on Week 4 or Week 8 of steady training. But for whatever reason, I’ve trained 16 heavy weeks in a row. That explains my current disdain for the gym and poor recovery recently. I’ve been noticing I have been much more sore than normal, taking at least a day longer than I normally do to recover. From leg workouts, specifically.

WHAT

Everyone who’s lifting weights close to failure can and should be thinking about building in regular deload weeks to reduce physical and mental stress and fatigue and to help you push in the next cycle of lifting. For my Type A Boardroom Bettys where I can ALREADY see your brains working (“Maybe I don’t need a deload! I should continue to push despite what she is saying!”), deloads are a necessary part of any intense training regimen. It doesn’t mean you’re broken, failing, or not making gains. By contrast, it’s how you make EPIC gains. In recovery.

Deloading is a crucial part of any well-rounded fitness routine to help reduce overall fatigue, reduce the risk of injury, and help your lifting become stronger in the following weeks. In the same way, you need a break from your diet now and then, the same is true for your physical diet.

When you are training hard, there is a predictable accumulation of stress and fatigue. There is nothing to fear about this, as this is how you get better and improve your energy levels, body composition, and strength.

But when you have accumulated too much stress and fatigue over several weeks or months of training, you can and should actively reduce it so you can facilitate recovery and get back to progress the next week.

Generally speaking, you know you are ready for a deload week when you have had two or three workouts of the same body part where you are either not making any progress, your recovery is longer than normal, or worse, you are regressing in your program.

Let me illustrate with an example.

Let’s assume you train legs on Tuesday and Friday. On both those days, you’d experience substandard workouts in the absence of any other explanation (jet lag, a child was sick, a stressful time at work, etc.).

And even if it were the case where your psychological stress was acutely through the roof, I’m going to gently remind you that psychological or mental stress also accumulates in the physical realm. This would be your cue to lighten up.

HOW

The No. 1 rule about a deload week is KISS: Keep it Simple Smartypants.

Once your strength is not improving by your typical measurements (weight, volume, etc.) for two or three consecutive workouts, it’s time to take a break and amp up recovery.

Here are a couple of ways you can structure a deload:

  • Reduce weights
  • Reduce volume
  • Reduce weight and volume
  • Do absolutely nothing (not a typo and a perfectly reasonable option)

Typically when I deload, I reduce both weight and volume by about 50 percent.

Yes, by that much.
Yes, it seems like a lot.
Yes, these workouts are easy.

So let’s say I am regularly squatting 135 lbs for 10 reps for 3 sets. I might structure a recovery week in the following way:

  • Deload Leg Day 1: 3 sets, 10 reps, but the weight will drop to 67.5lbs (this includes the bar at 45lbs, so using gym math that is 22.5 lbs of weight on the bar, so I usually just round up to 12.5 lbs per side)
  • Deload Leg Day 2: 3 sets, 5 reps, 67.5 lbs (weight and volume drop)

So you can see that I initially just dropped the weight, but kept the volume consistent. On the second leg day of the week, I dropped both the weight and the volume. It feels like an easy workout. And that’s the whole point. You’re training easier this week so you can better recover.

When I structure my deloads so that the workouts are progressively easier for the week, I’m absolutely itching and ready to get back at it the next week. This is because I’ve dropped the stress of the workouts considerably, allowing for my body’s recovery processes to get ahead of the stress I have accumulated. I always find that in the weeks following a deload, I often hit a new personal best.

The important takeaway? When you structure your deload weeks this way, you can still work on your technical skills with the lighter weight.

And in total transparency–about once a year–I simply need a complete break from the gym. A 100% complete drop in volume and weights for at least half a week, and often a full week.

I just get to this place where I don’t want to be in the gym at all, and I honor that. So I will get in a lot of walking, sleep in, spend lots of time in the sauna, and do cold plunges. (I’ve linked my heat and cold recovery tools here for you to explore. Use code DRSTEPHANIE for each to receive an exclusive discount.)

For me, this week I am opting to drop weights and volume on all workouts all week long.

NOW

If you have been noticing your workouts suffering and an inability to progress with at least two workouts feeling like they were crappy, decide to take the next week to amplify recovery. Here are two possible approaches:

  • Reduce your volume, your weights, or both while still training at the same frequency.
  • Take the week off completely. Go for some walks, do some yoga, practice mindfulness, sleep in, and allow your magical body to do its thing.

Prepare your mind for the deload. It isn’t a failure, a setback, or anything of the sort. Think about jumping. Usually, the lower you can go into a squat, the higher you can jump. Think of deloads this way. The squat part of the jump.

Question of the Week

Q: I know rest days are important when working out. I’ve heard women in perimenopause and postmenopausal women should have more than two rest days a week. What are your thoughts?

Thank you to reader Gina G. for asking this question that fits in so well with today’s main topic on deloading!

I am not one for hard rules that apply across the board, so I will say that you should take as much rest as you need. And when you are fully recovered–get back at it!

If you are regularly training legs, let’s say, you can aim to train them twice a week, but if you feel like in between those sessions you are not sore, have the energy, and can easily fit in another workout, you should definitely try it out and see how you respond!

I typically take one full day off and my shoulder days are lighter in terms of energetic output. Sometimes I’ll throw in one or two leg exercises at the end of a shoulder day. Not all the time–just when I have the energy.

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.

Mini Pause #10: How to Grow Muscles Without Lifting Heavier

Injury Prevention, Part 2

TL,DR (too long, didn’t read)

In last week’s Mini Pause #9, I talked about ways you can maximize muscle growth and simultaneously prevent injury. Today’s issue continues to explore how to maximize muscle growth without lifting heavier.

Full range of motion—defined as your range of motion that is not restricted and is pain-free—is one of the most effective ways to maximize muscle gains and future-proof your body for injury. Other variables like increasing volume (both in rep and set number), as well as decreasing the time in between sets, are other ways to increase the intensity of the exercise without lifting heavy weights.

WHY

In Mini Pause #9, we discussed the similarities between injury prevention and muscle hypertrophy, and, like most things, it turns out I have more to say about it.

In addition to doing a sport-specific warm-up, working the eccentric and the longest point of the muscle there are a few other variables I’d like to discuss that will help you on your muscle-building journey to becoming comfortable with lifting without injury.

We often hear online that women should lift heavy sh*t. I agree. And, I recognize that many women our age grew up on cardio machines and may not have the neuromechanical integrity or muscle memory to do this well without getting injured.

We must think about improving our strength before we work on power [*].

So, here are a few more ways you can think about growing muscle without adding on weight.

Your goal, eventually, is to progress and lift heavier with time. The key word is eventually. There is no rush, and you can take your sweet time learning. Learn the movement pattern the right way the first time and you will enjoy muscle mommy injury-free status.

WHAT

Full ROM

Building on Mini Pause #9’s idea of working the muscle at its weakest point, your range of motion both for the muscle and the joint is an imperative tool for staying in the gym. You want to get all those muscle gains and prevent injury.

Said another way, if you cannot perform the full range of motion as God and your joints intended, you are missing out on a lot of potential muscle gains [*], as well as future-proofing your body for injury.

This isn’t rehab my Bettys; this is even better. It’s prehab—getting the movement patterning right the first time so that you evade injury and grow the muscle in a safe and controlled way.

If you are dealing with osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, or any other arthritide [*] for that matter, full range of motion to preserve the joints [*] in question is the absolute name of the game.

In treating my patients with rheumatoid arthritis, the weight on the bar was the least important aspect of working out. It was not important at all. My focus was all about answering the question: What range of motion can this person do without restriction and pain? Then, building on range from there.

Whether you’re a beginner in the gym or someone with 10,000 hours clocked, exploring your range of motion can be how you tweak your routine to stimulate muscle growth AND improve capsular and joint integrity.

Let’s explore this with shoulder training.

Photo 1: Dumbbell lateral raise parallel.

If you’re like me and want glute-sized delts, most of your shoulder work should be focused on the side deltoid muscle, because that is what gives presence to the shoulders when looking at them head-on. (Plus, if you’ve set up your programming correctly, your front and rear delts are going to be hit during chest and back days).

What does full range of motion look like for the lateral deltoid? This is going to, in part, depend on the health of your shoulders.

Let’s assume this is a dumbbell lateral raise. If you are dealing with an injury, you might aim to lift them to about parallel. Something like photo 1.

As you nurse the injury, or if lifting to parallel becomes easier and you feel ready to progress, instead of graduating to a higher weight, keep the same weight, but lift it higher than parallel.

In photo 2, my arms are abducting now to greater than 120 degrees. This is incredibly difficult, and in doing this, you may even need to drop the weights to do the motion properly.

You can continue the movement arc to the top. You want to think about the range of motion for the muscle, and not just simply the movement. You lift until you don’t feel your delts anymore, and it’s all upper traps (this will usually happen north of 120 degrees of abduction with the elevation of the arm shifting from primarily the deltoid to the traps).

Photo 2: Dumbbell lateral raise abduction more than 120 degrees.

Volume

Another way you can accelerate injury recovery and muscle growth without lifting heavy weights is through increasing volume [*]. Meaning, either increasing the repetitions per set or increasing the total number of sets performed.

When intensity is equated [*], we see similar gains in both individuals repping out heavy weights for fewer reps or sets compared with lighter weights with more reps and/or sets.

The signal to the muscle is similar [*] when lifting heavy weights vs. lifting lighter but for many more reps. As long as you get close to failure, you’re going to achieve a similar result.

I often do this in week 4 of my cycle. In my book, The Betty Body [*], I talk about reps in the 15- to 30-rep range with lighter weights to accommodate some of the inflammation many women feel around their cycle.

Truth be told, I will also do this when I haven’t slept well or just am not in the mental space to lift heavy.

Rest Time Between Sets

Another way to manipulate the intensity of your workout without adding weights is to decrease the rest time in between your sets. This works well (read: you will feel the burn!) if you are increasing your volume of the reps in the set.

The burn you feel in the muscle toward the end of a set is an accumulation of metabolic debris and stress. We often rest between sets to allow for this debris to clear and for the muscle to be fresh and ready for its next set.

There’s a lot of discussion about the ideal time to rest between sets, but generally, here are a few good indicators:

  • Your heart rate has returned to baseline or near baseline (I use a polar heart rate monitor for this).
  • Any accessory muscles used in the movement also feel good (e.g., the lower back muscles during a squat, the biceps during a pull-up, or the triceps during a chest press).
  • The target muscles themselves feel ready to work again.

This is probably going to fall in the one- to five-minute range depending on the recovery items above. Decreasing your rest time is another way to elevate the intensity [*] of the workout.

HOW & NOW

  • Keep your training program the same—no need to change anything!
  • Drop the weights (and your ego telling you not to try anything new!) and explore your current range of motion with every movement. Your range is going to be defined as the most movement through an arc that is not restricted or is pain-free.
  • Work your current range of motion with lighter weights while dialing up your volume. Increase your reps from anywhere from 15-30 reps. For example, if your current reps are 15, bump it up to 20. You also can add one more set to your current set split. If you’re currently doing three sets, make it four.
  • One more way to ramp up your intensity is to decrease the rest time between sets. To do this, use your phone as a timer and just see what your current rest time is with your workouts this week. You can start by decreasing this time by 30 seconds next week.

Question of the Week

Q: How can women avoid dyslipidemia during menopause?

If you are starting to see your lipid levels start to climb in menopause, there are a few ways to help improve this. First, we can think about the variables we can control and then perhaps the variables we cannot.

VARIABLES YOU CAN CONTROL

In the Mini Pause #6, I discussed the changes we see in body composition in our 40s through menopause. Some of the suggestions I outlined were:

Consider the composition of your calories.

  • In my book, The Betty Body, I detail a female-centric ketogenic diet for women looking to lose weight, and more specifically, lose visceral fat.
  • The ketogenic diet (high fat, moderate protein, and low carbohydrate) has been shown to improve all measures of body composition including body weight, body mass index, waist circumference, fat mass, fat-free mass, lean body mass, visceral adipose tissue, and body fat percentage

Lift weights with the intention of putting on muscle mass.

  • As we have been discussing, you can lift heavy, or you can lift lighter while controlling the eccentric, increasing the volume of reps and sets, and working the weakest part of the muscle to maximize muscle gain.
  • Work until the muscle is done like dinner.

Exercise snack your way through the day.

  • We are designed to have a lot of low-grade activity throughout the day. If you are someone who sits at a desk for several hours a day, consider investing in an under-desk treadmill and a convertible desktop stand to be able to get some consistent walking through the day. It doesn’t need to be fast: 1.0 to 1.5 mph is plenty!

For improving lipids specifically, I have a few more recommendations that have a good amount of robust literature to support them:

  • Consume phytoestrogenic foods [*]. Once demonized, phytoestrogens are a great choice for peri and postmenopausal women alike. Phytoestrogens can potentially reduce atherosclerosis and atherosclerosis-related diseases through multiple mechanisms like regulating lipid metabolism, lowering cytokine levels, and improving the coagulation/fibrinolysis system.
  • Dose up your Omega 3s. It’s well established that Omega-3s are anti-inflammatory, cardioprotective, and sensitize the body to insulin [*]. I like a minimum dose of 2g, and I often take experimental doses much higher than this. (Check out BodyBio, my new favorite Omega 3s. Use code DRSTEPHANIE for a discount.)
  • Take antioxidants like dark berries and green leafy vegetables to combat oxidative stress. The highest antioxidant content is found in almonds, artichokes, blackberries, blueberries, cherries (sour), chocolate (yay!), cloves, coffee (double yay!), cranberries, grape juice, cranberry juice, pomegranate juice, pecans, raspberries, spinach, strawberries, and walnuts.

VARIABLES YOU CANNOT CONTROL

For the things you cannot control, this is most obviously going to be the amount of sex hormones you produce as you age. Specifically, estradiol.

During a woman’s fertile life, the average level of total estrogen is 100–250 pg/mL. Estrogens are produced primarily in the ovaries via a process that uses low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C) as a substrate. In menopause circulatory LDL-C can no longer be utilized to synthesize estrogen. This is, in part, why menopause is associated with increased blood LDL-C levels and enhanced cardiovascular risk.

Speaking to your doctor about hormone replacement therapy is a great (dare I say necessary) option for regulating lipids in our postmenopausal life.

I can tell you with certainty that when my hormone levels begin to drop, or I am symptomatic, I will be seeking this out in addition to the lifestyle factors I teach and write about.

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.

What I Recommend: Mitopure

Improve your cellular health with Mitopure’s Urolithin A, a postbiotic nutrient. It works directly on your mitochondria to improve energy production that naturally lags as you age. Mitopure also impacts your muscle strength and endurance. Learn how and use code DRSTEPHANIE to get 10% off either the soft gels or the powder stick packs.

P.S.

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Mini Pause #2: How Cold Plunge Benefits Women

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.

Last week we looked at oats and how they can be effectively used as a pre-workout fuel. If you missed it, you can read it here.

Cold Plunge: Is It The Same for Women?

TL,DR (too long, didn’t read)

Cold plunges are a great tool for recovering from muscle soreness post-exercise and there is some evidence it may help with the appearance of cellulite. There are a few considerations for women to keep in mind if you are jumping on this ‘cool’ trend (see what I did there?). Irrespective of the temperature, you want to stay in the water until you start shivering. Interestingly, women may not need to cold plunge at extreme cold temperatures to reap the benefits on metabolism and immune function.

WHY

Cold plunging has myriad benefits and one of the ways it shines is as a recovery tool. When you submerge yourself in cold water, it triggers several physiological responses in your body, such as:

  • constricting blood vessels,
  • reducing inflammation (which helps with muscle recovery), and
  • reducing swelling.

Anyone with an autoimmune condition or an arthritide like osteoarthritis knows how “hot” joints and tissues can get during a flareup and how welcome the cold can be. Women who run hot in the luteal phase of the cycle, or those who suffer from hot flashes, also may find cold plunging a welcome relief and a help with thermoregulation.

Cold plunging aids muscle recovery. This is incredibly important if you lift weights!

  • In the short term, cold plunges help with recovery from high-intensity exercise and endurance activities.
  • In the long term, it helps with muscle strength, muscle power, and even jump performance.

Another benefit of cold plunging is its stimulatory effects on metabolism. While you are in the cold tub and immediately afterward as your body brings your core temperature back to normal, you will burn more calories to heat up. Cold plunging liberates stored triglycerides from your fat depots and uses them for energy as you are trying to warm up.

Now — a word of caution — some online influencers have claimed this is the “single best way to get fat off your body.” This is simply not true. We are all subject to the laws of energy consumption irrespective of whether we cold plunge or not! And frankly, I’d argue that building muscle tissue is the single best way to burn fat.

I’ve estimated using this calculator that I burn about 35 calories while in the cold plunge. Using this estimate, a 35-calorie burn (and then a bit extra to bring your core temperature back up) is going to burn about 3.6 lbs on an annual basis.

In aggregate, this can contribute to fat loss when calories are controlled in your diet.

And finally, cellulite. While harmless, it’s often the reason women don’t wear the short shorts, the short sleeves, or the bikinis. While I think life is too short NOT wear what you love, there’s some emerging evidence that cold plunging can help with the appearance of cellulite.

WHAT

For those of you wanting to better understand the science of cold plunges, the process by which cold plunges impact metabolism is by activating brown fat.

When brown fat is activated, it generates heat by disrupting energy production. The technical term is called “uncoupling” oxidative phosphorylation. This uncoupling is being driven by Uncoupling Protein 1 (UCP1), which is present in the mitochondria of brown fat cells. UCP1 uncouples (or disrupts) the electron transport chain from creating ATP, causing the energy produced through cellular respiration to be dissipated as heat rather than used for ATP generation.

When heat is being created, your brown fat utilizes stored triglycerides as a fuel source. It breaks down triglycerides into fatty acids and glycerol. Then, those are transported to mitochondria to be oxidized for heat production. This process results in the release of energy in the form of heat and the consumption of stored fat.

For cellulite, during a cold plunge the cold temperature is absorbed by the fibrous connective tissue, leading to the collagen being more soluble. This solubilization promotes the removal of the tight, non-elastic network that often contributes to the appearance of cellulite. As a result, the skin’s pitted texture diminishes, creating a smoother and more even complexion. The activation of fibroblasts in response to collagen solubilization stimulates the production of new, more elastic collagen and further enhances the skin’s overall quality.

So at what temperature do you set your cold plunge and how long do you have to stay in to get these benefits? Like most things, there are sex differences when it comes to cold response.

Generally speaking, women are more intolerant to cold than men:

  • Women get colder faster
  • Women start shivering at higher temperatures
  • The neurotransmitter and immune benefits seem to be slightly lower for women. That doesn’t mean you don’t receive a benefit — it just means your response is smaller than what occurs in men.)

Where you are in your cycle also affects your tolerance to cold temperatures and how long you can be in cold water immersion.

  • Generally, women tend to run warmer in the luteal phase of the cycle — from ovulation through to the first day of your period. Cold plunging may be a welcome relief during this time.
  • In the follicular phase (bleed week through to ovulation), you’re typically more resilient to stressors. This can be a good time to play with longer plunges or colder temperatures.

HOW

Here are a few ways you can incorporate cold plunges as a recovery tool. I’ve outlined strategies at different price points for you to consider:

Cold Shower: This where my cold plunging journey started. I would take my regular shower and then the last minute, I would turn off the heat and stand in the freezing water for a minute. I may or may not have been screaming, crying, or both.

Ice Bag Baths: The next step in my cold plunge evolution was my bathtub. I would fill it up with cold water then top it off with ice from the gas station to get it extra cold. This was a better solution for a while. I could immerse myself in the water completely rather than being limited to the size of my shower nozzle. Over time, I did find the trip to the gas station cumbersome, and it was hard to control the exact temperature this way. If I over did it with the ice, I had to wait for the water to warm up.

Coldture Cold/Hot Tub: I invested in a cold tub when I knew it was a recovery practice I wanted to do several times a week for help with muscle recovery from my training sessions. I know I sound like a broken record, but in perimenopause, it’s all about the recovery!

For those of you wondering, I purchased the Coldture Classic tub with chiller. I decided on this tub because:

  • The tub is portable and I can move it outdoors in the summer if I want.
  • The tub DOUBLES as a hot tub! The temperature range on the chiller goes from 3C- 40C or 37F to 104F.
  • I can turn it on and off from my phone.
  • The chiller gets the exact temperature.
  • The two-step filtration system keeps my water clean.

There are other cold plunge options without a chiller. I went with this because I like to have control over the temperature. (If you decide to check out Coldture, use code DRSTEPHANIE to get a discount.)

I have the temperature set at 13C / 55F and I’m in there for 11 minutes, or until I start shivering. Depending on where I am in my cycle, this can be anywhere from 8 to 12 minutes. As I continue to build out cold tolerance, these numbers will change.

The main point is this: irrespective of your method or duration of cold water immersion — you want to stay in the water until you evoke a shivering response.

NOW

Choose your cold adventure (cold shower, ice bath in your bathtub, or cold plunge) and ignore the voice in your head telling you to avoid discomfort. That’s where all the growth, grit, and resilience happens!

Research on women and cold plunging is almost non-existent (surprise, surprise), but here are a few general guidelines for you to follow. Also, let your intuition guide you.

  • Aim for 10-12 minutes per week to start. If you are plunging 3x/week, that will be anywhere from 3 minutes to 4 minutes per session. Stay in until you elicit a shiver response.
  • Aim for the temperature to be 10C-16C / 50F-60F to start.
  • Towel off when you get out, and if time allows, don’t get dressed right away. Let your natural shivering response warm you back up. Truthfully, I’m only able to do this on weekends when I have a bit more time. I usually find my shiver response to last anywhere from about 15-30 minutes after the cold.
  • Note where you are in your cycle (if you’re still regular). You might find cold plunging a welcome relief in your luteal phase. That’s when you tend to run hotter and your tolerance for longer sessions is lower. During follicular phase plunges, the water may feel relatively colder, and you may be able to tolerate longer sessions.

Question of the Week

Q: I’m in menopause and my cholesterol and blood sugar have both gotten worse. Why?

 

Excellent question!  Let’s tuck into it.

EVALUATING

Menopause, from a strictly hormonal perspective, can and should be viewed as an estrogen deficiency. Estrogen has a direct effect on our lipids by directly acting on the liver to reduce total cholesterol, to reduce LDL cholesterol, and to increase HDL cholesterol.

In menopause and in perimenopause you have marked changes in estrogen levels. This means that in an environment of reduced estrogens, total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol will rise, and HDL cholesterol will lower. And the jump is significant — most women will see a 10-15% rise in their lipid levels in their post-menopausal years.

In my podcast with Ben Bikman, he called women “metabolic superheroes” prior to menopause because of of this lipid-balancing effect estrogen has. Once you’re menopausal and not taking hormonal replacement therapy, you can absolutely see a rise in total cholesterol and thereby increase your risk for cardiovascular and cerebrovascular disease. In fact, the female risk of cardiovascular disease in women who are 10 years into menopause tends to square off with the risk in men!

Our blood glucose similarly has a similar fate through a different path — your muscle. Skeletal muscle is the largest organ in the body by weight and is one of the primary regulators of glucose balance and homeostasis. Skeletal muscle is responsible for 80% (not a typo) of the glucose that circulates post meal.

As you age, the muscle desensitizes to the insulin signal from the pancreas, which has a net result of increased circulating blood glucose. Now, pair this with menopause, where you have a lower concentration of anabolic hormones like estrogen and testosterone, and this insulin insensitivity is amplified.

NEXT STEPS

The good news here is that you can always do something about it.

Women with a healthy weight and normal to high muscle mass are much less likely to experience the glucose dysregulation and dyslipidemia I described above. Maintaining or building your lean muscle tissue can be achieved through dietary or mechanical means.

Consuming protein (at a minimum of 1g/lb of body weight) is ideal for stimulating muscle growth. (There’s a lot more to say about what kind of protein, dosing of protein, and % of protein targets in the diet. Look for that in a future newsletter.)

Mechanical stimulation is what you might have guessed — regular resistance training! You have to give the muscle a reason to grow! Lift weight as heavy as you can with as close to perfect form as you can.

I will be diving into far more detail on form and type of exercises in coming newsletters and podcast episodes. I have spent the better part of 30 years mastering this and, as you might imagine, have a lot to say about it!

Nutrition plays a role here too — specifically your fibre consumption. Women who consume 25-35g per day will positively impact cholesterol levels, and can offset excessive weight gain.

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.

What I Recommend: LMNT

Healthy hydration isn’t just about drinking water. It’s about water AND electrolytes. You lose both water and sodium when you sweat. Both need to be replaced to prevent muscle cramps, headaches, and energy dips. This is especially true in winter, when your hydration needs actually rise.

I’m loving the new LMNT limited-edition Chocolate Medley for hot drinks. All three flavors, Chocolate Mint, Chocolate Chai, and Chocolate Raspberry taste great on their own or swirled into my favorite recipes. And the Chocolate Caramel rounds out the hot-drink flavors.

Visit drinklmnt.com/drestima to receive a free LMNT Sample Pack with any order.