I'm turning 40 this year, and this milestone has lead to conversations with other women (friends and clients) about this stage of life, and they ways our bodies are just different now than when we were in our 30s. At this phase of life most women I talk with are in (what they describe as), 'a great place mentally and emotionally,' but physically they often say they don't feel like themselves. There are complaints about extra weight that's hung around since having kids, lower energy levels (maybe the kids are also to blame for this) and a desire to make dietary and exercise changes, but not knowing where to start.
While I take a weight neutral approach to nutrition care, this blog post will address body shape and size, as this stage of life brings about hormonal changes and changes to metabolism and body composition, making it a crucial time to adopt a holistic approach to health or modify an established practice. In our practice, we've seen women for nutrition counseling who are over-restricting calories or not exercising, experience unfavorable changes to body composition in their 40s. What worked in the past, isn't working anymore. Below, I'll explore key elements that can contribute to wellness for women over 40 and what I'll be focusing on more heading into this next decade.
Strength Training for Women Over 40: Many women shy away from strength training, fearing it will make them bulk up. However, incorporating resistance training into your fitness routine has numerous benefits. Loss of muscle mass begins in the 30s, increasing to 1% per year by 40. Strength training helps counteract this by building lean muscle, which increases metabolism and aids in weight management. Women should aim for 60 minutes of exercise daily and two of these weekly exercise sessions should include resistance training.
Prioritize Adequate Protein Intake: Protein is a crucial component of a healthy diet, especially for women over 40. It helps in preserving lean muscle mass, supporting metabolism, promoting a feeling of fullness, and is necessary for muscle synthesis. Aim for a balanced distribution of protein throughout the day to ensure your body receives a steady supply of amino acids for optimal muscle function and body composition.
Quality Sleep Maintenance: Getting sufficient and quality sleep is often overlooked but it something dietitians consider essential for weight management. Poor sleep can disrupt hormones that regulate appetite, leading to increased feelings of hunger and decreased feelings of satiety. Aim for 7-9 hours of uninterrupted sleep each night. Establish a bedtime routine, create a comfortable sleep environment, and limit screen time before bed to improve the quality of your sleep. Hormone changes and hot flashes may also impact sleep, and may be resolved with additional interventions if issues persist with quality sleep maintenance.
Limiting Alcohol Consumption: Women are often concerned about the calories in cocktails, choosing champagne or tequila soda, but the impacts extend beyond the calories. While enjoying a glass of wine or a cocktail is fine, excessive alcohol consumption can impact sleep and appetite. Avoiding alcohol 3 hours prior to bedtime is a best practice to limit impacts on sleep. When sleep is disrupted we can experience appetite dysregulation. While I know it's not the fun answer, this vicious cycle is best avoided by limiting the amount and frequency of alcohol intake.
Embracing these practices can help women enhance their overall well-being as they navigate life beyond 40. Figuring out how to incorporate these changes into your lifestyle is often the hardest part. A registered dietitian can guide you through this process, helping to determine the right foods, how much protein and types of exercise that are best. If you are ready to make changes to feel better after 40, schedule a discovery call to see if we're a good fit.