Guide
Centr Team

Your guide to thriving in perimenopause & menopause

Centr Team

It’s something half the world’s population will experience, yet many women feel unprepared for how perimenopause and menopause rearrange their life.

With symptoms that can range from sleepless nights to joint pain, is it any surprise that one third of women in menopause are not getting the recommended minimum of 150 minutes per week of exercise?

Since you’re here, we already know you care about your health and fitness and want to keep smashing goals. With expert input from sports dietitian Angie Asche, we’ve gathered the best advice on adjusting your training and nutrition for this time of life, so you can continue to thrive.

Important: Hormonal fluctuations related to perimenopause and menopause are highly individual and variable. Always listen to your body and talk to a doctor if you have concerns about your hormones.


7 in 10 women are concerned about the impacts of perimenopause or menopause on their life.

CENTR SURVEY

Feeling blindsided by menopause? This could be why…

Perimenopause and menopause remain under researched.

One survey published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that only 20 percent of obstetrics and gynecology residency programs (in other words, the hospitals training doctors to look after us) have a formal menopause curriculum.

It also remains a bit of a taboo subject in the community, meaning many women feel blindsided when it starts. But thankfully this is changing.

So what exactly are perimenopause and menopause?

Perimenopause is described as an “ill-defined time period” primarily marked by irregular periods and the end of ovulation. But considering 14-25 percent of women have irregular periods, it can be tough for many to know if perimenopause has begun.

This stage begins in early-to-mid-40s for most, and can be turbulent. As estrogen (oestrogen) and progesterone don’t gradually decline in a straight line, you end up strapped to a hormone roller coaster that can last for years.

This can lead to many symptoms, the most common being hot flashes, sleep disruption, depression and vaginal dryness.

You’ve officially reached menopause when it has been 12 months since your last period.

The average age of menopause is 51 in the US and Australia, but it can happen anywhere between 45 and 60. Symptoms of perimenopause can continue after you are officially in menopause, but they will gradually start to ease.

You may also hear people refer to postmenopause – this is the stage you enter into after menopause, where symptoms caused by fluctuating hormones may begin to ease. But we’ll stick with referring to perimenopause and menopause here to avoid confusion. All the advice below applies if you’re postmenopausal, too.

What to do when your energy levels are all over the place

Combine wild hormonal energy fluctuations and difficulty sleeping and it’s understandable that many women struggle with motivation and maintaining their previous workout routine.

First things first, don’t beat yourself up. These are big issues you’re coming up against – you’re not failing because you’re not doing 5 days of intense workouts anymore or taking more extra rest days.

Tackle it head on by embracing variety in your training: opt for different styles depending on your motivation and energy levels.

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Slow things down with a low-impact session from Centr Align, the 4-week yoga and Pilates program.

On poor energy days, low-impact exercise can help. Not only will it help reduce fatigue (by up to 65 percent according to one study), it helps you to sleep better at night.

If you are suffering from a lack of sleep, be extra cautious of training injuries. Make sure you are incorporating mobility work (more on that below), warm-ups for more intense training sessions and upping your recovery protocols.

Training for your new physical reality

As hard as you might want to turn back the clock, your body is changing – so you’re bound to feel better if you work with it, rather than struggle against it.

  • Strength training is an absolute must to maintain bone health and prevent muscle wastage, which starts to accelerate in your 40s. More on this below.
  • Cardio exercise to support heart health is crucial. As estrogen levels fall, fat can build up in your arteries causing them to become narrower. This increases your risk of developing coronary heart disease, and having a heart attack or stroke.
  • You may find yourself getting stiffer, so flexibility and mobility work should become part of your routine.
  • If you’re impacted by joint pain, adjusting your routine to feature less high-impact and more low-impact exercise can help. Strength training is low impact and will also help to protect your joints.

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At this stage of life, lifting weights and building strength is essential.

So many reasons to stay strong

Reducing body fat, protecting your joints, preventing falls… One of the best things you can do for yourself is to begin – or continue – strength training.

That means using resistance (such as weights, resistance bands or bodyweight) to build muscle strength.

If fat loss is your goal, the best approach is to work on total-body strength. While you may have a particular area of focus, such as your belly, there is no way to spot-reduce fat. No matter what exercise you’re doing, the fat you’re burning can come from anywhere in your body.

Instead, focus on developing muscle mass – because the more you have, the more fat your body will burn.

And take a pointer from Angie to make sure your nutrition supports your muscles.

“According to the latest research, perimenopausal and menopausal women who are active should be aiming for 1.8-2g of protein per kilogram of body weight each day to maintain lean muscle tissue as estrogen declines.”

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These fast high-protein dinners will prevent muscle loss as estrogen declines.

Where is all this excess belly fat coming from?

One of the main concerns Angie sees in her work with perimenopausal and menopausal athletes is increased belly fat.

“This occurs due to the triple whammy of decreased estrogen, increased insulin resistance and the decline in muscle mass,” she explains.

While not all weight gain will be in the same area, the hormonal changes at this stage of life do make it more likely around the abdomen.

There is also a link between stress and belly fat.

“Research shows cortisol (the stress hormone) has an impact on fat distribution by causing fat to be stored centrally around the belly, resulting in an increase in visceral fat. Elevated cortisol levels can lead to an increase in appetite too, which could promote further fat gain,” Angie says.

“This is why adopting healthy lifestyle habits is especially important: staying physically active, eating nutrient-dense foods and prioritizing both sleep and stress management.”

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Keep those cortisol levels in check by building your stress resilience with our top tips.

How to survive those hot flashes

Feeling that sudden flare of heat… again?

While the exact cause of hot flashes are unknown, they’re one of the most common symptoms of perimenopause and menopause.

Whether yours are mercifully short or long and sweaty, there are things you can do to manage the symptoms.

“An elevated core temperature means you’ll need to focus on fluid and electrolyte intake to replenish what you lose through sweat – especially when you’re training,” says Angie.

“You can also reduce caffeine and alcohol consumption, as well as spicy foods, to help to regulate your core temperature.”

Angie also recommends that you “consume foods high in phytoestrogen (such as soy, tempeh, edamame and flaxseeds) to reduce the severity of hot flashes”.

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Angie’s Watermelon Sports Drink is designed to replenish lost fluids and electrolytes.

Breaking through the brain fog

More than 60 percent of women report cognitive difficulties during their menopause transition. This can include things like forgetfulness, difficulty concentrating and needing memory aids – and it can be frightening as well as frustrating.

So how can you support your brain health and counter any decline in cognition? Angie recommends starting with what’s on your plate.

  • Add more plants to your plate! This one is a no-brainer (pun intended) because plants are a rich source of both fiber and antioxidants. Aim for a variety of fruits and vegetables, and try incorporating whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds regularly.”
  • Ensure a regular intake of omega-3s by adding fatty fish – like salmon, tuna or sardines – into your diet a few times per week. Not a fan of fish? Incorporate plant sources like chia, flax, hemp or walnuts daily, and speak with your healthcare professional about supplementation.”
  • Reduce your intake of saturated fats and sugar, because this has been linked to a greater risk of cognitive decline.”

Reducing alcohol consumption can also improve your sleep, which is crucial for the health of your brain. Just one drink for women can decrease sleep quality by 24 percent.

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Swapping your cocktail for an alcohol-free alternative will help your sleep quality and your mood.

How to elevate your mood

Perimenopause and menopause can be a time of increased anger, irritability and anxiety. But there are ways to manage these mood swings.

Firstly, your brain loves it when you exercise. Neuroscientist Wendy Suzuki, who studies the impact of physical fitness on the mind, puts it like this: “Every time you work out, you are giving your brain a neurochemical bubble bath.”

The effects of exercise on mood compound over time, meaning the more you do, the better you’ll feel. But if you’re looking for an instant uplift, try something short and achievable that gets your heart rate going. Alexz has you covered with her HILIT Booster workout series.

The types of food you eat can also affect your mood – impacting the production of the neurotransmitters mentioned above.

“Tryptophan is an amino acid which your body converts into serotonin, which is a neurotransmitter known to boost mood,” Angie says.

“That’s why foods containing tryptophan, like sesame and sunflower seeds, pistachio and cashew nuts, dairy, eggs and meats including lamb, beef, pork and poultry are believed to have a positive impact on mood.”

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The tuna in this slaw salad provides plenty of tryptophan, which your body converts to serotonin.

Tryptophan is not the only nutrient to look out for.

“Magnesium, omega-3 fatty acids, B vitamins and antioxidants may also play an important role in the function of neurotransmitters,” Angie says.

Be mindful of the carbohydrates you consume

“Eating a lot of refined carbs can spike your blood glucose – the aim is to keep those levels stable,” says Angie.

“Menopausal women have been found to have higher blood glucose and HbA1c (a protein linked to type 2 diabetes) levels, and also greater sugar intakes,” she says. “Hormonal changes that take place during menopause can result in women becoming more insulin resistant.”

This has big health implications, including increased diabetes and osteoporosis risk, and can lead to fat gain around the belly.

Still, being ‘mindful’ of your carb intake doesn’t mean cutting them out altogether. Bread and pasta are still on the menu! Instead, Angie has these carbohydrate tips:

  • "Consume carbs around training, to help support your performance and recovery. Avoid having a large dose of refined carbs when you’re not going to be physically active for a while.”
  • "Make the bulk of your carbs fiber-rich, aiming for a minimum of 25 grams of fiber per day. Fiber is found in an abundance of plant foods, and I recommend aiming for a variety (nuts, seeds, legumes, fruits, vegetables, whole grains) as this ensures you’ll also be consuming a variety of micronutrients.”
  • "Consume carbs with protein and healthy fats, for better blood sugar balance and to help reduce spikes.”

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Calcium? Check. Protein? Check. Tastes like apple pie? Check. Building stronger bones has never tasted so good.

Keeping your bones strong for the long run

Did you know half of a woman’s lifetime bone density loss happens during the first 10 years of menopause? And around 40 percent of all menopausal women experience a fracture.

To maintain bone strength, Angie has several recommendations. Firstly, make sure you’re getting enough vitamin D and bump up your calcium intake.

“Estrogen helps to increase calcium absorption and retention in bone,” Angie explains. Therefore, “calcium recommendations increase from 1000 to 1300mg per day in menopausal women due to lower estrogen levels."

And while you’re strength training and eating protein to maintain muscle strength, do it for your bones, too.

“Strength training and protein are so important for bone strength,” says Angie. “It’s a common misconception that protein is only for building muscle, but the amino acids that make up protein are used for so many different functions – including bone health.”

Want more advice from the experts?

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