Weight gain is a very common side effect of your period even if you don’t change your diet or exercise routine during your time of the month. Putting on pounds is also common during menopause, but doctors say aging, not menopause, causes a thickening waistline. Hormones play an important but significantly different role in changes to your body during menstruation and menopause. Keep reading to find out what’s the difference.
Menstruation’s fluctuating hormones
With hormone levels fluctuating, you may feel the fatigue and cramping of premenstrual syndrome. Resist the impulse to curl up on the couch instead of heading for the gym. Working out also will reduce the impact of the extra cravings that come along with your period.
Here’s why you crave snacks and sugar during your period. Menstrual hormones mess with your appetite and egg you on to eat more. They also encourage insulin resistance. Insulin resistance keeps sugar hanging around longer in your blood, and lingering sugar prompts weight gain. Plus, menstrual hormones trigger water retention that causes bloat.
Appetite stimulation plus sugar cravings
The levels of progesterone and estrogen released from your ovaries are highest just before you start your period. The increase in progesterone just prior to the menstrual cycle stimulates your appetite, and so you eat more. Progesterone also expands blood vessels to accommodate more fluid. That fluid holds onto salt. If the food you’re craving is salt-laden chips, you get hit with a double whammy of retaining water bloat on top of adding extra weight.
Progesterone also may be to blame for insatiable sugar cravings leading up to your period. Scientists know that progesterone increases insulin resistance. Insulin resistance prevents the body from processing sugars as you normally would, and sugars lingering in the blood longer than usual contribute to weight gain. Sugar cravings that provoke you to eat more and gain weight are prompted also by a drop in the body’s serotonin levels when estrogen falls and the menstrual bleeding starts.
Mistaking thirst for hunger
Magnesium regulates hydration, and when your body’s magnesium levels drop around the first day of your period, you may be tricked into mistaking dehydration for hunger. Low magnesium levels cause sugar cravings, so you think you’re hungry when you’re actually thirsty. Reach for a glass of water before a snack.
Menopause changes (almost) everything.
Most weight gain during and after menopause is the result of aging, not menopause. But the hormonal changes that menopause causes can contribute to putting on pounds. Adding a little weight over a few months may call for a few lifestyle adjustments to avoid an increased risk of heart disease or other issues.
Let’s start with hormones. Falling levels of the hormone estradiol changes the way women carry fat. After menopause, most women start to carry fat around their bellies instead of their lower bodies. Seeing fat in an area where they’ve never seen it before can make women think they are putting on weight even when they still weigh the same. However, excessive weight gain around the belly can increase the risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, high cholesterol and diabetes.
Reduced physical activity
It’s not hormones, however, that lowers the number of calories that your body burns in its resting state. That can be attributed to loss of muscle mass, and that loss is often traced to curtailed physical activity as most people age. You would need to compensate for less physical activity and change your diet if you want to keep the same weight or lose weight.
The stresses of menopause are all too familiar to women. Hot flashes, night sweats, insomnia, trouble sleeping, and changes in libido can push women into snack attacks and skipped workouts. Comfort eating can contribute to weight gain.
Add strength training to your workout
Doctors recommend women in menopause should do more weight-bearing and strength-training exercises in addition to cardio workouts. Strength training helps prevent loss of muscle mass and improves bone health as women enter their 60s and osteoporosis becomes a concern. Women of menopause age should try to exercise five days a week for at least 45 minutes a day.