Milford Personal Trainer: Are your hormones holding you up?

Are hormones holding me back?


This question has been on the back of your mind as you’ve tried different diets the past few years. Ever since you turned 40 it seems like nothing works anymore and you’ve slowly been putting on a few pounds each year. Or maybe you haven’t really changed weight, but your clothes fit differently. You’re frustrated and unsure whether or not it’s even possible to lose weight because you’re going through hormonal changes.


We serve so many women who struggle with this exact same problem, who ask themselves this exact question, which is why we wanted to take some time to really unpack hormones and how they affect weight loss as you age.


First, let’s talk about what happens when women start entering perimenopause and menopause. The biggest way menopause affects the body from a compositional standpoint is central fat distribution. Typically as women approach menopause the muscle mass they have tends to decrease and their body fat percentage increases and re-distributes. This can account for the “pouch” you never had before, and can cause a pear shaped body to become more of an apple shape.


This, coupled with the fact that lifestyle changes occur as we age (we generally don’t exercise as much as we did when we were young) it can result in an increase in weight. As menopause occurs many women notice a decrease in energy and an increase in sleep disturbances which can also cause your body to hold onto fat, furthering the challenge of losing weight.



What prevents most women from losing weight in their 40’s and 50’s is not necessarily hormones, but their mindset. Many go into weight loss with the same mindset they’ve had every time they wanted to lose weight, and come out frustrated that it didn’t work like it used to.


Instead of going to a diet to lose weight during menopause, it’s a great time to look at nutritional habits because your metabolic rate might be decreasing not only due to menopause but also how you’ve treated your body throughout the years.


Your metabolism will decrease as you age due to hormones but also due to that muscle loss that occurs. On average, after around age 30 adults lose a pound of muscle and gain a pound of fat each year. This can be prevented of course by consistent healthy diet and exercise, but the majority of people lose muscle and gain fat after 30. This is important because each pound of muscle you have burns about 50 calories a day just doing nothing. As you lose muscle you start losing that 50 calories a day and over a 10 year period your metabolism can slow down by 5000 calories. Then, once you hit 40 it suddenly feels like an overnight weight gain, when it’s really been occurring over time.


Now that we’ve got the basics covered, we want to share some info straight from an expert on age medicine: Dr. Calvin Wilson. Dr. Wilson has had his own medical practice here in Kent  County for 20 years. He started out as an OBGYN and transitioned to age management and was one of the first physicians to begin talking about hormone therapy.


Below is a Q&A with him. To watch, just click on the video above and go to the time stamp!


Evans: Tell us a little about who you are, what’s your experience with this whole hormone stuff, and what do you do on a daily basis.


(27:44) Dr. Wilson: Thank you. First of all, thank you for the invitation and I am super excited to be on a broadcast with the folks from CNU Fit because I’ve also seen Evans and much of the staff and CNU Fit since the inception of the concept, and I’ll tell you it’s first class. I’ve been blessed to work with some of the top fitness professionals in the world, literally, and I don’t think that there are any of them that have a leg up on Evans and the folks at CNU Fit, so first thank you for that. I’ve had an interest in medicine, prevention, exercise, nutrition my entire life and, unfortunately, in my opinion, here in the US, we spend so much time on treating disease rather than preventing disease. Our own Surgeon General’s Office tells us that 90+ percent of disease processes are preventable, or at least significantly delayable, yet we spend less than 2% of our healthcare dollars on staying healthy. In fact, the typical person (I don’t like that term but that’s the way it was phrased) spends more in the last two weeks of their lives trying to stay alive than they spent their entire life trying to stay healthy. So, what you guys are doing with this fitness with the nutrition with proper supplementation and with educating people on what is real out there and what isn’t is just indispensable and I thank you for that.


Evans: Awesome. So talk to us, we’ve been talking about menopause and some of the symptoms and things that people are experiencing. What is menopause and andropause, what’s it all about.


(29:43) Dr. Wilson: Okay, well it’s really simple. When you break the word down “menopause” means full stop. Pause means stop so menopause, strictly speaking, is when the woman has not had a cycle for a year or more. It was also known as the change of life, because initially when a woman would go into the time of menopause we knew that she was within five or six years of the end of her life. Now, that was over a century ago that that term was coined and now, a woman spends probably a third or more of her life in the time of menopause. So it’s very important to manage health during that time frame. 


For men, andropause just means that the testosterone levels drop out.


It’s very interesting the way things work here in this country. I love this country. We have liberties many do not, but it’s really interesting the way things go in the way of health. A few years ago, like you mentioned, you would talk about adjusting hormone levels in people would just say, “Oh my gosh, you know, you don’t need to mess with the levels. They are what they are, it’s all part of, ‘normal aging.’” It wasn’t even believed that men had decreases in hormones for a while, until there became products out there like creams and roll ons that were like deodorant and then all you heard about was low-t, low-t, low-t. And just like in women, even though there’s no physical thing like a menstrual cycle that stops, we now know that men have significant drops in testosterone, and that probably 50% to 60% of men age 50 or greater (and the percentage increases every year after that) have levels that are below what we consider optimal and, like, you also mentioned already, impacts, everything from maintenance to lean mass. 


You talked about  lean mass’s impact on metabolism. Those 50 calories. A typical adult will lose between an eight tenths of a pound and a pound of muscle every year after age, 28 to 30. So we’re talking about metaphors and andropause and we’re thinking much later in life, but it begins that early. And when that happens, the metabolism begins to slow down, a fact I share with my patients is that 9 out of 10 nursing home admissions are due to lack of muscle, and loss of lean mass, so that people can’t do the activities that they need to do day to day life. What I mean is, carrying a load of laundry or grocery. standing up from a commode, all because of this progressive loss of muscle. Diet and exercise, along with proper hormonal balance are at the forefront of preventing those things, or correcting those disorders.


Evans: Wow, that’s pretty awesome. I’m getting questions that are coming in. Here’s the first one: I hit 40-45 years old and all of a sudden, overnight it feels like, I gained weight in my stomach. Is it possible to even get rid of it?


(35:27) Dr. Wilson: The answer is yes. And I’m sorry, but I’m a bit of a realist. So, no offense to the person who asked the question, but it didn’t happen overnight. There were changes going on in your body for years that allowed this situation to occur. Now, hormonal changes can be a part of that and that can be balanced out, it is a portion of it. Typically when you’re seeing weight gain in the midsection, you are talking about an excess of certain types of chemicals in the body or hormones, with long names. Sometimes people become more insulin resistant, meaning where they could get away with eating carbs all day long and half the night when they were younger, they don’t have that ability anymore. And as they become more sensitive to carbs, or another way to say, more resistant to insulin, insulin turns on certain reactions in the body that will tell the body to store fat and not to burn fat.


The solution to that is to make sure that you are taking in proper balance of protein, carbs and fats. We call those macronutrients, and it doesn’t mean to cut out all carbs and do higher fat, or go extreme with this diet or that diet, it means find what works for you. And so the answer is yes, it is possible to lose that but it takes more diligence. Sometimes it will mean needing to track what you’re eating not just the calories because the body will not respond the same to 1200 calories of Haagen dazs and Krispy Kreme as it does to 1200 calories of chicken breast and broccoli, so the macros need to be made up of the correct balance. 


The high intensity interval training that you’ve already discussed will help to kick that. As mentioned previously, as the metabolism stays up it continues to burn that fat over the course of time and then there are some supplements out there that can, along with proper diet and exercise, help to target fat in those areas of visceral fat. The most prominent one of those is one known as EGCG.


EGCG is a green tea extract. You can get enough EGCG by consuming green tea, I just literally have never seen anybody who could take in enough green tea to do it, though it’d be the equivalent of over 20 glasses of green tea per day I don’t think is realistic or long term for anybody. It can be obtained in supplement form and I know that CNU Fit carries what I consider to be the top version of that out there so they can get that for you.


To hear more about menopause and losing weight, take a listen to the video above!


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