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Figuring Out Calories You Need in Menopause

The Flipping 50 Show

Release Date: 05/10/2024

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Calories you need in menopause are key as your body experiences these natural changes.

Exercise nutrition in menopause is more important than ever. The intuitive response to a desire to lose menopause weight or belly fat is to eat less and or do sit ups and tons of cardo. All bad ideas. Make the calories you need in menopause, your guide to wellness.

First, let me tell you that I’m not an advocate of telling anyone how many calories they need or of tracking. I don’t measure food. I don’t use points. At Flipping 50 we focus on a simple formula and it starts with whole foods, protein, and servings instead of calories, points or exchanges.

That said, it’s sometimes necessary to really take a closer look at exercise nutrition in menopause. But I want to emphasize a few things before we begin.

Calorie counting isn't the best method if:

  • You want to change your body composition (tracking macros is a better approach for body recomposition).
  • You have a history of disordered eating and feel the urge to drastically cut calories to an unhealthy level.
  • You're not actually sure how many calories you need to eat.

If you go searching blindly online, you’ll find a lot of different answers. For example:

Take your weight x 15 for a moderately active individual to maintain, as suggested at harvard.edu. There was no distinction between males and females.

For my 200 lb client that’s 3000. You’ll see as we continue that’s different from other numbers.

Any calorie estimator should take into account two things. Your BMR, which is your basal or resting metabolic rate, and your activity level.

So when you figure out your BMR you have an idea that if you drop below that number you’re going to risk interfering with bodily function. That’s number is just to keep you alive and functioning.

For my client that’s 1380.

Where to Start with How Many Calories You Need in Menopause

Before you count calories, we first need to determine how many we need to eat. But we also need to consider what your past has been.

So on paper, or on the internet, it’s so easy peasy. Then welcome to life.

My client weighs 200 lbs. She doesn’t want to weigh 200 lbs. She’s very active. Weight training and HIIT, some endurance exercise - not much, and a lot of activity like pickleball and golf for 3+ hours several times a week. On a “day off” exercise, she’s still very active.

Calculations on calculator.net will tell her this:

2381 to maintain

2131 mild weight loss

1881 weight loss 1lb /week

1381 extreme weight loss 2 lbs/ week

This is based on her being extremely active, although not the highest level of activity.

From the Mayo Clinic calculator, I got 2100 as the average calorie needs daily. That is congruent with the numbers from calculator.net.

Here’s the problem: reality.

Her usual caloric intake has been 1500 - 1881 for a very long time. She isn’t kicking up her metabolism with meals or with activity. Essentially by eating that little consistently for so long (while not losing) and exercising significantly, she’s likely slowed her metabolism.

She’s putting one foot on the accelerator (exercise) and one foot on the brake (low calorie diet) constantly.

She can’t lose weight because she’s not eating enough.

What’s the Answer to Better Exercise Nutrition in Menopause or Beyond?

Cycling her higher and lower calories for her active and rest days will help.

Most importantly though is looking at the content of her meals.

If she’s not getting enough protein, shown in studies with peri and post menopausal women both, to be a key indicator of fat loss, she’ll lose a significant amount of lean muscle when she loses weight. That reduces her metabolism further.

The opposite of the desired effect.

Protein recommendations also vary significantly. But the work of Dr Donald Layman, Blake Rasmussen and Douglas Paddon-Jones, have shown that distributing protein in a minimum of 25-30 grams per meal and reaching your total protein intake daily helps avoid muscle loss.

The work shared by Dr. Bill Campbell tells us that increasing protein without changing calories at all, spurs fat loss.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon has shared a simple way of estimating protein need - steeped in science - that is 1 gram of protein per lb of body weight as a goal. For weight loss (without muscle loss), that number increases while your total caloric intake decreases.

Intermittent fasting can be helpful, for some, twofold. One, it reduces the eating window, almost automatically reducing caloric intake. Even if you have the license to eat, if you have increased protein intake wisely to reduce muscle loss, and you’re eating fibrous foods, your satiety level will prevent you from eating too much.

That said, cycling your intermittent fasting windows is also helpful. Any time you adopt a strict schedule or a strict calorie count, or carb count, you risk the body adapting and slowing metabolism to compensate. That’s the opposite desired effect.

You have to fuel exercise. Exercise is a muscle breakdown activity. The rebuild occurs between sessions - if you allow enough time, and enough fuel to do so.

You can play with the calculator.net site. It calls this cycling a zig-zag schedule. But it’s the same … I’d have my client boost calories sometimes for one week during a build muscle focus. The next week we’d have a moderate caloric deficit and workouts that are shorter and less demanding.

Or we have higher caloric days and lower calorie days (as well as carb levels higher and lower) while protein remains high consistently.

Beyond the Calories You Need in Menopause: More or Less Fat?

Wonder about how much fat? Studies shared- again via Bill Campbell, PhD - say it matters very little and is just your preference. You can experiment. Genetically, I’m predisposed to do better with slightly higher carbs. You may be otherwise and you don’t need to do a DNA test to find out. Most of us know by now. When balancing the calories you need in menopause, remember flexibility is key; you can adjust fats and carbs while maintaining essential protein levels for a vibrant health balance.

If you want to lose weight and aren’t - but are thinking low carb works for you - you could be wrong! Be open to testing for yourself.

But the beauty of the science is that as long as protein increases within a set calorie intake, the fat or carbs can go up or down. You have room to enjoy the birthday cake or a favorite seasonal meal that might be higher in carbs, and you haven’t blown it! You’d simply reduce the amount of fat you consumed that day.

Resources:

Calorie Calculator: https://www.calculator.net/calorie-calculator.html

See How You Eat: https://seehowyoueat.com/

MacroFirst: https://www.macrosfirst.com/

Mayo Clinic: https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/weight-loss/in-depth/calorie-calculator/itt-20402304

FDA FoodCentral database: https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/

Other Episodes You Might Like:

Why Calories Burned from Exercise Don’t Get You Fit: https://www.flippingfifty.com/calories-burned-from-exercise/

Muscle Protein Synthesis In Menopause: How to Plan Pre and Post WOrkout:

https://www.flippingfifty.com/muscle-protein-synthesis-in-menopause/