How to naturally balance your hormones after 40
Hormones have a clever way of impacting your mental, physical and emotional health.
Hormones play a major part in controlling your energy, appetite, weight, sex drive and mood, among many other things.
Normally, your endocrine glands produce the precise amount of each hormone needed for various processes in your body. However, hormonal imbalances can occur frequently as we age and certain hormones decline with each year that passes, for some people this can be more dramatic than others.
The good news is that a nutritious diet, movement and other healthy lifestyle behaviours may help improve your hormonal health and allow you to feel and perform at your best.
Here are ways in which you can balance hormones and get the most out of your weight loss goals.
Protein is an important macro nutrient and should be consumed ideally in every meal.
Most official nutritional organisations recommend a fairly modest protein intake.
The DRI (Dietary Reference Intake) is 0.36 grams of protein per pound (0.8 grams per kg) of body weight.
This amounts to:
- 56 grams per day for the average sedentary man
- 46 grams per day for the average sedentary woman
This may be enough to prevent deficiency, but the amount you need depends on many factors, including your activity level, age, muscle mass, physique goals, and overall health and becomes increasingly more important as we age.
This is why I developed my calorie and protein calculator – don’t worry if you feel now that is not achievable – trust me when I tell you that in a few months of improving your protein and tracking your diet – you will look back and wonder why you ever thought it was going to be hard.
Protein is used to make muscles, tendons, organs, and skin, as well as enzymes, hormones, neurotransmitters, and various molecules that serve many important functions.
Proteins consist of smaller molecules called amino acids, which link together like beads on a string. These linked amino acids form long protein chains, which then fold into complex shapes. Your body produces some of these amino acids, but you must obtain others known as essential amino acids via your diet.
It is also not just the quantity of protein that is important but also quality.
Generally animal products provide all essential amino acids in the right ratio for you to make full use of them. This makes sense, as animal tissues are similar to your own tissues.
If you’re eating animal products like meat, fish, eggs, or dairy every day, you’re likely getting enough protein.
However, if you are vegan or vegetarian, getting all the protein and essential amino acids your body needs can be more challenging.
Ideally you want to ensure that you are getting a majority if not all of your protein via natural forms rather than supplements – but doing so can be useful for those that struggle.
Protein influences the release of hormones that control your appetite, eating protein decreases levels of the “hunger hormone” ghrelin and stimulates the production of hormones that help you feel full.
2. Eat More Fibre
Fibre is an important element to your diet and stimulates the production of hormones that make you feel full and satisfied. There are two types of fibre – insoluble and soluble. Whilst soluble fibres produce the strongest effect on appetite, both can be beneficial.
Ideally the recommendation is for 24g of fibre for women and 38g for men.
Fibre can also aid weight loss, keep your digestive system flowing and can stop you overeating.
Good sources of fibre include – oats, lentils, quinoa, sweet potatoes, kidney beans, chickpeas, brussels sprouts, broccoli, carrots, bananas, apples, pears, berries, avocado.
3. What to avoid (where possible)
Sugar and refined carbs have been linked to a number of health problems.
But how much is too much? Can you eat a little bit of sugar each day without harm, or should you avoid it as much as possible?
I don’t want you to cut out sugar and refined carbs completely – we all need cake and pizza every now and then right? But there is a difference between added sugars and sugars that occur naturally in foods like fruits and vegetables.
These natural foods contain water, fibre and various micronutrients. Naturally occurring sugars are absolutely fine, but too much added sugar and refined carbs (sweets, cakes, processed foods, sugary drinks etc) can impact your weight loss goals and play havoc with your insulin hormone which can lead to obesity, diabetes and other diseases. So we really want to control our intake to ensure our hormones stay balanced and weight is under control.
Note – refined carbs are grains that have been stripped of all bran, fibre, and nutrients, such as white bread, pizza dough, pasta, pastries, white flour, white rice, sweet desserts, and many breakfast cereals.
4. Don’t fear eating fat
Fat shouldn’t be something to fear and is an essential part of your diet. By including high-quality natural fats in your diet it may help reduce insulin resistance and appetite.
Much like protein – by eating high quality fats (avocados, dark chocolate, cheese, eggs, fatty fish nuts, seeds, olive oil, nuts, full fat yoghurt etc) at meals triggers release of hormones that help you feel full and satisfied.
The next time you go out for a meal and you think ‘blimey I didn’t eat that much and feel really full which is very unlike me, I don’t fancy or need a dessert either’. Take note of what you ate – I bet it was a meal full of high quality fat and good sources of protein.
High quality fat can also reduce insulin resistance in overweight and obese people, as well as in people with diabetes.
There is no need for anyone to eat less than 1200 calories a day, if you are and not losing weight – you need to move more.
As we get older it is increasingly more important to ensure you are not either eating too much or eating too little and this will shift your hormones leading to weight problems.
By cutting calories too much can lead to an increase in cortisol – the stress hormone. An increase in this stress hormone leads to the “sod it” mentality where we naturally consume more food without realising and also can increase your appetite, making it more difficult to curb your cravings – which leads back to the importance of tracking your nutrition.
The most important thing when it comes to managing your calories for weight loss is by following a sustainable calorie deficit. I know many of you are impatient but if you really want long term weight loss, then you need to have patience and consistency.
You also need to be open minded – go into this process with a trial and error approach. Use my calorie calculator – track your calories and macros and should you for some reason not be losing weight then we need a little adjustment; that could be by changing your macros, increasing your fibre, protein and reducing your sugars but without reducing your calories. It could be other factors such as stress or lack of sleep that is impacting your weight loss efforts. You need to look at the bigger picture – it’s not all about calories, it’s about your whole lifestyle!
Don’t forget to use my calorie calculator.
What you can do outside of nutrition.
While generally moving more will help – the best way in which you can combat the growing waist line and reverse what has already taken place (or curb it before it even happens) is a combination of strength training and high intensity training. This is exactly why I developed my strength and conditioning programme.
Strength & Conditioning is a great way to improve your body by losing body fat and defining muscle at the same time, with the two vital ingredients (Strength & High intensity Cardio) in one workout, which maximises results in a shorter period of time. With my structured approach to training you get the benefits and results quicker that you could ever imagine.
After the age of 40, you lose muscle mass. Muscle is what burns calories, you lose around 1% of muscle mass every year from the age of 40. Even if you have never done strength training before – it’s not too late to start building lean muscle mass. This will help to burn fat and increase your metabolism, it also helps keep your bones and body strong and healthy.
You might be wondering how many hours you need to be spending on building lean muscle to see a real benefit. Much to your surprise it is actually less than you might think. 2-4 strength sessions per week is plenty. This is why I developed my programme to give you structured strength & conditioning workouts 3 x per week. Anything over and above this is down to you, your lifestyle and the time you have to train but paired with nutrition it is enough to combat the changes in your body and regain control of what is happening as you age. Compound moves are key ingredients to my workout plans – compound moves are when you are using multiple muscles and joints to perform a given exercise to maximise your results.
Not forgetting the fact that as we get older, you might have other priorities in life. Ask yourself if you are actually moving as much as you used to? It’s so easy to blame hormones for weight gain when in fact if you were honest with yourself if can actually be clearer than you think. Are you walking less, fidgeting less, generally moving less than you did in your last decade? The less you move the less calories you are burning.
If you are eating a similar amount to what you were a decade ago on top of moving less than you used to will of course equal weight gain.
Arguably the most important element to regulating your hormones and keeping your weight under control.
You could have the best diet ever known, you could be consistent with your exercise and do everything right, but your health and you hormones will suffer if you don’t get enough high quality sleep.
Lack of high quality sleep has been linked to imbalances of many hormones, including insulin, cortisol, leptin, ghrelin and growth hormones. We can’t repair and build muscle if we are not sleeping and remember that building muscle is key to increasing metabolism so we can burn more calories whilst resting.
Lack of sleep leads to that “sod it” mentality and also increases our need for high carb and sugary foods.
We ideally want at least 7 hours of good sleep each night.
Stress causes the body to secrete cortisol – the fight-or-flight hormone. Constant cortisol secretion can cause blood sugar levels to drop, which makes you want to eat more. Also your inhibitions go when you are stressed, you have a lot more “sod it” episodes than when you are not stressed. Unfortunately when we are stressed the body generally craves sugar – leading to belly fat gains.
Managing stress is really important to do at this time in your life. Exercise is the best way to combat stress, also trying a daily yoga or stretch class (I have plenty of those). Try meditating, it isn’t for everyone but can do wonders for many. Finding something that helps you switch off from the daily stresses of life. Perhaps taking up painting, my partner did quite a few “paint by numbers’ pictures to help unwind and relax during lock down. I think this is a fantastic way of doing something a little different and having something to show for it at the end; the great think is, they look fantastic and you don’t even need to be any good at painting!