Menopause: nutrition & exercise

MENOPAUSE – STEPS TO TAKE BEFORE STARTING HRT

 In this fourth blog, Katia focuses on the menopause and looks at steps that we can take to support ourselves during this transition in two key areas – nutrition and exercise.

 Menopause is thankfully now openly discussed and many of us are able to find evidence-based solutions and guidance from medical professionals. While HRT can be seen as a panacea and is often very effective, there are key steps that we should take prior to resorting to medication.

Menopause involves a significant change in the levels of certain hormones, including oestrogen and progesterone, but it is the peri-menopause which can start from 40 onwards that can be the most challenging stage for most of us. Numerous symptoms appear and these are highly variable from one woman to the next – the most common being our cycles becoming more erratic, weight gain, low mood, hot flushes, urinary issues and sexual disfunction.

It is important to remember that there is a lot that we can do to support ourselves during this transition in two key areas – nutrition and exercise.

THE IMPORTANCE OF NUTRITION

The importance of diet cannot be underestimated. We have to consider the estrobolome – a collection of essential bacteria in our gut microbiome which is capable of metabolising and modulating the body’s circulating oestrogen; it can recycle oestrogen which should have been excreted from the body and thereby increases the amount in circulation. A healthy and balanced estrobolome will assist in supporting the delicate balance of oestrogen in our bodies.

In order to optimise the health of our estrobolome, it is important to consume adequate fibre, polyphenols, fermented foods and probiotics in order to promote these bacteria species to alleviate menopausal symptoms.

Optimal foods include pulses, whole grains, nuts and seeds, fruits and vegetables, herbs & spices.

Phytoestrogens such as isoflavones are helpful in that they mimic the effects of oestrogen by binding to particular receptors in the body. Foods rich in isoflavones include soy products such as edamame and tofu.

 Given the muscle loss at this stage in life, consuming adequate protein is key. Women should aim for 20-25mg of protein per meal. Omega-3 intake is very important for maintaining cognitive function, reducing risk of depression and reducing inflammation. Oily fish like salmon, sardines, and mackerel, as well as flax seeds contain omega 3.

 Although intermittent fasting has many benefits, it is not advisable for women going through this transition. Recent research has shown that fasting for long periods can affect our hormone balance, creating greater fluctuations which then increase stress and cortisol levels. Reduced weight due to fasting may be due to a decrease in muscle mass which can worsen menopausal symptoms. Although long fasts are not recommended, snacking throughout the day and late into the night is not supportive of gut health.

Maintaining an eating window of 10-12 hours with your meals spaced out evenly is the best approach to balancing your hormones and minimising stress.

STRENGTH AND AEROBIC EXERCISES

Weight gain, especially around the midsection, is due to metabolic changes taking place which can lead to insulin resistance. This tends to coincide with reduced activity levels which reduces our muscle mass. These changes can be mitigated by strength and aerobic exercises which have been found to reduce hot flushes and improve bone density.

It’s good to establish a weekly exercise schedule that works with all your other commitments. Making sure to include two strength sessions, such as lifting weights or strength yoga/pilates, and two aerobic sessions such as running or stationary cycling. Joining an exercise class or a running group like Common Runners http://commonrunners.co.uk/ can be a great motivator.

Taking steps to optimise our diet and to incorporate exercise into our daily schedule is essential when it comes to managing symptoms during the peri-menopause, and this will help to support our health and wellbeing well into our post-menopausal years.

Katia is a Nutritional Therapist and gut health expert helping high achieving women to optimise their diets and restore their health so that they can live their lives to the full. Please follow her on Instagram @nutritionapplied or check out www.nutrition-applied.com

 

 

 

 

10th anniversary

September 2023 is Common Runners’ 10th anniversary! I can’t believe that it’s been so many years since I started the business, swapping corporate life in the City to the ‘great outdoors’. Common Runners has come a long way and I’m really excited to celebrate this milestone.

Over the years, it has been great to see so many women embrace running, push themselves in training and in races, experience new adventures and meet friends for life. Many women started off hating running but now can’t believe how much running is part of their everyday life.

Many runners have been with me from the start and I’m so grateful for all the support that you’ve given me over the past 10 years. When I set up Common Runners in 2013, I thought that it might be a side-line job rather than a full time one!

To help celebrate our 10th anniversary, I want to share 10 highlights from Common Runners’ journey.

  1. Starting Common Runners: starting the business was a leap of faith! I’d been a freelance marketeer for nearly 10 years and didn’t really know if spending time outdoors in all weathers was going to be for me! I loved running and when I drove up to Wimbledon Common to take our first training class, I knew that I had done the right thing…being outdoors felt great.
  2. Entering our first race: within a year of starting the business, I persuaded some beginner runners to enter their first 5k race on Wimbledon Common. There was nerves, excitement and finally jubilation when all runners crossed the finish line in under 40 minutes.
  3. …and two marathons!: to help celebrate my upcoming 50th, I decided to run my first marathon in Brighton in 2015. It was an overwhelming experience and I ended up achieving a good-for-age time with automatic entry to the London Marathon, which I just had to do the following year and it was wonderful.
  4. Linking up with Secret London Runs: to keep existing runners motivated and to add variety and interest, I decided to link up with Secret London Runs in September 2016. Since then we’ve enjoyed running and learning about Power Women, street art, sex in the city and more!
  5.  Introducing pilates for runners course: to help reduce injuries, tightening of muscles and improve flexibility, I introduced our first pilates for runners course in  January 2017. The course has proved popular with Common Runners and is sold out every term.
  6. Celebrating International Women’s Day: to help celebrate this special day in March 2017, Mara Yamauchi, an elite marathon runner, joined our weekly social run and a Q&A session over coffee. Despite the rain, we were delighted and inspired by such a wonderful athlete.
  7. S&C training for all: by September 2018, strength & conditioning training was on offer to all Common Runners. Many runners had never used a gym before and they were initially reluctant to come, but over the past few years, the numbers have grown and each course is now over-subscribed.
  8. Embracing the trails: linking up with She Runs Outdoors, our first trail run in Dorking in February 2020 was a great success. It was challenging but achievable and wonderful to get out into the countryside and enjoy the trails.
  9. Surviving Covid: it may seem like a long time ago, but making a living during that period was difficult. I lost all of my income overnight, and I had no idea if I would still have a business at the end of it all. But I was surprised how resilient Common Runners was and we came out of it okay. Since then the business has gone from strength to strength.
  10. Finding adventures together: post Covid, we’ve been enjoying one adventure after another through running which has been wonderful. There’s been numerous London runs (Hampstead Heath, Royal Parks), track sessions, food bank run, our first weekend retreat in Dorset in September 2022 and our first one-day retreat in September 2023!

The past 10 years have been a great adventure, and I’m looking forward to the next 10!

For more information about Common Runners please contact Caroline on 07810 486286 or email info@commonrunners.co.uk.

Celebrating 100 Parkruns!

Dawn C (Tues PM) has been going to the Wimbledon Common Parkrun since 2017 and today (20/5/23) clocked up 100 Parkruns! We asked Dawn what motivates her. Why did you start doing the Parkrun in 2017?I was in the ‘useless at sport’ group at school so it took me until I was 50 to realise it was time to do some exercise! I then joined your Common Runners beginner’s class and although I found it hard (both the running and fitting in a class when juggling work/children) you patiently and gently encouraged us to keep at it. I first tried the Parkrun with one of my school friends (also in the ‘useless at sport’ group at school, I think our PE teacher would laugh if she knew that we now do the Parkrun) and we chatted the whole way round – a good distraction.What do you enjoy about the Parkrun?There are around 400+ people of literally all ages (from a 7 or 8 year old who beat me to the finish line last week to 80+ year olds) who do the Wimbledon parkrun, and lots of lovely volunteers who are so encouraging. Knowing that there are around 350k people all around the UK getting up and doing Parkruns at 9am on Saturday mornings and that I am one of them still fills me with wonder!What motivates you to keep doing the Parkrun?I was truly someone who was useless at getting up early at the weekends (I am a night person!) and the idea of getting wet and muddy was frankly just not me but somehow it has become a habit and I still live in the hope that I’ll finish in a faster time (the mud really doesn’t help with this ambition).What advice would you give to a new runner?Have faith in yourself, keep at it, it does get (a little) easier! And keep going to Caroline’s running classes….the words ‘we’ll just go for a gentle trot…….’ her most famous understatement!

Injury prevention tips (1/23)

5 tips to reduce the risk of running injuries

In his first blog, Marco Antonetto – Clinical Lead and Senior Osteopath & Medical Acupuncturist at Nordic Balance –  gives us 5 tips to reduce the risk of running injuries.

 It is normal, as a runner, to experience some sort of pain at some point. What is not normal is when this pain becomes chronic or a recurrent injury. The current medical evidence suggests that almost half of the non-professional runners get a recurrent injury, mainly affecting their knees, calves and ankles.

Is it the shoes we wear, or the poor technique? Or do we keep neglecting strengthening and conditioning?  The truth: It could be one or all of these things.

The good news is that most experts agree that to lower injury risk, you need not a magic bullet, but a loaded gun. Better news is that we’re giving away 5 bullets you can use to help prevent running injuries!

Top tips

  • Don’t skip strength training: one of the best bullets is a strong and conditioned body. Strong muscles, ligaments, and tendons guard against impact, improve form, and lead to a consistent gait.
  • Get a tailored program, don’t ask Dr. Google: to be an effective bullet, strength and conditioning must be tailored to the individual and prescribed by a professional. What works for Google, might not work for you.
  • Incorporate stretching in your daily routine: yes, DAILY, not just when you run. Power is nothing without flexibility and control!
  • Incorporate self release techniques into your running routine: a physical therapist can show you how to self-release selective areas of your body and prevent the build up of tension and biomechanical dysfunction.
  • Get a physical assessment: this is the best way to detect if there are any discrepancies, weaknesses or biomechanics dysfunctions that might lead to future injuries. Prevention is the key!

About Nordic Balance

Nordic Balance in Wimbledon Village offers an integrated approach to health and wellbeing. They provide a range of natural therapies, including Physiotherapy, Chiropractic, Osteopathy, Shockwave Therapy, Sports Massage and Podiatry.

They are passionate runners and experts in preventing and resolving running injuries. For more information please go to: wimbledon.nordicbalance.co.uk.

Why protein matters (1/23)

Why protein matters

In her third blog, Katia outlines why protein is needed, how much we need to eat, the different types of protein and a guide to getting sufficient protein in our everyday meals.

 As we embark on this New Year, many of us have aspirations to exercise and/or run a little more and eat a little better. Most of the headlines focus on diets which often involve restricting or eliminating, both strategies we now know don’t work over the long term. What is often not addressed and is a key area that most of us struggle with is how much protein is necessary and indeed beneficial for our long term health.

It’s often touted that it is mainly athletes and those looking to build muscle that need to focus on their protein intake, when in fact every one of us needs to understand what our optimum daily amount is, no matter what our level of activity is.

Protein is needed for all organs

Most of us have heard that proteins are the building blocks of our bodies, and we tend to visualise our muscles, but it is needed for every one of our organs, our blood cells, enzymes, bones and hair. Even our DNA is built from protein. And it is also an energy source. Without adequate levels of protein, we are not able to build, repair or maintain our bodies in optimal health.

If our goal is to lose weight, protein is particularly helpful for satiety – meaning we feel more full and will subsequently eat less, which will help with shifting the scales by healthy means.

Optimal protein intake, however, remains a confusing aspect of nutrition with varying daily intake recommendations, confusing info about what a complete protein is and if plant-diets are protein deficient.

Now for the specifics

For most people, 0.8-1g of protein per day for every kg of body weight is a good target. So if you’re 70kg, aim for around 70g of protein divided into your three meals.

If you’re a runner and train 3-4 times a week, increase this to 1.2-1.5g of protein per kg of body weight as this can help with recovery. If you do strength training, aim for up to 2g of protein per kg of body weight in order to prevent injury and to facilitate muscle growth.

There is also mounting evidence that our protein requirement increases as we age in order to prevent age-related muscle loss, so if you’re over 65, aim for the higher end of the recommended range.

These are not hard and fast rules, and you’ll need to gauge how much you should eat based on your activity levels, your recovery times and your general sense of wellbeing. Most clients that I see in clinic, whether athletes or not, consume less than these recommendations and would all benefit from upping their intake.

It is fine to exceed these ranges if you prefer a high protein keto-style diet, but always check with your doctor if you have any concerns.

So what is a ‘complete’ protein?

 While it’s important to get enough protein in our diet, it’s also crucial to ensure we’re getting the right type of protein. Protein is comprised of 20 amino acids; our bodies are able to make 11 of these amino acids but the remaining nine amino acids, called ‘essential amino acids’ need to come from the foods we eat. When a food contains all nine of these amino acids, it is called a ‘complete’ protein.

Animal proteins are complete, and these include meat, poultry, fish, eggs and dairy. There are also a few plant-based sources of complete protein, including quinoa, soybeans, blue-green algae, buckwheat and hempseeds. Incomplete plant-based protein sources include most legumes, grains, vegetables, nuts and seeds.

It is not necessary to have a complete protein with every meal, as long as we combine as wide a variety of incomplete protein sources throughout the day, thus ensuring we consume all 9 essential amino acids. Great combinations are:

  • Nuts or seeds with whole grains (peanut butter on whole wheat toast)
  • Legumes with whole grains (chilli sans carne and rice; hummus and pita bread, lentil curry with basmati, chickpea tagine with couscous)
  • Legumes with nuts or seeds (chickpeas salad with sunflower seeds)

How much is enough?

 Once you know your approximate daily requirement of protein, divide it into your three meals. That way if your requirement is 70g, you’ll need 20-25g/meal. Focusing on protein intake this way helps you to reap the benefits of protein throughout the day versus just one large protein-heavy meal at the end of the day.

A simple guide to getting approximately 20-25g : when it comes to animal protein like chicken or beef, eat a portion the size of your palm. With eggs, you’ll need 4-5 eggs to reach your quota. With regards to plant foods, as they are less protein-dense, it is important to consume sufficient quantities; for instance, have at least 1 cup of legumes with a cup of rice, or a cup of veg curry with a full cup of quinoa.

With ready-made sandwiches or meals, always read the protein content on the label to ensure you’re adding enough to make up your daily requirement.

In conclusion

Understanding your protein needs and how much your typical daily diet provides you with is important to ensure your diet is supporting you to build, repair and maintain your body to ensure long term health. Although it may seem a little complicated at first, you’ll soon become familiar with the protein content of your favourite foods and be able to structure your meals to ensure adequate intake to suit your lifestyle.

Katia is a Nutritional Therapist and gut health expert helping high achieving women to optimise their diets and restore their health so that they can live their lives to the full. Please follow her on @nutritionapplied or check out www.nutrition-applied.com

 

Xmas scavenger hunt run 2022

If you are staying local over Christmas, how about going on an scavenger hunt run (or walk) around Wimbledon Village with family and friends? You can download a copy of the hunt here.

Start/finish from St Mary’s Church in the village, split into teams and see how many points you can score/team photos inn ONE HOUR. Decide on prizes for the winning team, enjoy!

Nutritional tips (9/22)

In this month’s blog, Katia (Nutritional Therapist, gut health expert and Common Runner) outlines what we need to know about cholesterol and how diet can have a dramatic effect on your cholesterol levels.

Cholesterol – the good & the bad

High cholesterol is one of the most prevalent risk factors for heart disease and surprisingly 40% of us have cholesterol levels higher than what is recommended. The good news is that, with a healthy diet and regular exercise, you can safely lower your levels and reduce your risk.

So what is cholesterol and why do you need it?

Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance that’s found in all of your cells and is essential for many of your body’s functions, such as making hormones and vitamin D, and producing bile which is essential in helping you break down food and absorb nutrients. The majority of the cholesterol you need is in fact made by your body, with cholesterol from your diet topping it up. Although it is vital for good health, too much can cause problems – it can combine with other substances and form sticky plaques. If these plaques begin circulating and accumulating, it can lead to atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries. This will raise your risk for heart disease and stroke, two of the country’s leading causes of death.

How can you test your cholesterol?

A simple blood lipid test through your GP will tell you all you need to know. You’ll be given your total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, HDL cholesterol and triglycerides. LDL carries the cholesterol through the blood stream and deposits it into the vessel walls, while HDL collects the cholesterol from the blood vessels and moves it to the liver where it is processed for removal out of the body. I like to think that L stands for ‘lousy’ and H for ‘healthy’! Triglycerides are another form of fat in the blood and elevated levels are also associated with increased risk for cardiovascular disease.

The optimal levels in mmol/L are:

Total Cholesterol 5 or below
HDL Cholesterol 1 or above
LDL Cholesterol 4 or below
Triglycerides (fasting) 1.7 or below

If your levels are elevated, another key marker that your GP can request is c-reactive protein or CRP, which is made by the liver and increases when inflammation occurs in the body. Atherosclerosis is an inflammatory process, so high CRP, especially in women, can be an accurate indicator of increased risk for a heart attack.

But what causes high cholesterol?

It is important to consider genetics – make sure you know about your grandparents’ and parents’ health – as well as hormonal imbalances. Even health conditions that seem totally unrelated, like polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) which is caused by excess oestrogen, can impact your cholesterol levels. That is why it is important to check your levels even if you’re young or have a relatively healthy lifestyle.

Other contributing factors are poor diet and insufficient exercise.

How can diet help?

Your diet can have a dramatic effect on your cholesterol levels, and it’s not just about cutting down dietary cholesterol (saturated fats found in animal products, trans fats prevalent in take-away foods, sugar and alcohol). It’s also about adding foods that can actively reduce cholesterol, in particular plant foods rich in fibre. A meta-analysis of nearly 250 studies published in 2019 showed that eating plenty of plant-based fibre cuts the risk of dying from heart disease by up to 30%!

Soluble fibre soaks up water in the digestive tract to form a gel which binds onto the fat and cholesterol from your food and prevents some of it from entering the bloodstream. Furthermore, the bacteria in your gut consume this gel & produce short-chain fatty acids that help lower cholesterol. Fibre also increases the liver’s production of bile acid, thereby removing excess cholesterol from the body.

Yes, it’s now widely acknowledged that fibre is indeed a superfood in helping reduce cholesterol!

How much fibre do you need & where to get it?

It’s advisable to consume around 30g/day but most of us have much less. Remember, if you start increasing your daily fibre, take it slow as too much can cause bloating and discomfort. And it is essential to stay well hydrated when increasing your daily fibre.

Good sources include all plant-based foods, in particular carrots, broccoli, onions, and artichoke, along with bananas, berries, apples, and pears. Also legumes and whole grains, like oats and barley. Chia seeds and ground flaxseeds are a fabulous source providing a whopping 5g/tsp!

At each meal, try to make ½ your plate non-starchy vegetables, a ¼ protein and a ¼ high-fibre, slow-burning starch. Cooking vegetables won’t reduce the fibre content and can make them easier to digest. I always recommend these simple swaps–smoothies for juices, quinoa for white rice, whole-wheat pasta for white pasta, sweet potatoes for white potatoes, chia seeds or flaxseeds for granola, and hummus for creamy dips.

Summer running

SUMMER RUNNINGIf you’re training for an autumn race (Kew Gardens 10k, London Marathon!) or just want to maintain your fitness over the summer, why not join and/or try out one of the following:* our MIXED ABILITY classes on the following Tuesday evenings at 7pm, meeting outside Sweaty Betty in the Village: Tuesdays 26/7, 2/8, 16/8, 23/8, 30/8. In order to make it worthwhile there needs to be a minimum 4 people. And to ensure that I am not alone(!), I would appreciate it if you could book and pay in advance. The cost of each class is £13. * have a 1-2-1 or shared slot with a friend – please just email me for availability* join Vanessa’s Pilates classes @ Bishop Gilpin in July (20th only, there may be some online options) * join a Strength & Conditioning class at Bounce Gym – Sarah, our trainer, highly recommends the 30min glutes/core plus 30min circuits on Tuesday and Friday mornings at 9am. You can turn up and pay £13 to attend. * sign up for the PARKRUN, a free 5k run every Saturday at 9am on Wimbledon Common* sign up for the SECONDSUNDAY5, a low-key 5 mile race on Wimbledon Common on 10/7, 14/8 and 11/9Please note, the Wimbledon Trail Series ends in July, so no racing in August or September.

Nutritional tips (6/22)

In this second monthly blog, Katia (Nutritional Therapist, gut health expert and Common Runner) outlines 5 strategies to maintain a healthy weight.

Running and exercise in general is key to maintaining a healthy weight, but sometimes we accumulate stubborn pounds that are hard to shift, especially as we enter our late 40’s and 50’s. By adopting the 5 strategies below, you’ll be able to reduce excess weight or prevent putting it on in the first place without the need for restrictive diets.

1. Balance your blood sugar

Keeping your blood sugar in a healthy range is important to ensure that you have adequate energy throughout the day and don’t have food cravings, especially for those tasty high calorie treats. When planning your meals, choose low glycaemic foods – these are foods that don’t spike your blood sugar and that give you sustained energy over a longer period. A blood sugar spikes is inevitably followed by a crash, leaving you feeling shaky, tired and hungry.

A low glycaemic meal has little to no refined or processed carbohydrates and always includes some protein such as lean meats, dairy and legumes, healthy fats such as avocados, nuts and seeds, and lots of fibre rich foods such as whole grains and vegetables.

2. Eat mindfully

With our busy modern lives, we’re often grabbing our meals and snacks on the run. But this can contribute to digestive problems and unwanted weight gain. As digestion begins in the mouth, it’s important to chew every mouthful until it is the consistency of baby food. Chewing also stimulates the release of digestive enzymes which allow your body to absorb all the essential nutrients. Eating slowly and mindfully gives your body time to register when you’ve reached satiety so you don’t eat more than you need.

I always recommend that you try to eat all your meals and snacks sitting down, preferably not multitasking and without screen distractions. This may feel too time consuming at first, but your body will thank you for it!

3. It isn’t what you eat, but when.

Many of us graze throughout the day, never giving our digestive systems an opportunity to rest and repair. Considerable research has revealed that limiting the time window in which you eat all your meals to around 10 hours and then fasting for the rest of the day can improve your digestive health and help you to lose weight. You’ll need to experiment to see what times suit you and your circumstances best. As I always recommend having a nourishing breakfast, an eating window from 8.30am till 6.30pm is ideal.

If you’re having an early morning run, ensure you allow around an hour to digest your breakfast, and adjust your window accordingly. During the fasting period, you can enjoy tea, coffee and water flavoured with fruit or herbs. By restricting your eating window and sticking to three balanced meals you’re more likely to cut out those high calorie snacks and start shedding the excess pounds.

4. Catch enough zzzz!

Besides affecting how effectively you train, sleep deprivation can sabotage your waistline. This is due to its effect on your nightly hormones, namely ghrelin, the hormone that tells us when we’re hungry and leptin, the hormone that signals satiety and tells you to stop eating. When you’re sleep deprived, you have increased ghrelin and less leptin, making it more likely that you’ll snack more throughout the day. And to make matters worse, this imbalance can also make you reach for the more sugary snacks to increase your energy levels.

The hours before midnight have been shown to be the most beneficial for your overall sleep quality so I now set an alarm in the evening to remind me to promptly draw an end to my day and head up to bed!

5. Hydrate!

Besides being essential in maintaining your energy levels throughout the day, water is needed by your body to process calories and maintain a healthy metabolism. If you are even mildly dehydrated, your metabolism may slow down.

In one study, adults who drank eight or more glasses of water a day burned more calories than those who drank four. To stay hydrated, I drink a glass of water before every meal, and keep a bottle with me to sip all day. We can often mistake thirst for hunger so reach for your water bottle first. If you do snack, opt for fresh fruits and vegetables, which naturally contain water, rather than biscuits or crisps.

By staying mindful of these 5 strategies and making them daily habits, you will be optimising how your body uses the food you eat. You’ll maintain a healthy weight without restrictive diets and you’ll feel energised for your daily run!