by Stacy T. Sims (Review by Brenda Bonin)
About “Next Level, Your Guide to Kicking Ass, Feeling Great and Crushing Goals Through Menopause and Beyond”
Next Level, Your Guide to Kicking Ass, Feeling Great and Crushing Goals Through Menopause and Beyond by Stacy T. Sims is a must-read for any woman going through perimenopause or menopause…or who just wants to plan for what’s ahead.
While primarily aimed at serious athletes, I found this book very relatable as an active, moderately fit woman in menopause. The author provides a complete scientific breakdown of the menopause transition, how it affects wellness and physical performance, and what to do about it. Her tone is positive, authoritative, and affirming, written by a woman for women. I also found it refreshing to read a comprehensive guide that addresses more than low libido, as menopause disrupts life in many ways.
Interventions – News to me!
One common intervention is known as hormone replacement therapy (HRT), which the author instead refers to as menopausal hormone therapy (MHT) because we are not replacing hormones, but rather helping the body even things out. She further discusses non-hormonal prescription medication and adaptogens. She is an especially big fan of the latter, something I found extremely interesting and plan to try.
For those not familiar with adaptogens, basically, they are certain herbs or mushrooms thought to have many health benefits including helping your body deal with physical, chemical, or biological stress and helping its systems return to homeostasis or a balanced state. They are sold as teas, tinctures, powders you add to food, and capsules.
Exercise – What You’ve Done May No Longer Work
Contrary to many guides that recommend slowing down, Dr. Sims recommends HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training) especially SIT (Sprint Interval Training). She further outlines heavy lifting and includes some specific exercises for avoiding loss of strength.
Nutrition and Hydration – Not the Same Old Story
Much of this information-packed guide on nutrition focuses on having a healthy gut microbiome. The author explains that when the microbiome is out of balance, it affects performance, brain function, and sleep. She has a contrary position on some popular eating plans such as intermittent fasting and keto diets, and points out that the research on these plans includes primarily on men and sedentary women. Sims also emphasizes that what you eat and when is more important than thinking of calories in/calories used. She also has an unusual position on hydrating, stating that plain water is not as effective as water with small amounts of sugar and salt to activate transport mechanisms in the gut.
Sleep Well to Live Well
If you suffer from sleep issues, this chapter is for you. Lack of sleep is incredibly stressful. Dr. Sims covers basic healthy sleep practices we’ve heard before, plus delves into managing stress for good sleep and sleep support supplements. I plan to try the tart cherry juice and switch from black cohosh to ashwagandha. As sleep is a big part of recovery for elite athletes, she provides additional details on this subject.
Thumbs Up for Next Level, Your Guide to Kicking Ass, Feeling Great, and Crushing Goals Through Menopause and Beyond
Next Level is a great read and resource for anyone interested in supporting a healthy active lifestyle during and beyond menopause. I know I will keep it handy as a go-to guide for myself!
About the Author: Stacy T. Sims, MSC, PH.D.
Dr. Sims is a forward-thinking international exercise physiologist and nutrition scientist with a goal of revolutionizing exercise, nutrition, and performance for women. She directed research programs at Stanford, AUT University, and the University of Waikato, focusing on female athlete health and performance and pushing to improve research on all women.
While at Stanford, Dr. Sims translated earlier research into consumer products. Her contributions to the international research environment and the sports nutrition industry have established a new niche in sports nutrition and she is considered the expert on sex differences in training, nutrition, and health. Dr. Sims published over 79 peer-reviewed papers and several books and presents frequently at professional and academic conferences.
Currently, Dr. Sims holds a Senior Research Associate position with SPRINZ- AUT University, supervises Ph.D. students, writes academic papers, and is on the advisory board of various companies including Tonal Strength Institute, WILD.AI, and EXOS. Additionally, she creates and delivers online learning material focused on women training with their physiology across the lifespan at drstacysims.com.
She currently resides at the beach in Mt. Maunganui, New Zealand with her husband and young daughter.
Also by Stacy T. Sims, MSC, PH.D.
“ROAR: How to Match Your Food and Fitness to Your Unique Female Physiology for Optimum Performance, Great Health, and a Strong, Lean Body for Life”
“Dr. Sims realizes that female athletes are different than male athletes and you can’t set your race schedule around your monthly cycle. ROAR will help every athlete understand what is happening to her body and what the best nutritional strategy is to perform at her very best.”—Evie Stevens, Olympian, professional road cyclist, and current women’s UCI Hour record holder
Because most nutrition products and training plans are designed for men, many female athletes struggle to reach their full potential. ROAR is a comprehensive, physiology-based nutrition and training guide specifically designed for active women. This book teaches you everything you need to know to adapt your nutrition, hydration, and training to your unique physiology. The goal is to work with, rather than against, your female physiology to achieve optimum athletic performance.
ROAR contains personalized nutrition advice for all stages of training and recovery complete with customizable meal plans and nutrient-packed recipes to optimize body composition. It provides a comprehensive plan to build a rock-solid fitness foundation while building lean muscle, strengthening bones, and boosting power and endurance. Because women’s physiology changes over time, this book devotes entire chapters to staying strong and active through pregnancy and menopause. No matter what your sport is—running, cycling, field sports, triathlons—the information in this book empowers women with the nutrition and fitness knowledge needed to be healthy, fit, and strong.
Lesser-Known Facts About the Gut Microbiome
The gut microbiome refers to the collection of trillions of microorganisms, including bacteria, fungi, and viruses, living in the digestive tract. These microorganisms play a crucial role in digestion, metabolism, sleep, and overall health. A healthy gut microbiome is essential for proper digestion, nutrient absorption, immune function, and the production of certain vitamins and short-chain fatty acids. It also plays a role in maintaining a balanced mood and supporting brain health. Much of Dr. Sims nutrition information in “Next Level, Your Guide to Kicking Ass, Feeling Great and Crushing Goals Through Menopause and Beyond” focuses on the importance of a healthy gut microbiome. Below are some interesting lesser-known facts about the gut microbiome.
Gut Microbiome and Mental Health
The gut-brain axis is a bidirectional communication pathway between the gut and the brain. A healthy gut microbiome is linked to improved mental health and may help reduce the risk of conditions like anxiety and depression.
Seasonal Changes in Gut Microbiome
Studies have found that the composition of the gut microbiome can change with the seasons, potentially impacting how our bodies process and store energy from food.
Gut Microbiome and Immune System
The gut plays a significant role in training the immune system. A diverse and balanced gut microbiome can help prime the immune system to respond effectively to pathogens.
Exercise and Gut Microbiome
Regular physical activity can positively influence the diversity and abundance of beneficial bacteria in the gut. Athletes often have a more diverse gut microbiome compared to sedentary individuals.
Social Interactions and Gut Microbiome
The gut microbiome can be influenced by social interactions and the microbial exchange that occurs when people come into contact with each other.
Stress and Gut Microbiome
Stress can negatively impact the gut microbiome by altering its composition and reducing the diversity of beneficial bacteria. This can lead to digestive problems and affect overall health.
Gut Microbiome and Sleep
Disruptions in the gut microbiome may impact sleep quality, and conversely, poor sleep can lead to imbalances in the gut microbiome.
Travel and Gut Microbiome
Traveling to different regions or countries can temporarily alter the gut microbiome due to changes in diet, exposure to new microbes, and other environmental factors.
Aging and Gut Microbiome
As people age, there is a natural decline in the diversity and stability of the gut microbiome, which may be linked to certain age-related health issues.
Gut Microbiome and Diet
The gut microbiome is dynamic and can respond to dietary changes relatively quickly. However, significant improvements may take weeks or even months, depending on the individual’s starting microbiome composition and lifestyle habits.
Everyone’s gut microbiome is unique, so it’s essential to focus on a varied and balanced diet and consult with a healthcare professional if you have specific concerns about your gut health.
FAQs About Menopause and Weight Gain
Many women experience weight gain that seems related to menopause. Here are some commonly asked questions along with their answers on this topic.
Does menopause cause weight gain?
Yes, many women experience weight gain during and after menopause. Hormonal changes, particularly a decrease in estrogen, can contribute to changes in body composition and metabolism, making it easier to gain weight, especially around the abdomen.
How much weight can I expect to gain during menopause?
Weight gain can vary significantly from woman to woman. On average, women may gain 5 to 10 pounds during menopause, but some individuals may gain more or less.
Is there a particular age when menopause-related weight gain is more common?
Weight gain related to menopause can occur during perimenopause (the transitional phase leading to menopause) and beyond. It is more likely to happen as women approach and pass through menopause, typically in their late 40s and early 50s.
Can I prevent menopause weight gain?
While it may not be entirely preventable, you can take steps to minimize weight gain during menopause. Focus on a healthy lifestyle that includes regular exercise, a balanced diet, and managing stress.
What type of exercise is best for managing menopause-related weight gain?
A combination of aerobic exercises (such as brisk walking, swimming, or cycling) and strength training can be beneficial for managing weight and maintaining muscle mass during menopause.
Why does weight tend to accumulate around the abdomen during menopause?
The hormonal changes during menopause can lead to a shift in fat distribution, causing more fat to accumulate around the abdominal area. This pattern is often referred to as “menopausal belly fat” or “central obesity.”
Can hormone replacement therapy (HRT) help prevent menopause-related weight gain?
Hormone replacement therapy can sometimes help with menopause symptoms, but its impact on weight gain is not significant. It’s essential to discuss the risks and benefits of HRT with a healthcare provider before considering it as a treatment option.
How long does menopause-related weight gain last?
Weight gain during menopause can be a gradual process and may continue beyond menopause. However, with a healthy lifestyle, weight management can be improved.
DISCLOSURE: This article is not intended as medical advice. Seek counsel from your physician before making any changes to your health plan. More research is needed to fully understand the benefits of some of the suggested treatments for menopause relief recommended in this book.