Menopausal Weight-Control Tips: Fat versus muscle

Around the time of menopause, many women find themselves gaining a few extra pounds. This is true even for those who continue the eating and exercising habits that have helped them prevent weight gain previously. It's also common for there to be a shift in where extra pounds end up - what used to attach itself to hips and thighs now finds its way to the midriff.

There are a number of possible reasons for midlife weight gain including:

  • Changes in metabolism
  • The changing ratio of fat to muscle
  • Decreased physical activity
  • Depression
  • Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT)

This Learn About focuses on the fat and muscle equation.

The changing ratio of fat to muscle

You lose about half a pound of muscle every year after the age of 35. Because muscle is more metabolically active than fat, it requires eight times more calories to maintain, even at rest. Therefore, as you lose more muscle you burn fewer calories. If all other factors remain constant, this translates into about four pounds of muscle lost and 15 lbs of fat gained every decade! Might just be a factor in midlife midriff expansion, don’t you think?

What you can do about it

If you include some strength training in your exercise program, you can reduce muscle loss. Each extra pound of muscle may burn an extra 50 calories per day, so it's worth doing some muscle-building exercises. In general, eat less fatty foods and exercise regularly to minimize fat gain.