Personal trainer (and former chef) Ian Eassom shares his tips on staying fit and healthy, with the occasional treat.
This month I am focussing a little more on nutrition; we all know exercise is good for us and helps slow the aging process, but I also believe we are what we eat. As we get older, we can sometimes find things we did twenty years ago more challenging, as we become less flexible, get out of breath faster, find it harder to maintain a healthy weight and maintain muscle definition.
It was my birthday last month, and at only two years away from 60, I am looking after my body and well-being in the hope that it returns the favour! As long as health permits, we can actually improve our fitness and energy levels as we get older with the right diet, exercise and drive.
Those of us who don’t have the menopause to think about should count ourselves lucky, as this can have quite a dramatic effect on the body.
The menopause shares many effects with the general aging process, including:
• Using energy differently
• Loss of bone density
• Loss of muscle tone
• Drop in hormone levels, like oestrogen
• Stiff, achy joints
• Bladder weakness (or needing to go more often)
• Low energy
But despite that long list, all is not lost, as diet and exercise can play a huge part in addressing some (if not all) of those effects. For menopause, the top three vitamins are B, D and E.
Vitamin B6 can help ward off depression and increase energy by boosting serotonin, and may even help with insomnia too. This can be found in seafood, leafy greens, eggs, beef, flax, oats, grains, soy, nutritional yeast and chickpeas. Diets rich in these foods are also believed to help with hot flushes too.
Vitamin D helps with the absorption of calcium and is very good for the nervous system. You can find this vitamin in tuna, salmon, sardines, egg yolks, mushrooms, soy and cow’s milk. Most milk alternatives are fortified with vitamin D now too.
Vitamin E is essential for heart health, as well as insomnia, hot flushes and youthful skin. You can find this in avocados, nuts, seeds, fruit, vegetables and some oils too.
Keto diets are believed to be beneficial for menopause symptoms, and consist of:
• 70-75% fats
• 20% protein
• 5-10% carbohydrates
We can also include foods into our diet to help combat low mood and lift our energy levels; this can be done with foods that help with the absorption of amino acids and serotonin. Look for greenish bananas, kimchi, apple cider vinegar and other fermented food. Probiotic yoghurt is also very good for this.
Remember when overnight oats were the big trend? Well they are easy and nutritious, as well as being cheap and versatile to use. As a wholegrain food rich in magnesium, they can help regulate fluctuations in hormone levels, including thyroid and adrenal hormones, progesterone and oestrogen.
So generally speaking, here are the things to look out for:
• High quality protein, such as fish, chicken, quinoa, hemp seeds, nutritional yeast and full fat Greek yoghurt
• Fruit and vegetables for all your antioxidants
• Grains/pulses have similar benefits to those listed above for oats
• Garlic can help with hot flushes and is great for circulation; don’t worry, there are odourless varieties available!
• Nuts are a great source of calcium, magnesium, potassium and zinc
• Turmeric is an anti-inflammatory, which can boost blood flow and help with hot flushes, together with boosting libido levels.
Including all these types of things in our diet will certainly boost our immune systems and energy levels.
There are no surprises in the things to avoid (or at least cut down on) to help reduce the symptoms of menopause:
• Overly spicy foods can add to hot flushes and night sweats
• Alcohol stops the body absorbing as many nutrients
• Trans fats and bad carbs are common in processed foods.
There is a lot of information to grasp, so why not make my delicious smoothie recipe to give your new and improved diet a kickstart? It manages to be both good for you and taste amazing. As with all smoothies, you can adjust the recipe to your taste. Just pop all the ingredients into your blender and you’re good to go.
Recipe – HRT Cake
Some of you may have heard of the HRT cake. It’s packed full of good stuff to help combat those menopause symptoms. I’ve put my own slant on this dish, to ensure it is full of essentials for both men and women, as not only does it help with the menopause, it can help protect the prostate. This one is really easy to make.
• Pre-heat your oven to 180°C (160°C if fan-assisted). Grease and line a 2lb cake tin with parchment paper. Throw all the ingredients into a large mixing bowl, and stir until evenly mixed. Leave to soak for 30 minutes, when it should be a cake batter consistency with some texture. If it’s too stiff, add a splash more milk, but it doesn’t want to be runny.
- Spoon the mixture into the cake tin before popping into the oven. Bake for 30-40 minutes until golden brown on top, and until a skewer poked in comes out mostly clean. Leave it to cool in the tin before cutting into fingers. This cake keeps in the freezer for up to two months, or in the fridge for four to five days.
Physical and mental wellbeing
You didn’t think you’d got away with the exercises this month did you? Exercise is really important, as menopause and aging can have a dramatic effect on the elasticity in the joints, tendons and ligaments, making us more prone to injury. Weights and HIIT training are a great way to improve bone density and by using simple resistance bands when stretching you can improve your flexibility too.
Whether it is walking, cycling, jogging, swimming… just taking up an activity you enjoy will get your heart rate up and be beneficial to your physical health and mental well-being.
This month I wanted to feature my client Janet, who is in her mid-60s and has made huge progress; I’m so proud of her. Janet started training with me a few years ago, as her 60th birthday was approaching and she wanted to dramatically improve her fitness. We started off very steady, doing seated exercises, but a few years down the line, we have moved onto weighted squats, kneeling press-ups, burpees, sit-ups and not to forget boxing. This is something she really enjoys and she packs a mean punch! Picking something you enjoy is the key to get your heart rate up and work your core.
Until next time, have a happy August everyone and here’s to a fitter, firmer, fabulous and flexible future!
Ian Eassom is a Lincoln-based mobile personal trainer. Ian can offer private individual training sessions (one-to-one, couples or small groups) in your own home, garden or public space, or online, with bespoke exercise and diet plans to suit you. Don’t forget there’s a special offer for Lincolnshire Life readers! For the latest information, visit www.ianeassom.co.uk