by Diane Spicer
Menopausal nutrition for hikers is a vast, deep subject.
And I'm not qualified to give expert advice.
But I do have a background in teaching human biology to college students.
And access to lots of scientific journals and human biology textbooks, so I've done a lot of reading on this subject.
Also, I've been through The Pause, and am here to tell you it's survivable.
And get this:
Hiking during menopause has it's advantages! (no need for a down vest, for instance)
What motivates me to share this information is my desire for you to remain strong and active well into "old age" - define that with any number you wish, but for me, it's somewhere approaching triple digits (!!).
Let me share with you a few things I've gleaned about menopausal nutrition (and post-menopausal nutrition) for women hiking into, and through, menopause.
None of this is medical advice, just some ideas for you.
Calcium is a big deal for older hiking females.
Osteoporosis can rob a menopausal hiker's bones of strength and resilience.
Calcium can enter your body in two ways:
diet and supplements.
Either way, it's useful if it's together with another mineral, magnesium (discussed below).
Dietary sources of calcium include
A few cautions:
So if you've never been a "salad" person, it might be time to switch from soup to salad for dinner.
Calcium supplements come in various forms of calcium salts:
Talk with your health care provider about which choice is best for you.
Various factors in the decision might be:
Buy calcium supplements from a reputable source such as Pharmaca.
don't want your calcium contaminated with metals such as lead.
And speaking of the safety of calcium supplementation, check out this chunk of recently released science.
It's actually a "study of studies", pooling information from many studies (meta-analysis) in an attempt to answer the question:
Do calcium plus vitamin D supplements increase cardiovascular risk?
The answer to the question:
Insufficient evidence is available to support or refute the association
Speaking strictly for myself, I think it's a cautionary note for women who are at risk for cardiovascular disease to avoid supplementation, in favor of daily calcium through dietary sources.
Makes sense, right?
Mother Nature has it figured out.
If you're raising children or grandchildren, be aware that they are accumulating calcium in their bone matrix up until the age of 18 years of so.
Menopausal nutrition for hikers should also include this mineral, because magnesium is vital for proper muscle and nervous system functions.
Hikers need to protect these functions, because that's where we get our strength, endurance, coordination, adequate energy levels, and balance.
The good news about magnesium is that it's easy to get in a normal diet.
What to eat during menopause to ensure you're getting enough magnesium:
These foods should be the backbone of your menopausal nutrition.
If you're taking a calcium supplement, this may increase your need for magnesium.
Magnesium supplementation (over and above what you are getting in your food) has been correlated with increased bone mineral density in post-menopausal women, possibly because it prevents the bone matrix from being turned over quickly.
As is true for calcium, magnesium comes in various forms:
Talk with your health care provider about this, because the choice you make depends upon your symptoms and baseline, as well as any medical conditions or medications.
Here's what I ingest after a long day on the trail, to guard against night time muscle cramps which hurt like the dickens.
Here's another interesting component of menopausal nutrition.
Just like calcium and magnesium, potassium is a small charged particle (ion) which is used to accomplish many jobs inside your cells.
Chances are, you are getting enough of this nutrient in your food if you are eating meat, fruit, and vegetables.
Muscle weakness and fatigue may indicate a lack of potassium, important considerations for menopausal hikers.
This is especially true if you've been sweating a lot on the trail, or have had a recent bout of vomiting and/or diarrhea (fluid losses).
Easy ways to sneak in potassium:
Not having enough fiber in your diet sets you up for all sorts of nastiness.
Just two examples of why eating plant based fiber rich foods are important as we age.
Here are the foods you can eat to make sure you're getting your daily dose of fiber:
A bowl of oatmeal topped with this ground flax gets you loaded up with fiber, but be sure to drink enough water to maximize its benefits in your intestinal tract.
If these foods are unappealing, perhaps you'd rather get your fiber via a powder that can be added to your daily routine.
Everyone should eat protein every day, right?
But it's hard to get enough protein on a backpacking trip.
And some of the "wisdom" out there says to forget about your protein intake and concentrate on fast energy producing carbohydrates during a hike.
Hiking For Her thinks otherwise, with all the details about the importance of protein for you here.
And if you've been enjoying nuts as a trail snack all through your hiking career, you're on smart hiker!
Oxidative stress is a fancy way to say that when you're out on the trail, breathing deeply hour after hour, you're generating high energy particles called free radicals in your tissues.
These energetic little trouble makers zing around and damage your cellular structures.
That means function can be impacted.
So make it a point to load up on antioxidants.
Take the time to eat well, and your body will be ready to take you up and down the trail as the years roll by and your hiking memory banks overflow.
Thanks for visiting!
And happy "prime of life" hiking.
It's a blast!!
Before you go, enjoy more Elder Hiking tips.
Menopausal Nutrition For Hikers
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