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5 Supplements Important for Mid-Life Women
Not just an apple a day.
As a self-proclaimed purist, I love food! But sometimes, optimal nutrition requires something more. Below are 5 must-have supplements for mid-life women and why they are important. Enjoy! -Carla
Nutrition is the foundation of good health, vitality, and athletic performance. There are lots of recommendations from government agencies and gurus in the nutrition world, but what is becoming clear is that one size does not fit all!
During my own wellness journey and training as a nutrition coach, I have come to appreciate the treasure of nutrients found in nature. There is no substitute for the nutritional value and bioavailability of life-sustaining nutrients found in whole food sources. However, supplementation plays a critical role in optimizing our nutrition plans in cases where the availability of nutrients may not meet an individual’s specific needs.
During mid-life, women experience a profound physical transformation due to changing hormonal physiology - changes in muscle mass and function, metabolism, bone health, and the cardiovascular system require special attention from the standpoint of physical activity and nutrition.
In addition to a balanced diet of minimally processed whole foods and high-quality protein sources, here are 5 supplements that are particularly important for the needs of mid-life women.
As women transition through perimenopause into menopause, changing hormones leads to a reduction in bone density and muscle mass. This catabolic shift requires greater attention to protein intake to prevent the excessive loss of bone and muscle seen in osteoporosis and sarcopenia.
Adequate protein intake ensures that the body has the building blocks it needs to build and repair muscle and bone in response to exercise and normal “wear and tear”. It is often difficult to obtain adequate protein solely from food sources. A high-quality whey, pea, or casein protein powder is an excellent way to supplement dietary protein sources.
How much is the right amount for mid-life women? Dr. Stacy Sims, exercise physiologist and nutrition scientist recommends 2.2g of protein/kg of body weight for perimenopausal and menopausal women.
One of the most critical building blocks of bone is the mineral, Calcium. The onset of menopause brings with it a rapid decline in bone density, which puts women at risk for fracture. Studies have shown that calcium and vitamin D supplementation is effective for preventing fracture. The North American Menopause Society (NAMS) recommends 1200mg of elemental calcium daily for menopausal women.
Calcium is found in many of the foods we eat. The Bone Health and Osteoporosis Foundation Guide to Calcium-Rich Foods and Calcium Intake Estimator will help you determine if you are getting enough calcium in your diet.
Most women do not meet their daily calcium need through dietary sources alone and require supplementation. Calcium carbonate supplements are an excellent source of bioavailable elemental calcium. This guide from the Mayo Clinic can help you choose a high-quality supplement.
3. Vitamin D
Vitamin D is a compound synthesized in the skin of most mammals in response to sun exposure. Vitamin D is essential for the absorption of calcium in the intestinal tract. For women in mid-life, the intestinal absorption of calcium declines, and losses of calcium through the kidneys increases.
Our greatest source of Vitamin D is through sun exposure, however, some can be found in the foods we eat. There is variable consensus among groups on recommended dietary intake, however, NAMS recommends perimenopausal and menopausal women consume 1000-2000 IU of Vitamin D daily. Studies cited by NAMS have shown that supplementation with calcium and vitamin D can help to prevent fractures in the aging female population.
Omega-3 refers to a family of essential fatty acids (Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), and alpha-linolenic acid) that the human body is unable to synthesize in appreciable amounts. Fish oil, algae, walnuts, and flax seeds are common dietary sources of omega-3.
Although dietary sources are preferred, the benefits of supplementation for lowering triglyceride levels and reducing cardiovascular risk are apparent in several studies. Other potential benefits have been suggested for asthma, dementia, cognitive performance, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s Disease, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, irritable bowel and renal disease, and various skin conditions.
For the mid-life woman, hormone changes are accompanied by an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, changes in serum lipids (i.e. total cholesterol, triglycerides, HDL, and LDL cholesterol), concerns about cognitive function, and arthritis, just to name a few. Omega-3 in the form of krill or fish oil should be considered for every mid-life woman. The recommended daily intake for omega-3 is 250-500mg of a combination of EPA and DHA. Read the labels on your supplements carefully!
As mentioned previously, age-related loss of muscle mass and function is problematic for mid-life women and is a significant cause of disability and loss of independence. Although controversial, some studies suggest that the menopausal transition may be an independent risk factor for loss of muscle mass and function.
Creatine is a naturally occurring substance found in animal sources of protein such as beef, poultry, pork, fish, and organ meats. Half of our creatine intake (non-vegetarians) comes from food and the remainder is synthesized in the liver from the amino acids arginine and glycine.
In the sports industry, creatine is one of the safest, most effective, and thoroughly studied supplements taken to improve muscular strength, increase muscle mass and enhance muscle function. What we know about creatine comes mostly from the study of young, most often male athletes. However, more attention has turned to the aging population due to the morbidity associated with the age-related loss of muscle mass and function.
For mid-life women, maximizing muscle mass and function is critical. As we will see in an upcoming post in Athletic Aging evidence is mounting for the benefit of creatine supplementation in women who incorporate resistance training into their fitness regimen. So stay tuned!
How much creatine is recommended? 3-5g of creatine monohydrate every day (including non-workout days) may help to mitigate the age-related loss of muscle mass and function, depending on how much natural creatine is consumed in the diet. Vegetarians will require closer to 5g daily. But the key to these benefits is consistent resistance training! Sedentary individuals do not experience the same benefits.