For many years I taught sport and exercise students that endurance athletes rarely compete in the fasted state as this may compromise their fuel stores and performance.
Yet, these days, with rigorous fasting regimes for menopause weight management on the rise, I’m finding that many women who are fasting daily, are also participating in intense exercise (e.g. HIIT classes and weight training) or they are doing endurance exercise. I’m not surprised when they tell me that they often feel exhausted.
From the numerous women I talk to on my 12 week lifestyle-change programmes as well as Practitioners on the MyMT™ Education Practitioner Courses who are working with these women and supporting them through menopause, I realise that many of them don’t understand that you can’t do extreme fasting AND expect to tolerate and recover from exercise.
This is because if you are living your life in a fasted state from day to day, your muscles aren’t replacing the storage forms of glucose, called glycogen.
It is well known in sport and exercise science that the timing and composition of the pre-exercise meal is a significant consideration for optimizing metabolism and subsequent exercise performance. (Ormsbee et al, 2014).
This is where carbohydrate in the form of starch comes in.
Pre-exercise consumption of carbohydrate, up to 4-6 hours prior to the exercise, increases blood glucose levels. As a result, insulin is released from the pancreas, and liver glucose output is blunted. The role of insulin is to initiate uptake of the glucose into muscle cells, thus storing it, ready for exercise.
If you’ve ever seen images of athletes competing in marathons or other endurance events and tottering all over the road about to collapse, this is because their muscle and liver glycogen stores have reached rock-bottom.
Understanding that the menopause transition is a vulnerable time for muscle changes, means that if you are a regular exerciser, then it’s time that you needed to improve your intake of carbohydrates, especially starch carbs. Carbohydrate feedings prior to endurance exercise are common and have generally been shown to enhance performance, despite increasing insulin levels. (Ormsbee et al, 2014).
Soft breads that are easily digested are great as a pre-exercise food for you. Because our gut health changes as we move through menopause, and our muscles are ageing and changing, a soft bread such as Focaccia, is ideal.
When my daughter sent me this photo of the Easy, Overnight Foccacia bread, that her partner, Harry, made when they were in Switzerland recently, I knew it was perfect for you to try sometime. The recipe has been sourced from alexandracooks.com and there is a step-by-step process which I have copied here for you.
If you are continually exhausted after you exercise, this is the recipe for you to help you get your pre-exercise nutrition sorted! I also have all this information in my 12 week menopause exercise programme called ‘Rebuild My Fitness’. If you are wanting to understand the specific changes that occur during menopause and how to exercise in ways that help you to improve your cardiovascular fitness, your strength and flexibility, then this is the home-based programme for you.
MyMT™ Easy Overnight Foccacia Bread
(recipe sourced from alexandercooks.com)
- 4 cups (512 g) flour
- 2 teaspoons (10 g) salt
- 2 teaspoons (8 g) instant yeast
- 2 cups (455 g) water
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Whisk together the flour, salt, and yeast first.
- Add the water: Use a spatula to stir the two together.
- Slick the surface of the dough with olive oil; then cover the bowl.
- Stick the bowl in the fridge immediately and leave it there to rise for 12 to 18 hours
NOTE: The recipe states that it is important the dough really be slicked with olive oil especially if you are using a cloth bowl cover or tea towel as opposed to plastic wrap or the lid pictured in the photo below this one. If you are using a tea towel, consider securing it with a rubber band to make a more airtight cover. If you do not slick the dough with enough oil, you risk the dough drying out and forming a crust over the top layer. (see image below)
- Remove from fridge, and remove the cover.
- Deflate the dough and transfer to a prepared pan (preferably 9 x 13 inch). If you are using glass baking dishes be sure to grease the dishes with butter before pouring a tablespoon of olive oil into each. (The butter will ensure the bread doesn’t stick.) Don’t touch the dough again for 2 to 4 hours depending on your environment.
- Then it’s time to dimple it! You can use simply olive oil and salt — I recommend good, flaky sea salt for this.
- If you are using rosemary, sprinkle it over the dough. Then pour two tablespoons of olive oil over the dough, and using your fingers, press straight down to create deep dimples. Sprinkle with flaky sea salt — Maldon is great here.
- Transfer to the oven immediately and bake at 425ºF (200 celcius) for 25 minutes or until golden all around. Remove focaccia from pans and place on cooling racks.
I hope you enjoy pulling off some of the bread and having it up to 1-2 hours before exercise.
Alexandra Stafford Focaccia Recipe Link HERE
Ormsbee MJ, Bach CW, Baur DA. Pre-exercise nutrition: the role of macronutrients, modified starches and supplements on metabolism and endurance performance. Nutrients. 2014 Apr 29;6(5):1782-808. doi: 10.3390/nu6051782.