Summer has arrived early in Vietnam, so achieving your ultimate health and fitness goals before your next vacation isn’t just about hitting the gym every day doing endless sets of dumbbell curls.
Women tend to carry a higher percentage of fat around the hips, thighs and butt while men carry fat deposits around the stomach. On average women have 18% to 20% more body fat than men, though this figure can vary depending on the individual. A study by the University of NSW in Sydney some years ago found that although women eat fewer calories than men, their ability to store fat more efficiently than men is linked to the hormone oestrogen.
Studies have shown that oestrogen reduces a woman’s ability to burn energy efficiently after eating, thus resulting in extra fat being stored. The storage of fat is possibly linked to childbearing. On the other hand, high oestrogen levels allow fat to be utilized as energy during exercise faster than men, but it doesn’t decrease at the rate as it does in men — a paradox that frustrates women who work out.
Good and Bad Influences
Having a healthy eating plan also influences oestrogen and fat storage levels. Processed foods, genetically modified organism (GMO) food, fatty meat products, and food high in fat will increase and promote fat storage. Although certain plant compounds called flavonoids and indoles serve to modulate oestrogen production and fat storage, make sure each week you include these foods that are high in these oestrogen-inhibiting compounds, such as salmon, citrus fruit, onions, garlic and vegetables, such as cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower. Restricting your calorie consumption, such as going on a liquid diet or only eating one meal a day will have a counter-productive effect and actually increase fat storage. A rapid decrease in calories triggers your body to go into starvation mode, storing more fat to be used as energy.
After menopause, fat storage and distribution changes as the body starts to produce more of the male hormone androgen to counteract the drop in oestrogen. Because of this hormone change, women start to store more fat around the stomach region like men. Increased fat around the abdomen means you have a higher risk of health problems, such as heart disease, stroke and arthritis. However, fat stored in your hips, thighs or bottom isn’t necessarily an indicator of poor health.
There are several other factors to consider why women gain weight during menopause. A change in lifestyle can also play a major role during this time, going from being relatively active pre-menopausal to becoming less active during menopause. This results in less energy burned, loss of muscle mass and an increase in fat storage. Menopausal women also have an increase in insulin levels and insulin resistance, which increases weight gain and risk of heart disease.
HRT for Me?
Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT), though controversial due to the increased risk of breast cancer, does assist in reducing abdominal fat, insulin resistance and new-onset diabetes. A reason why HRT is effective in weight control is because it helps to stabilize and increase oestrogen levels thus letting your body know it doesn’t need to store extra fat. A more natural alternative to HRT to decrease unwanted weight gain and increase lean muscle mass is to maintain a healthy eating plan high in organic fruit and vegetables that are GMO-free along with eating lean meats, omega-3 fatty acids found in fish, such as salmon, combined with a regular exercise routine.
It’s important to understand that fat is essential for giving your body energy and supporting cell growth. Fat fills your fat cells, insulates your body to keep you warm and protects vital organs. Fat also helps your body absorb certain vitamins and nutrients along with producing hormones. With regular exercise and a healthy eating plan, and learning how to work with your body’s changes through the different stages of your life, it will help you reach your health and fitness goals.
Amazin is a Prana Samyana meditation Yin Yoga teacher and performance coach having trained Olympic athletes to special forces. She is also a former natural competitive bodybuilder and the first Vietnamese internationally published health and fitness author and DNA fitness trainer. For more info, click on amazinlethi.com
Some days I have absolutely no desire to work-out and as an athlete and personal trainer, I’m the first to admit that! Wouldn’t it be grand if there was an exercise programme you could do on your lazy days away from the bump and grind of the aerobics class or crowded gym floor.
Having the willpower and self-discipline to control your eating even when you emotionally don’t want to is paramount to not feeling like you are falling off the bandwagon during Tet.
Over the summer you were able to lose weight by sticking to your bikini diet. But as we head into the Tet festive season in February, it’s time to kick-start the Lunar New Year and overcome your health and fitness plateau with the PHA workout.
One of the most commonly asked questions women ask me when starting a weight training routine: “Should I use free weights or machines?”
The gym can be intimidating for some women particularly if you are a novice still building up your confidence around working out in the gym and learning how to use all the equipment.
A toned and flat midsection is what most of us aim for so we can fit into our swimsuit.
For a long time it was believed that when a woman became pregnant that she should give up all forms of exercise for the full duration of pregnancy. It was thought to be unhealthy for the woman and unsafe for the unborn child. Now, it is believed that keeping fit and staying active right up until you give birth is essential for the health of the mother and unborn child.
Relaxing and learning to switch off from the daily stress that you encounter from daily life in Vietnam is just as important as regular physical activity for optimal well-being.