When I saw that Stacy Sims was coming out with another book, I was excited. If you don’t know who Stacy Sims is, she’s a PhD researcher who studies exercise nutrition and performance in women and focuses on athlete health and performance. Dr. Sims has lectures she calls “Women are Not Small Men” and has been trying to make people more aware that much of the research done in relation to exercise has historically been done in men, not women, and as we all know, women’s bodies are very different from men’s.
The Foreword for this book is Selene Yeager’s personal experience with menopause beginning at the age of 43 and how Stacy was able to help her by adjusting her training, adding adaptogens to her diet, and lifting heavy weight. After implementing some of the advice Dr. Sims gave her, Ms. Yeager won a tough bike race at the age of 50. Instead of just saying that her best days were behind her, Ms. Yeager gained back her confidence in herself and continued challenging herself.
Next Level was written especially for active women either approaching menopause or experiencing menopause. The book is broken into two sections, Part 1: Menopause Explained is just what it sounds like. There are simple, easy to understand explanations of perimenopause, menopause, and postmenopause. Differences among races and ethnicities are given as well. For example, Asian women are able to metabolize isoflavones in soy better than women in Western countries. This is important because isoflavones can help reduce hot flashes.
Also included in Part 1 are some common menopause symptoms and some things you can do to help reduce the effects. Dr. Sims gives some advice on how to deal with heavy periods, as many women experience heavier than usual periods during perimenopause.
Part 2: Menopause Performance is the bulk of the book. Several pages are devoted to information on menopausal hormone therapy, past and more recent research on the subject, bioidentical hormones, and nonhormone options. She extensively covers adaptogens that are life-savers for many women. Adaptogens are plants that increase your body’s resistance to stress. When you take adaptogens in pill form, they block some of your cortisol response, resulting in a stimulating or relaxing effect depending on the adaptogen. I really appreciated this section and found it descriptive of what each adaptogen is good for, how it works, the results from studies, and how much to take.
Dr. Sims also discusses why sprint interval training (SIT) is hugely important for menopausal women. There are several examples of SIT exercises including how to do them. She is also a huge proponent of women lifting heavy weights, which is emphasized in the book, and she also gives some warm-up exercises, complete with photos. The importance of jumping exercises is brought up, with the reminder that running isn’t enough to help prevent bone loss. Several plyometric exercises are given, along with photos and good descriptions. That’s one area I was lacking in before and I’ve started doing the plyometrics circuit in her book a few times a week. It’s quite the heart-pumping workout, too!
There’s one chapter on gut health and another on diet, including fad diets like ketogenic diet and intermittent fasting. One thing many people don’t realize is women respond differently than men to intermittent fasting. Studies have shown women that fast have increased oxidative stress, slower thyroid function and slower metabolism. For women who exercise, the negative effects from fasting are amplified.
Several chapters are devoted to nutrition and the timing of fueling in relation to exercise and a chapter on sleep. There’s a chapter on core exercises and more examples with photos given. Finally, there’s a chapter on supplements including everything from vitamin D to creatine. I didn’t know that women have 70-80% lower creatine stores than men. As a result, Sims recommends menopausal women take 0.3 grams per kilograms a day of creatine for 5-7 days and then cut back to a lower daily dose (but she doesn’t say how much that is); alternatively, she suggests taking a routine daily dose of 3-5 grams.
In the final chapter, “Pulling it all Together,” Sims encourages women to take inventory of their symptoms, track your body composition, schedule your training and workout days, and plan your nutrition. She says to track everything for four weeks and see what worked and what didn’t work and try different things if necessary.
As a perimenopausal woman, I absolutely devoured this book. To my knowledge, this is the first book related to menopause geared toward active women. Some of the information was new to me and some I had heard before. Overall, I absolutely recommend this book to any woman in her mid-30’s to 40’s who is active. There are many scientific papers referenced, personal examples given throughout the book, and practical advice any older woman can appreciate.
Have you read this book? If so, what did you think? If you have not read Stacy Sim’s other book I have a review here: Review of “Roar: How to Match Your Food and Fitness to Your Unique Female Physiology for Optimum Performance, Great Health, and a Strong, Lean Body for Life” by Stacy Sims and Selene Yeager.