Book Review- Next Level. Your Guide to Kicking A$$, Feeling Great, and Crushing Goals Through Menopause and Beyond by Stacy Sims with Selene Yeager

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.

Happy running!

Donna

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

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I first heard about this book through the Another Mother Runner podcast several months ago but I only recently borrowed it from the library. Why the long wait? Honestly, I just didn’t really think it could be that good. I’ve read other books written by female athletes, although not a ton, but I just wasn’t that inspired by them. They weren’t bad, but they weren’t anything special either.

“Roar” is not only a book for female runners but for female athletes in general and I can honestly say it’s one of the best books for women that I’ve read. Dr. Sims is not only a nutrition scientist and exercise physiologist but also an athlete herself. One quote I really like from the book is “You are not a small man. Stop eating and training like one.” This sums up the book well.

There are 17 chapters in “Roar,” covering everything from pregnancy to menopause to the female digestive tract, although there is some redundancy in places, but I found the book to be laid out well and easy to follow. “Roar” is filled with scientific information and while I’m a scientist and may be a bit biased, I thought it wasn’t too scientific for most non-scientists to follow. I also liked the “Roar Sound Bites,” brief summaries at the end of each chapter.

Not only does Dr. Sims lay it all out there for women by explaining how hormones effect athletic performance, she gives advice on how to control hormonal effects on our bodies. For example, women should take in protein high in leucine before exercise and within 30 minutes of  exercising to help maintain muscle when hormone levels are high. One thing I learned about myself is I need to be consuming even more protein than I previously thought. Dr. Sims recommends 1 gram of protein per pound per day for athletic women (this is much more than is recommended for non-athletic women).

Dr. Sims also has examples of daily diets for athletes of all kinds including triathletes, cyclists, and runners. She sometimes will give comparisons of their current diet vs. what Dr. Sims recommends they eat. There are also exercises with photos that take up two chapters of the book that she recommends for female athletes. A not-so-fun fact is that women who don’t strength train lose at least 3% muscle mass per decade after age 30.

There are also of course large chunks of the books devoted to diets, sports-specific fueling, and hydration. In addition to specific examples of recommended daily diets for athletes, there are recipes for snacks. Not surprisingly, women’s hydration needs are different from men’s because of hormones. One interesting tidbit is that Dr. Sims partnered with nuun hydration to help re-formulate nuun performance hydration powder in 2016; the partnership was announced shortly after “Roar” hit the publication stands but there are no references to any of this in the book.

There are also sections on how women can deal with extreme temperatures and high elevation including specific ways to cope and a section on recovery after a hard workout. One interesting point is that when men take an ice bath, they can start shivering and get microspasms in their already-fatigued muscles, which leads to more soreness and stalled recovery. Women, however, need help speeding up vasoconstriction after a hard workout, so women can still benefit from ice baths.

The chapter on supplements was interesting to me because it’s part of what my field of study has included for my job. Many women may be surprised to read that the only recommended supplements mentioned in the book include iron, vitamin D, and magnesium. Calcium and antioxidants such as vitamin C are not recommended and in fact can be harmful. Dr. Sims’ opinion on supplements is in agreement with what I’ve also read from other scientists but this information doesn’t seem to have trickled down to the mainstream yet.

Finally, the last couple of chapters are about how men’s and women’s brains are different and how we can use this information. For example, women tend to have a greater ability for social interaction so we would benefit from things like group runs or cycling sessions. Also, positive thinking and mindfulness can be especially important for women who often need help in these areas. The final chapter is about biohacking (looking inside your physiology) and discusses everything from pee sticks to blood testing to the simple but often overlooked question, “How do I feel?”

As I said earlier, I feel like “Roar” is one of the best books geared towards female athletes that I’ve read, and I do recommend picking up a copy. I read a review on Amazon that this book isn’t for the average athlete, but is more for elite athletes, and I disagree. I’m by no means an elite athlete and there was plenty I could take away from this book. OK, now I need to go eat more protein!

Have any of you read “Roar?” If so, what did you think? Are any of you intrigued about the book now and would like to check it out? You can see if you public library has it or Amazon has it for sale here.

Happy running!

Donna

 

 

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