So many of my clients, especially menopausal ladies, find it difficult to truly appreciate and implement the high levels of protein we need in our diets.
Monitoring daily protein intake is essential as it keeps your female physiology working at its best – this macronutrient helps build and maintain muscle mass which is essential for performance, weight management, health, and longevity.
Our sex hormones impact our protein requirements.
As these hormones fluctuate throughout the menstrual cycle and peri – post menopause transition, we are more inclined to break down muscle in a process known as sarcopenia. This means that even higher doses of protein are advisable during these times to keep our bodies functioning optimally.
According to The British Heart Foundation, the average adult needs at least 0.75g of protein per kg of body weight a day. However, studies carried out by Women’s Health Initiatives have shown that women going through the peri – post menopause transition need to increase their daily protein intake to 2.4g per kg of body weight, as this amount has been associated with a lower risk of frailty and better physical function.
This seems like a lot of protein!
Let’s look in more depth as to why we need to be consuming so much protein daily:
1) Weight loss – Protein keeps us full longer, helps maintain muscle mass which is important for a healthy metabolism, and temporarily raises your metabolic rate via TEF (Thermic Effect of Food) this means your body uses more calories to digest protein and use the nutrients.
2) Muscular strength – Protein is a major part of your muscles, it’s essential for repairing and maintaining body tissues and preventing the age-related decline in muscle mass, known as sarcopenia.
3) Strong bones – Protein helps maintain bone strength and sets the stage for better bone health as we age. Bone mass density decreases during the menopausal years and osteoporosis can become more likely. Protein will help keep your bones in better condition.
4) Improves insulin sensitivity - Insulin resistance becomes more common as we get older and especially as hormone levels decline in menopause. This is a precursor not only to abdominal weight gain but also long-term health, specifically type 2 diabetes, heart disease and cancers. Eating protein with every meal and snack will help increase insulin sensitivity in the body.
5) Reduces sugar cravings – Eating meals rich in protein will keep you full longer and make you feel more satisfied, your brain will pick up on this and reduce hunger signals meaning you’re less likely to seek out an energy high from sugar.
6) Helps anti-ageing – Protein helps your body break down old, damaged cells (Autophagy) and rebuild new healthier cells. It also contains a lot of collagens which helps keep your skin elasticity and reduce signs of ageing.
7) Boosts immunity – Protein produces antibodies which are critical in fighting infections and diseases. It also has anti-inflammatory properties which help reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease and cancers.
8) Helps maintain your hormonal balance – Protein is the building block of hormonal production, it provides the amino acids to make oestrogen, insulin and thyroid hormone and so is essential during menopause when the production of hormones start to decline.
9) Helps provides the general structure of the body – You are made of protein; your hair is protein (keratin) your skin is protein (collagen). If you are not getting enough protein healing slows down, hair growth slows, and nails become brittle and break easily.
10) It tastes good – Adding protein to meals will improve the flavour of the meal making it taste better and giving you that satisfied feeling.
Some of the best sources of protein in the diet are as follows:
· Beans, lentils, pulses
· Nuts, seeds
· Greek yogurt
· Cottage cheese
· Full fat dairy
As with so many dietary issues, planning and forming new habits are key to consistency and success.
Here are my top tips for ensuring you’re meeting your daily protein needs:
· Top your meals with nuts, flaxseeds, chai seeds
· Add a protein-based powder to smoothies, juices and baked goods
· Replace cereals with eggs for breakfast
· Choose leaner, larger cuts of meat
· Opt for greek yogurt over other types
· Choose quinoa over rice or pasta
· Hard boiled eggs make great snacks
· Add beans to all dishes
· Keep hummus in the fridge to use with fruit or veg
· Make your own protein balls with oats, flaxseeds + nut butter
I hope this helps.
If you need any more advice on proteins or other ways to fuel your body during menopause, please check out my Movement + Diet for Menopause Program:
Or drop me an email and we can arrange a time to chat: email@example.com