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Why is protein key around menopause?

If you have read up on the topic of menopause then you will have heard lots of people suggesting to consume more protein. This is why in publications such as the menopause diet 5 day plan to lose weight and the davina mccall menopause book; menopausing it will often be referred to. So why is protein key around menopause?

During the menopause there are so many changes taking place in the body primarily related to changes in hormone levels. These changes in hormone levels have a dramatic impact on how our body functions, which in turn can have a major impact on how it feels and looks. If you have read davina mccall menopausing then you will be familiar with what exactly takes place during the menopause. We also offer a good explanation in one of our earlier blogs which you can get here; In this blog we will be talking about why protein is key during the menopause and introducing you to ways of increasing the amount of protein in your diet.

Why is protein important?

During the menopause testosterone levels drop. Testosterone is vital for helping our bodies build and maintain muscles1 . This is why it is a really common supplement amongst bodybuilders whose main performance goal is to increase and maintain muscle mass. This is a hormone typically associated with males as the amount of testosterone is far greater, however, for females it is still very significant, this is why in recent years conversations have begun around using testosterone in hormone replacement therapy (HRT)2.

Muscle mass is important as it is a major contributor to our base metabolic rate, what this means is the more muscle we have the more calories we burn in a day therefore maintaining our muscle mass is vital for weight maintenance. It is also important as it helps support our skeletal system and protect our organs during trips and falls. Muscle is also responsible for giving our bodies shape which makes it a great tool for aiding in improving or maintaining aesthetics.

The reduction in muscle mass is known as atrophy, whereas building muscle is known as hypertrophy.. There are two main ways to prevent atrophy; stimulating muscle fibres (eg strength work) and feeding it enough protein. This is where the answer to our question “Why is protein key around menopause?” lies.

How much protein should I eat?

The question around how much protein to eat is highly debated within the fitness community. The exact figure really depends on the amount of strength training that you do. As a general rule of thumb aim for 25-30% of your calories to derive from protein. On a 2,000 calorie diet this would equate to around 125g of protein. This is most likely a lot more protein than you would usually eat and will require a change to your regular food choices. Just remember that this is to help prevent muscle wastage to help your body remain strong, support your bones and hold your shape, so it will be worth it.

How to eat more protein?

There are many sources of protein. Common advice is to base your meal around the protein source which works really well especially if you are a meat eater where the protein source will pack a lot of protein. To help build more protein into your meal we advise a method called background protein. This simple method entails switching your normal carbohydrate sources such as potatoes, pasta and rice around for more protein filled sources such as quinoa, chia, lentils and beans. Doing this will boost your daily protein intake up and also will likely result in more dietary goodness such as fibre and vitamins as these substitutes contain more of these micro and macro nutrients. We would always recommend trying to get as much of your protein from meals as these are rich in nutrients, however, if you are still struggling to hit your goal due to time etc then a protein shake is great. Try different brands and types to find a blend that fits your taste profile and sits well with your digestive system. Aim to get a whey isolate powder as this contains a higher percentage of protein which equates to more bang for your buck.

Eating more protein will not only help maintain muscle mass but also help keep you fuller for longer making weight management a lot easier making it a key nutrient to focus on during the menopause.

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