For most of my clients it won’t come as a complete surprise how important protein is not only for weight loss but also important in the proper functioning of your body (major structural component of our muscles, nervous system, brain, blood, skin, and hair and is used by the body as a transport mechanism for vitamins, minerals, oxygen, and fats).
In my previous blog post I have also explained that specific menopause-related factors, such as decreased estrogens, and age-related factors, such as decreased testosterone, can lead to accelerated muscle and bone loss. Because in the muscle-building process, emphasizing adequate protein consumption in combination with resistance during the menopausal transition becomes extremely important. Recent research has shown that low protein intake is associated with an increase in muscle loss (sarcopenia), and considering that the menopausal transition is already associated with accelerated muscle loss, slowing this progression becomes incredibly important.
Researchers from Sydney University have now also explained the mechanism of weight gain in menopause and they suggest that the body’s appetite for protein increases during perimenopause (due to hormonally-induced tissue protein breakdown) but if protein requirements aren’t met, women overconsume other forms of energy. This is due to the Protein Leverage Effect. To make matters worse, levels of energy expenditure tend to fall during menopause. Basically this means that women in perimenopause need to eat both less energy (in the form of carbohydrates and fats) and more protein to compensate for the biological changes.
Daily protein intake recommendations
But how much Protein should you consummate and and when? Generally you proteing can be absorb most effectively when you consume some protein with every meal throughout the day. There has been much discussion about what the right about of protein is, and, generally speaking, recommendations have varied based on activity level. The Reference Nutrient Intake (RNI) is 0.75g of protein per kilogram bodyweight per day for adults, with additional requirements for growth and repair, including for children and in pregnancy. Research shows that to emphasize muscle growth (not bulking!!!), the overall daily protein intake should be in the range of 1.4–2.0 g protein/kg body weight/day. However, because menopause comes with additional challenges, Dr. Stacy Sims recommends that peri- and postmenopausal women should aim to stay at the higher end of the recommended range (2.2 – 2.4g per kg of bodyweight).
Proteins are molecules made up of long chains of amino acids. There are about 20 different amino acids commonly found in plant and animal proteins. For adults, nine of these must be provided in the diet and are defined as ‘essential’ or ‘indispensable’ amino acids. These are:
Complete proteins are proteins (animal sources such as milk, eggs, poultry, fish, and meat) that contain all 9 essential amino acids.
Incomplete proteins are protein sources that do not contain all essential amino acids. This is especially important for vegetarians and vegans as they need to pay special attention to eating a variety of plant foods to ensure they consume enough of all amino acids.
- Topping the list of high-quality proteins are meat, egg, poultry, and fish. Milk and its components (whey, casein, soy) are close behind.
- Whey protein can be divided into whey powder (11%-15% protein), whey concentrate (25%-89% protein), and whey isolate (>90% protein). Whey isolate is lactose-free. This type of protein is quickly absorbed and digested and is ideal for muscle regeneration after a workout. It has a much larger muscle protein synthesis stimulation ability than casein or soy proteins.
- Casein is released into the bloodstream much slower than whey and can provide a more constant supply of amino acids. A combination of whey and casein seems to have the greatest muscular strength improvements.
- Soy is the only vegetable protein that contains all nine essential amino acids. Just like whey protein, soy can be divided into three types (soy flour, concentrate, and isolate) depending on the protein content. This type of protein has been in the news for its health benefits. FDA determined that diets with four daily soy servings can reduce levels of LDL by as much as 10 percent (1% drop in total cholesterol can equal a 2 percent drop in heart disease risk). Adding soy to milk can enhance the effect of resistance training in postmenopausal women.
The most important aspect is to ensure the consumption of the nine essential amino acids during the day. This can be accomplished through complete proteins or a combination of incomplete proteins. When choosing a protein powder, pay attention to the type of protein (isolate is better than powder or concentrate). Also, pay attention to how your body reacts to different protein powders. Some of them can cause intestinal discomfort. When trying to meet. But the key message is that prioritizing protein consumption is a must during menopause! You can do it!