How important is protein to keep us active and healthy in perimenopause and menopause? What role does this nutrient play in our bone strength, muscle strength, and immunity?
As a dietitian, I often help clients take a close look at the protein in their diets. These clients are perimenopausal or postmenopausal women who have come to me for help with difficulty losing weight, troubling hormonal symptoms, and other health issues that emerge at this time in a woman’s life.
My job is to make sure my clients are aware of how much protein they should be aiming for each day as well as the best sources for their eating style. Most women are not aware that their needs increase slightly as they get older.
Why do women in perimenopause need more protein?
We lose muscle as we age starting at about age 35! Age-related muscle loss is called sarcopenia. But for women in perimenopause declining estrogen is also a guilty party. That muscle loss from both age and estrogen loss comes along with decreased immunity, decreased strength, and eventually decreased independence.
The timing of when you eat this protein is significant too. Spreading it out throughout the day is necessary to gain strength and hold on to muscle tissue. My recommendation is to have most of your protein at breakfast and lunch, a smaller portion at dinner, and a few grams in a snack.
Studies show that even for recreational exercisers getting the right amount of protein will help you get to your healthy weight. The right amount of protein can improve your body composition. It helps to increase muscle mass and decrease fat tissue.
Resistance exercises and strength training paired with protein in meals and snacks will improve body strength and composition, performance, and bone strength. Training and nutrition go hand in hand.
Post-workout protein timing
More serious exercisers and masters athletes will need even more protein, as well as carbohydrates and calories, to support a properly fueled body. This means competitive peri/menopausal athletes need somewhere between 30 to 40 grams of post-workout protein. Add about 30 grams of carbohydrates and get it in 30 to 45 minutes after a workout for optimal recovery.
This post-workout nutrition helps rebuild muscle and replenish energy stores in your body. You’ll build overall strength and be in better shape for your next workout.
Under eating in relation to the exercise you do could lead to Low Energy Availability (LEA). This means low energy, poor performance, and possibly serious consequences to your overall health.
Suggestions for post workout meals:
- greek yogurt + berries
- cottage cheese + orange slices
- whole grain toast + avocado + 1 egg
- protein shake + banana
- whole grain crackers + tuna