Written by Erin Dresser
Why Protein is Essential for Perimenopause
Proper nutrition is an essential part of overall well being throughout the life cycle. However, this aspect of health becomes even more essential as we navigate the changes and transitional periods that take place throughout life, such as through perimenopause.
In perimenopause, there is a gradual decline of essential hormones, namely progesterone and estrogen, that can drastically affect the body. This transitional period is marked by a variety of symptoms, including hot flashes, mood swings, brain fog, and others.
These symptoms can be alleviated when addressed accordingly. Proper nutrition can help play a key role in supporting health and well being during this transition. As women, it is essential we get the vitamins and nutrients that are necessary for proper body functioning as we age. Additionally, ensuring you receive proper nutrition and have adequate protein intake can help support bone health and avoid osteoporosis, maintain a healthy weight, and reduce the risk of other chronic diseases, such as diabetes, hypertension, or heart disease.
What is Protein?
Protein is one of the main nutrients that we eat, called macronutrients. Protein is made up of amino acids, which are essential to the body and are commonly referred to as the building blocks of the body. Amino acids are an integral part of daily bodily functions, including enzyme and hormone production, immune system function, and tissue repair.
Protein is an essential part of a healthy and complete diet and can be found in both plant and animal sources. Plant based sources of protein include beans, nuts, soy (tofu or tempeh), legumes, seeds, and whole grains. Animal based sources of protein include meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and dairy products. Other sources of protein can be found in supplement form via protein bars, powders, or shakes.
Perimenopause and Metabolism
The declining levels of hormones have a drastic impact on metabolism in the body. As a result, it may lead to fat accumulation, reduced muscle mass (sarcopenia), and reduced bone density (osteoporosis).
Each of these can drastically affect quality of life and may lead to other chronic ailments, such as joint pain, diabetes, hypertension, or heart disease. While each of these are common side effects of aging, they can be exacerbated by perimenopause and inadequate diet and protein intake.
By ensuring you eat a balanced diet with adequate protein and calcium consumption, exercising regularly, drinking enough water, and getting good sleep, you may be able to reduce your risk of developing these conditions.
How Does Protein Help?
Compared to the other macronutrients, fat and carbohydrates, protein has a higher satiety value and can help make you feel fuller for a longer period of time. This can help reduce cravings and support weight maintenance or weight management efforts during perimenopause. Additionally, protein requires more energy to digest and metabolize than carbohydrates, which can potentially enhance fat loss when partnered with an overall balanced diet and regular physical activity.
How Much is Enough?
While protein needs may vary based on several factors, such as physical activity level, goals (gain, lose, or maintain weight), and overall health, the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for adult protein intake is 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day.
However, due to the potential decreases of metabolism, bone density, and muscle mass during perimenopause, greater protein intake may be beneficial. Increasing intake to around 1.0 to 1.2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight may be a good range to aim for. Consulting with a registered dietitian or healthcare professional could provide tailored recommendations to suit your body’s needs and your personal goals. These professionals can also provide other recommendations, supplements, and support.
Increasing Protein Intake
While it may be beneficial to increase your protein intake, it is essential to be considerate of the protein sources you consume. Lean cuts of meat, skinless poultry, fish, and low fat dairy products are all good animal-based protein options. These options allow for greater protein intake while minimizing saturated fat intake, which can be detrimental to health.
All plant-based protein options are low in saturated fat and can provide a good source of protein. Adding nuts butters or seeds to smoothies, for example, can be a great way to increase protein intake.
While protein is an essential nutritional component of a healthy and balanced diet, particularly as we age, too much of anything can be to your detriment. Excessive protein consumption can have negative health impacts and can strain the kidneys. Consequently, it is imperative that protein is consumed in moderation and within recommended amounts.
Nutritional needs vary from person to person. The best way to ensure you are consuming a well balanced diet is to consult with a registered dietitian or healthcare professional to obtain tailored nutritional recommendations based on you and your body.
Not Just Protein
While it is important to mind your protein intake, it is just as essential to ensure your diet is balanced and well-rounded.
Ensure you are eating a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables to ensure you are getting enough vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Additionally, ensure you are consuming enough carbohydrates through whole grains and healthy fats to ensure proper bodily functions.
Finally, always ensure that you are staying hydrated and consuming enough water. Ensuring you are hydrated can help alleviate some of the symptoms of perimenopause, such as hot flashes, digestion, and skin problems.
Essential nutrients to take special consideration of during perimenopause include calcium, vitamin D, omega-3 fatty acids, and phytoestrogens, which are foods that contain plant-based estrogen, such as soy and flax.
Ensuring that you are consuming a balanced diet that is full of whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, essential healthy fats, and adequate protein intake can help alleviate some of the symptoms of perimenopause. While it may benefit some to slightly increase protein intake during perimenopause, too much can lead to negative effects. Consulting with a registered dietitian or another healthcare professional can provide tailored recommendations and continued support throughout the transitional phase of perimenopause.
It’s Fetch is a community that provides a safe space for members to discuss health and wellness topics. We provide access to archived health related content, note the date of last review or update on all articles. No content shared, regardless of date should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.