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Why You Need More Protein During Perimenopause and Menopause

(4-minute read)

As women transition into the perimenopause and menopause phases of life, they encounter numerous physiological changes that can impact their overall health and nutritional needs. Among these, the role of protein becomes increasingly significant. It’s essential to understand why protein is vital during these stages and how it can support your health as your body undergoes these changes.

Stomach Acid Reduction Affects Protein Digestion and Absorption

One of the less discussed but critical changes during perimenopause and menopause is the reduction in stomach acid production.

Stomach acid, primarily hydrochloric acid, plays a fundamental role in digesting proteins. It does this by activating enzymes that break down protein molecules into amino acids. As stomach acid levels decrease, the efficiency of protein digestion can decline, leading to inadequate absorption of these essential nutrients.

Proteins are the building blocks of life, vital for repairing tissues, supporting immune function, and maintaining muscle mass. During perimenopause and menopause, maintaining muscle mass becomes crucial. It helps regulate metabolism and ensures physical strength.

With reduced stomach acid, women may experience symptoms of inadequate digestion, such as bloating, gas, and cravings in the short term.

Over the long term, women may experience symptoms of protein malabsorption, such as hair loss, thin nails, impaired immune function, weakness, fatigue, and others.

To counteract this, you can focus on including high-quality protein sources in your diet that are easier to digest. These can include lean meats, fish, eggs, and dairy products (if you tolerate dairy).

Additionally, a grass-fed and grass-finished beef protein powder like this one can provide an easy-to-digest source of protein in a blend-and-go form.

Keep in mind that animal-based proteins are more readily absorbed than plant-based proteins, but plant-based proteins will confer some benefit if you do not consume animal products.

Be sure to talk to your doctor about digestive aids, like supplemental digestive enzymes or betaine HCl. Seek medical guidance, as some digestive supplements can be extremely strong.

Metabolic Slowdown and Macronutrient Adaptation

The metabolic shift that often accompanies perimenopause and menopause is a well-documented phenomenon. Women tend to gain weight in their 40s and 50s, and the diet and exercise regimens that worked in the past may not be effective during this new phase.

As metabolism changes the body may not use carbohydrates as efficiently as it once did. This can lead to potential weight gain and decreased energy levels. This metabolic shift makes it important for women to adapt their macronutrient intake, which includes carbohydrates, fats, and proteins.

Increasing protein intake can be particularly beneficial during this time. A diet higher in protein helps maintain muscle mass, which is metabolically active tissue. This means it burns calories even at rest, helping to offset the metabolic slowdown.

Protein also has a higher thermic effect than carbohydrates or fats, meaning that the body uses more energy to digest and metabolize protein. This further supports metabolic health. The focus should not just be on the quantity of protein, but also on the quality and timing.

Consuming protein with each meal can help ensure a steady supply of amino acids for muscle maintenance and repair while keeping metabolism active throughout the day.

Protein’s Role in Balancing Blood Sugar

Many women in perimenopause and menopause develop insulin resistance, which can lead to elevated blood sugar levels and potentially increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

When insulin resistance is present, the body’s cells do not respond effectively to insulin, which is responsible for transporting glucose into the cells. As a result, glucose remains in the bloodstream, leading to high blood sugar levels.

Protein consumption moderates this response because it stimulates the release of glucagon. Glucagon is a hormone that works to regulate blood glucose levels by promoting the release of stored glucose from the liver when needed.

Protein could play a role in balancing blood sugar levels. Unlike carbohydrates, which can cause a rapid increase in blood sugar, protein provides a more sustained source of energy without the same spike in insulin.

By incorporating protein into every meal, you can help ensure a slower, more controlled release of glucose into the bloodstream. This steady energy source reduces the demand on the body to produce insulin. This can be especially beneficial for women who are already experiencing signs of insulin resistance.

Practical Tips for Incorporating Protein

Here are a few ways to ensure you are getting enough protein during perimenopause and menopause:

  • Start the day with protein. Beginning the day with a protein-rich breakfast can help keep you steady for the day.
  • Include protein at every meal. Aim to include a source of protein with each meal to help maintain muscle mass and keep blood sugar levels stable.
  • Choose high-quality protein sources. Opt for organic meats, fish, and eggs when possible for maximum absorption. If you have difficulty hitting your targets, high-quality protein supplements, like Equip Foods Prime Protein, can boost your overall protein count for the day. These sources provide essential amino acids and are generally easier to digest.
  • Stay hydrated. Adequate water intake is crucial when increasing protein intake to help the kidneys process the protein and to aid in digestion.
  • Combine protein with fiber. Consuming protein alongside fiber-rich foods can further aid in blood sugar regulation and support a healthy digestive system.

The importance of protein in the diet cannot be overstated. As your hormones change, your nutritional requirements do, too, and protein can help address some of the challenges that arise during these transitions.

Protein supports muscle maintenance, aids in metabolism, and helps regulate blood sugar levels, which is especially crucial for those dealing with insulin resistance.

By understanding the changes that occur during perimenopause and menopause and adapting dietary habits to meet these new demands, you can maintain your health and well-being through these significant phases of life.

With a balanced approach to nutrition and the inclusion of high-quality protein sources, the effects of metabolic changes can be mitigated, promoting a more vibrant and energetic lifestyle.

I use Prime Protein from Equip Foods to help meet my daily protein goals. I’m happy to pass along savings to my Bettys with this link so you, too, can prioritize protein. It’s just that important.

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After Jan. 1, 2024, use code DRSTEPHANIE to get 15% off your order.

Dr. Stephanie

Hey There!

I’m Dr. Stephanie

I’m part geek, part magic and it’s my mission to be a voice for women who just aren’t getting the answers they need about their health - whether that’s from their friends, their family or their primary health providers.

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