It is well known in nutritional circles that protein is low in most women’s diets. This is mainly due to the diet industry in the first instance and secondly the image that protein builds muscles which traditionally women have felt was a ‘look’ they didn’t desire. Over the last 50 years, the increase of ‘low calorie diets’ meant that women, in particular, were pushing out good quality protein sources and adding calorie and nutrient low carbohydrates. It has become a worrying trend. This blog will explain why it is important, especially to women, to add in more protein and how you can add protein snacks to your day.
Why protein fell out of favour for the diet industry
Low-calorie diets became popular in the 1950s and 60s. These diets are based on the simple calculation that carbohydrates have fewer calories than proteins or fats. Therefore following a high carb diet would mean fewer calories and dieters would lose weight.
There are three issues with that argument.
- The first is why do dieters yoyo? Why do dieters have to return to a diet each year?
- Secondly, low-calorie carbohydrate diets do not nourish your body which means that the dieter is in a constant ‘hunger cycle’ with glucose and insulin driving that constant need to be satiated.
- Your body needs fat for brain function and cell metabolism and protein for every single cellular function in the body. Reducing fats and proteins and increasing carbohydrates may well work out to be a nice calorie sum, but your body immunity and repair functions are suffering as a consequence.
Why do women need protein?
As we age our body is unable to synthesis protein in the same way as we did when we are in our 20s. In addition to this men are able to synthesis protein more effectively than women. You will have noticed I am sure, that men can build muscles fairly quickly. Testosterone allows them to do this relatively easy, women can’t do it the same way.
Menopausal women, therefore, have to consume more protein in order for their muscles to stay strong and powerful and support their skeletal frame.
Protein will help you feel fuller for longer, sustain you throughout your day, and stop you from snacking on less nutritious food.
Therefore adding a good source of protein into your diet is essential. It is an essential part of every woman’s diet.
What are macros and why do they need to be balanced?
Nutritionists are increasingly talking about balancing your macros rather than counting calories.
Macronutrients can be broken down into 3 types:
Whereas micronutrients are the vitamins and minerals you receive from your food.
Proteins are broken down in your body to form amino acids. There are nine essential amino acids. These amino acids need to be consumed every day, hence the name ‘essential’. Protein foods include meat, seafood, eggs, fish, chia seeds and hempseed.
Organic meat contains all nine essential amino acids in one mouthful, as do eggs.
Vegetarians and vegans need to select foods that combine to create a complete protein in a slightly different way. I have written a blog and a video outlining how to add more vegetable protein to vegetarian diet. Vegans and vegetarians need to combine protein and carbs to make up the essential amino acids. The easy-to-remember combo is ‘grain and pulse’ to form a complete vegetarian protein.
Carbs are broken down by your body into glucose, and insulin is instantly released by your body whenever glucose is in circulation. Insulin and glucose are a team and work together. Insulin mops up glucose and feeds it to muscle or liver cells or panics and puts it into storage – fat storage (love handles).
What is macro balancing?
Traditional nutritionists will advocate a macro balance ratio of
- 60:20:20 ratio of carbs:fats:proteins
Whereas a more contemporary approach is the low carb diet with a macro balance of
- low carb diet is 10:60:30 ratio of carbs:fats:proteins
Getting the macro ratio to work for you depends on your body type, level of activity, age, sex. Whilst paleo diet will suit some women, others will feel more comfortable with less protein and slightly more carbs, the balance is delicate. Getting it right takes a bit of thought, investigation, and body awareness. Intuitive eating based on nutritional principles. I talk about it a lot more in my book Gorgeous!
What is the carb ‘hunger cycle?’
As outlined in the previous section carbohydrates are the lowest on the calorie spectrum, which is why dieters love them. However, carbohydrates trigger a response that also makes you hungry and puts dieters into a carb ‘hunger cycle’.
‘Beige’ carbohydrates like pasta, bread, potatoes, rice will be eagerly and rapidly absorbed by your body. Your body loves a simple sugar, there is very little work to do and the dopamine hormone is satiated very quickly. The glucose (sugar) produced by beige carbs instantly spikes your blood sugar levels, this spike, in turn, signals the release of insulin.
Insulin is often referred to as the hunger hormone because it is very sensitive to sugar in your diet. Insulin floods your digestive system and mops up all the sugar (glucose) in your system.
Insulin’s primary role is to quickly mop up glucose in your blood system. It is efficient and quick if it notices that your muscles are full and don’t need any more glucose then insulin stores the sugar as fat. If you are eating a lot of simple sugars – beige carbs then insulin is on patrol 24/7. When insulin is in constant use, the messages to the glands that produce insulin in your body get fed up listening and switch off.
The simple truth is that insulin can’t keep up with the demand. This means you have become insulin resistant
Glucose (sugar) and insulin have a symbiotic relationship – they work together and need each other. When sugar rises, insulin arrives and pushes the glucose into your cells and if they are full into your liver and fat stores. Insulin stores glucose as fat – pushing it quickly out of the way for later.
THINK: Pooh Bear and honey, hiding honey in a tree for a snack later. Remember Winnie the pooh lives in a forest! There are a lot of trees to store honey in. A strange analogy I know but very comforting.
But how do carbs make you hungry?
Because the cycle continues throughout your day – like this:
- Eat sugar in the form of beige carbs – high sugar spike
- Body produces insulin – mops up put into fat storage,
- You feel hungry again because glucose has gone into storage
- Eat more sugar
- Produce more insulin
- Sugar cycle of constant hunger and constant feeding, because you are not eating well.
Eat fewer carbs, reduce your insulin spike and eat more protein and fats. You won’t get the same high and lows throughout your day, you don’t trigger insulin and therefore you don’t get hungry.
If you are interested in reading more on this subject then head over to my blog ‘Watch your macros not your calories’
What is the quickest way to add more protein to your diet?
Adding in protein shakes to a diet is the quickest and easiest way to add in more protein – for vegetarians and vegans, this is the quickest and easiest way of doing this. I’m not an advocate of protein shakes, as a fitness instructor for over 20 years I have been involved with the supplement industry – if you are interested in finding out more about the problem with protein shakes
How much protein do women need?
The simple answer is 0.8-1 grams of protein per pound of body weight to maintain your weight if you are sedentary.
However, if your goal is to build muscle and increase your strength to keep your bones strong as you age then 1-1.2 grams of protein per pound of body weight.
Because as you age your body cannot synthesise or create protein in an efficient way that you can in your 20s or 30s.
Example of how much protein a woman should eat every day
Women are 0.75 to 1.0 grams per pound of weight (in kilograms) or 0.36 to 0.45 grams per pound of body weight.
For example, a woman aged 20 who works in an office:
- 10 stone = 140 pounds = 63 kilograms
- sedentary and not interested in building muscle
- THEREFORE 0.75 gram protein x 140 pounds = 105 grams of protein a day = 2.5 chicken breasts
She will need to consume 0.75 gram of protein per pound which is 140 grams equivalent of 2.5 chicken breasts – a day!
Alternatively, a woman aged 50 who wants to build muscle
- 10 stone = 140 pounds = 63kilograms
- Active and interested in building muscle
- 1.2 gram protein x 140 pounds = 168 grams of protein a day
- THEREFORE need 168 grams of protein which is equivalent of 4 chicken breasts or 10 tofu burgers a day!
Are you beginning to get an idea of how much protein you need to consume?
As you know by reading my blogs, I firmly don’t believe that this needs to be an EXACT science. I don’t want your macro balance and protein intake becoming a bigger headache or soul destroyer than calorie counting. Simply add protein to every snack and meal. Over time notice your change in body composition and strength change.
Then you will naturally become interested, curious, and less self-sabotaging and understand your body and your moods. Changing habits make a compound effect on your health, a transformative change that is long term.
Watch My Video Protein in women’s diets is too low
Here is an overview of the protein content in your food
If you are aiming for 100-170grams of protein a day, roughly 50-60grams per meal or broken down into snacks
Meat and fish – complete proteins
Turkey Portion: 140g Protein 47g
Chicken Portion: 1 breast Protein 39g
Steak Portion: 105g Protein 31g
Mackerel Fillet Portion: 150g Protein 31g
Cod Portion: 120g Protein: 25g
Tuna Portion: can 100g Protein 24g
Is the biggest source of riboflavin (vitamin B2), B12 and phosphorus
Fage 5% Greek Yoghurt Portion: 227g (1 cup) Protein: 20g
Cottage cheese Portion: 112g Protein 15g
Cheddar cheese Portion: 40g Protein: 10g
Eggs Portion: 1 medium egg Protein: 8g
Full-fat milk Portion: 240ml (1 cup) Protein: 7.7g
Whole milk is very high in saturated fats, about 70% of its fatty acid content. Polyunsaturated fats are present in a minimal amount of 2.3% and monounsaturated fats make up the rest — about 28%. Interestingly naturally occurring trans fats are naturally found in dairy products.
HOWEVER, in contrast to the trans fats found in processed foods, dairy trans fats are beneficial for health because of the addition of vaccenic acid and conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) which is also in Coconut Oil. Read more ‘Coconut Oil is pure poison’ headlines to terrify
Milk is very high in B12 and the calcium found in milk is also easily absorbed. Dairy products are a good source of phosphorus, a mineral that plays an essential role in many biological processes
Chickpeas Portion: 140g (3 tbsp) Protein: 12g
Red kidney beans Portion: 120g (3 tbsp) Protein: 10g
Baked beans Portion: 250g (small tin) Protein: 10g
Red lentils Portion: 120g (3 tbsp) Protein: 9g
Soya & Quorn products
Soya mince Portion: 30g dry weight (1 cup) Protein: 13g
Quorn mince Portion: 100g (4 tbsp) Protein: 12g
Tofu Portion: 100g (half a pack) Protein: 8g
Soya milk Portion: 200ml (1 glass) Protein: 6g
SOY products like Tofu contain isoflavones which can act as antioxidants but also act as weaker plant-based oestrogens – since menopausal women have fluctuating hormones soy isn’t recommended for menopausal women.
Women need to add more protein
Balancing your macros and becoming aware of what you are consuming can take time to understand and put into practice, once you have the balance right for you introducing intermittent fasting will create dramatic effects on your weight loss and more importantly your health.
If you would like to understand your body more, get to grips with the nutritional balance that will work for you read more about The Gentle Reset – 6 weeks reset your mind and detox your body
Interested in A Gentle Reset to your diet?
If you’re not feeling great, full of vitality and hitting your weight goals then you’ve probably had a few glaring gaps……so with that in mind, I’d like to invite you to work with me inside my membership community on The Gentle Reset.
Each time this programme opens it is only open to 10 new enrolments and I’d love you to be a part of it
Working with me inside the membership, I’ll help you identify the bad habits that are accruing, then give you the resources you need to add in some great habits using coaching, video tutorials, cheat sheets, exercise videos, group coaching, and the all-important buddy-up, supportive motivation. And you get the opportunity to pick my brain and get personal feedback on your nutrition every single week in our group coaching session.
My Group Coaching programme is based on a 6 weeks course that will focus on your health and wellbeing. Inside the 6 weeks: The Gentle Reset you will be able to reset your mind and detox your body and be provided with the support you need to get a healthy lifestyle in place.
A big part of that means that you will have nourishing eating habits that will give you more energy and more motivation as well as the appropriate levels of exercise.
Who is The Gentle Reset for?
If you are over 40 and wondering what the next 50 years are going to look like for you, then my Group Coaching programme is a great way to reset your health. If you are looking for nutrition, exercise and emotional wellbeing that is tailored to you, your life and your commitments, and looking to create a new lifestyle that supports and nurtures you rather than drains you. Then the 6 weeks The Gentle Reset is perfect for you – Join here: The 6 weeks Gentle Reset
What sort of results can you expect?
let’s take Catherine as an example, she retrained as a primary school teacher with 3 boys and a large extended family meant that Catherine and little time to focus on herself, let alone her health. Her trigger came when her workload and home balance became too much. Her health was suffering. Find out more about Catherine’s story and others click here: success stories click here
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