One of the most common complaints as women age is the insidious increase of body weight despite eating the same amount as their younger years. The worst mistake that a woman entering her forties can make is to cut back on her protein intake.
Here is why:
- Satiety: Protein-rich foods tend to be more filling than foods high in carbohydrates or fats, which can help control appetite and reduce overall calorie intake. Consuming adequate protein can lead to a reduced desire for snacking and overeating.
- Thermic effect of food (TEF): The body uses energy to digest, absorb, and metabolize nutrients. Protein has a higher TEF than carbohydrates or fats, meaning your body burns more calories to process protein-rich foods. This increased calorie expenditure can contribute to weight loss.
- Muscle maintenance: While losing weight, it’s important to preserve muscle mass, as muscle is more metabolically active than fat. Consuming enough protein, especially when combined with resistance training, can help maintain muscle mass during weight loss, leading to a higher resting metabolic rate and more efficient calorie burning.
- Blood sugar regulation: Protein can help regulate blood sugar levels by slowing down the absorption of carbohydrates, which prevents rapid spikes and crashes in blood sugar. Stable blood sugar levels can reduce hunger and cravings, making it easier to stick to a healthy eating plan.
To leverage the benefits of protein for weight loss, women should aim to include protein-rich foods in every meal and snack. Some healthy protein sources include lean meats, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy products, beans, legumes, nuts, seeds, and protein-rich whole grains like quinoa.
Remember, weight loss is best achieved through a combination of a balanced diet and regular physical activity. It’s important to consult a healthcare professional or registered dietitian for personalized advice on weight loss and dietary needs.
And here are some additional hacks for optimizing your health and fitness.
- Protein distribution: Consuming protein evenly throughout the day, instead of eating the majority in one meal, can help promote optimal muscle protein synthesis and support overall health. Aim to include protein-rich foods at each meal and snack.
- Menstrual cycle influence: Hormonal fluctuations during the menstrual cycle can affect protein metabolism. Some studies suggest that women may have a slightly increased protein requirement during the luteal phase (second half) of the menstrual cycle.
- Plant-based diets: Women following plant-based diets, such as vegetarian or vegan diets, can obtain adequate protein from plant sources. By combining various plant proteins, like beans and rice or lentils and quinoa, they can consume all essential amino acids required for optimal health.
- Collagen for skin health: Collagen, a protein found in connective tissues, plays a key role in skin health and elasticity. Consuming collagen-rich foods, like bone broth or gelatin, or taking collagen supplements may have potential benefits for skin health and appearance.
- Resistance training synergy: Combining resistance training with adequate protein intake can enhance muscle protein synthesis and lead to greater gains in muscle mass and strength. This is particularly important for women as they age to combat age-related muscle loss (sarcopenia).
- Protein and hydration: Protein metabolism generates urea, a waste product that requires water for excretion. A high-protein diet can increase fluid needs, making it important for women to stay well-hydrated, especially when consuming more protein for weight loss or muscle building.
- Quality matters: The quality of protein sources can affect health outcomes. Focusing on lean protein sources and avoiding processed meats can help reduce the risk of health issues, such as heart disease and certain cancers. Remember, individual protein needs can vary based on factors like age, activity level, and overall health. Consult a healthcare professional or registered dietitian for personalized advice on protein intake and dietary needs.