As oestrogen levels fall during the menopause years, a woman’s ability to maintain and make lean muscle mass deteriorates.
If muscle mass becomes too low, there is an increased risk of falls and fractures due to instability and general weakness. Combine this with reduced bone density and risk of osteoporosis and we have a really concerning problem.
Additionally, lean muscle is great for using glucose from our food after we have eaten, especially if the muscle is being used. This can help to regulate our blood glucose control and improve insulin sensitivity. So, if we have a low muscle mass, this may affect blood glucose control and increase the risk of Type 2 Diabetes.
The good news is that we can offset this risk by increasing protein intake and doing some strength training type exercise which will maintain and build muscle mass.
Women are often afraid to increase their food portion sizes, due to fear of weight gain, but it is vital for future health protection that we up the protein. Many find that once we add in good amounts of protein, we need less of the snacks and sugary treats to keep us going, as appetite is better regulated. There are some studies suggesting that if we are not meeting our protein requirements our appetite may be increased until we do. That may mean we eat the wrong foods because we are hungry and then over consume calories and hence gain weight.
There are plenty of choices for adding protein into your meals and breakfast can be a great place to start. Why not try having eggs for breakfast, cook them any which way you prefer and maybe enjoy with avocado, mushrooms or spinach. If you need something quick, Greek yogurt can be a fabulous option, served with some berries, nuts and seeds. These are great alternatives to a typical cereal and toast breakfast which tend to be low in nutritional quality and loaded with too much carbohydrate and minimal protein.
Any of your meat and fish options will provide a good source of protein and for vegan/vegetarians then your plant-based proteins such as tofu, tempah, edamame, beans, lentils will all count.
There are varying recommendations for the amount of protein we should be consuming per day, but these are often a minimum for basic survival and functioning and do not take into account what life stage we are in.
I think a good place to start is a palm sized portion of protein with each meal, adding more if you are regularly exercising. Additional protein might be included within your regular meals or by adding a protein-based snack in-between.Check out this scientific paper if you want to really delve into this.