There are lots of misconceptions around protein and what makes up ‘enough’.
Gone are the days when meat was our primary source. With vegetarian, vegan and raw diets very much a part of our lifestyles, it’s important to know you are eating enough protein and from the right sources.
Once women hit 40, we start to lose muscle mass, so it becomes even more important to have a good quality protein with every meal. Getting enough protein in our meals also helps us feel full, as it takes longer to break down and digest.
The science of Protein
Protein is one of the building blocks of life. This macronutrient is essential for healthy muscles and bones, and is needed for the repair and growth of body tissue. Protein also contains the essential amino acids that our body needs.
The problem is some of us are not getting enough protein. Although severe protein deficiency is seen more in people with cancer, anorexia and severe malnutrition, some vegans or people that eat a raw diet may also suffer from this ailment.
Over time, a lack of protein can make you lose muscle mass, which results in reduced strength, finding it harder to keep your balance, and a slower metabolism. It can also lead to anaemia, which will make you feel tired with low energy and could lead to thinning hair.
All protein is not created equal and most plant-based proteins are not complete proteins. A food item is considered a complete protein when it contains the nine essential amino acids that our body cannot produce on its own. If the protein is missing at least one of these essential amino acids then it is not a complete protein.
Signs you may be protein deficient
You may be protein deficient if you suffer from any of these symptoms:
- You’re prone to stress fractures.
- Catching colds and getting sick frequently.
- Experience joint pain and muscle weakness.
- Losing weight from your muscles.
- Weak nails and brittle hair.
- Feel weak and tired.
- Your body has a slow recovery from injuries.
What you can do about it
We need to increase the amount of protein we eat as we get older. It’s estimated that the average adult’s daily allowance of protein is 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight. For a 150 pound woman, that is about 50 grams of protein a day. But after 40 we should raise that, especially if we are active and doing strength training. So more active women should be getting 1 to 1.2 grams of protein per kilogram,which is about 54 to 68 grams of protein.
Be careful not to eat too much protein as this can lead to problems. A common approach you may have heard is to eat a palm sized amount of protein at every meal.
A good place to start is to look at what you are eating. It’s quite common to have a high carb breakfast like toast and a topping or grabbing a pastry and a coffee on the way to work. You may eat a light salad or sandwich for lunch and eat your main amount of protein with your evening meal.
This is not the ideal way to eat protein. You want to spread your intake over a whole day. Having protein at breakfast sets you up for the day and stops you reaching for a snack mid-morning.
High protein foods
Eggs are a great source of protein
Eggs are so versatile and easy to make. You can have them at any meal. Go for free range and organic.
Grass fed organic meat
This type of meat be more expensive but there are lots of farms who deliver a meat box for the month. Buying direct from the farmer sometimes makes this a cheaper option as you cut out the middle man.
Milk, and natural yogurt are good sources of protein. Again go for grass fedand organic if you can.
Nuts and seeds
Nuts and seeds make a great protein snack if you are out all day. Be careful of protein bars, which may have lots of hidden sugars in them.
Fish and seafood
Beans and pulses
Both make great, cheap protein sources. They are also a useful plant source of iron and are rich in fibre. Always combine with rice to create a complete protein. Beans alone and rice alone both lack certain essential amino acids.
Quinoa (complete protein!)
Quinoa is a complete protein, containing all nine of the essential amino acids.
Combine with a whole grain, like brown rice, as this can give you the same quality of protein as meat.
Tofu, edamame and tempeh
All are great sources of protein. These foods originate from soybeans and are considered a whole source of protein.
An excellent source of plant-based protein. They contain all nine essential amino acids, and research suggests that hemp’s protein content is absorbed well by our bodies. You can sprinkle hemp seeds on salads and soups, and add to smoothies.
There are many protein powders on the market. Make sure you choose a good quality powder, or get advice from a nutritionist if you’re confused. You can add powders to shakes, smoothies or other foods.
If you think you may not be getting enough protein in your diet or have any questions, then get in touch. I work with women over 40 to take back their energy, vitality and to look and feel amazing.