Are you eating enough protein?
For women trying to lose weight or ensure healthy aging, eating adequate amounts of protein is critical. As we age, we lose muscle mass and for women, this beings around the age of 35. I would say that 35 is pretty young! Muscle loss is accelerated if we are not active and do not eat enough protein. As muscle mass decreases, fat tends to increase.
Protein is a macronutrient along with carbohydrates and fat. We need protein to maintain the structure of cells, hair, connective tissue and bones, for enzymes that digest our food, for antibodies that keep the immune system functioning and for maintaining our strength and energy.
Muscle is an organ and is critical in good health and longevity. If I imagine aging well, I am able to jump out of bed at 70 years old and do all of the things I want to do without fear of falling and breaking a bone. Ensuring I have good structure with respect to muscle mass and prioritizing protein is a focus for me to make sure I am able to jump out of bed at 70 and beyond. Women are susceptible to sarcopenia which is the wasting of muscle mass. Think of a old frail lady, hunched over slowing walking down the street. Someone like this may have sarcopenia.
Signs you are not eating enough protein
Some signs you are not eating enough protein include feeling tired or fatigued, having brittle hair and nails, being HANGRY all the time, and finding it difficult to lose weight. Sometimes, for my health coaching clients, increasing the amount of protein they eat makes a huge difference in their ability to lose that last 5 pounds. You know, that last 5 pounds that keeps hanging onnnnnnnn forever...
Why getting enough protein is essential
Protein builds lean muscle mass and no, eating more protein will not cause you to "bulk up" or get "bulky". Protein is essential for building lean muscle mass. Again, don't worry about getting bulky. Protein helps to improve metabolism (related to weight loss), support body composition and combat diseases associated with aging. At the end of life, if you have greater muscle mass, you have a greater chance of surviving an illness.
Protein is also essential for weight management (and weight loss).
Try having a high protein breakfast (or first meal of the day if you are fasting) as increasing protein here will help keep you full longer and stop that blood sugar roller coaster from running between meals. Have you ever experienced the blood sugar roller coaster? You eat a bagel at 8:00 am, then at 10 you are hungry again? That's a spike and drop in your blood sugar. Eating enough protein helps to keep your blood sugar balanced.
Protein is essential for a healthy immune system. The antibodies that are part of your immune system have the key components of protein.
How much protein should you eat?
There are varying thoughts on this. I can tell you that I eat at least 30 grams of protein with every meal. If you are looking to eat a healthy diet and consume adequate protein, I would encourage you to consider animal sources of protein as an optimal source. There are nine essential amino acids that we need to eat because our bodies cannot make them and all animal sources of protein provide these. Great sources of protein include chicken and turkey, fish and shellfish, beef, and eggs if you are not sensitive. For people with autoimmune disease, dairy may be an issue as it can be highly inflammatory, but otherwise, Greek yogurt can provide protein.
To hear more about this topic, I invite you to watch my Facebook Live where I dive into other elements of protein and why it's important including its tie to longevity and aging.
I would love to hear if you think you are getting enough protein! Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and let me know!