Why Women Must Prioritize Protein

Low protein intake is a common barrier for many of the women I work with.

They are often astounded by the amount I suggest they eat—but not as astounded as I am by how low their protein intake is. Protein is essential for health and performance, and many people just don’t eat enough of it.

And here’s the thing: Many people who don’t eat enough protein struggle with similar issues, such as declining muscle mass, increased body fat, low energy, increased dissatisfaction with their body composition and more.

I am not suggesting that increasing protein will “fix all your problems,” but it’s definitely going to have a positive effect on some of them.

Here are just a few things to consider:

  • Protein helps you build and maintain muscle. Lower muscle mass is associated with metabolic syndrome and cardiovascular disease.
  • Protein can help women deal with hormonal fluctuations that cause them to break down muscle instead of build it. In perimenopause and postmenopause, estrogen levels decline, which affects your ability to build muscle. Protein to the rescue!
  • Hard-training women need more protein as they age to obtain ideal training adaptations. If you work hard, you should get the reward!
  • If you are working on fat loss in a caloric deficit, you’ll need more protein to preserve muscle mass. You want to lose fat, not muscle!

How Much Protein Should I Eat?

Remember, there is a range of recommended protein intake. It’s not “150 grams for everyone.” Your protein requirement is unique to you.

Here’s a starting point: 1.7 to 2.4 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight (look to the higher end of the range in perimenopause and postmenopause).

For me, at 170 lb. or 77 kg, I target 2.4 grams per kilogram, for 185 grams of protein per day.

If your ballpark calculation doesn’t make sense to you, just start with a very small protein increase. (I help my clients figure out exactly how much is right for them based on their goals, training habits and preferences.)

Some easy ways to up your protein intake:

  • Increase the portion sizes of the lean protein you’re already eating.
  • Add items like Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, egg whites, and nuts and seeds.
  • Consider adding a protein supplement.

Changes to your diet always require a little effort at the start. But the results make the effort absolutely worth it!

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