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Crush Cravings and Boost Energy: Why Protein is a Woman's Best Friend

Compared to men, women are much less likely to eat enough protein throughout the day. This is a problem for numerous reasons, as too little protein can lead to an impaired immune system, fatigue, and negatively impact your overall health.


In this blog, we'll dive into why you probably need more protein than you think (especially if you're over age 50) and how you can make sure you get it.


More on why your body needs protein:


Protein is a macronutrient, one of three types of molecules we get from food and need to survive. We need to consume protein to maintain the structure of cells, bones, connective tissue, and even hair. Proteins are made up of building blocks known as amino acids. And while there are around 20 kinds of amino acids, leucine plays a critical role throughout the body.


Leucine plays a vital role in protein synthesis, the process by which the body builds and repairs muscle tissues. Leucine is classified as a branched-chain amino acid (BCAA) and has been shown to be a potent activator of muscle protein synthesis. It triggers the molecular pathways that initiate the synthesis of new muscle proteins, promoting muscle growth and repair. In short, you will not be able to build muscle without adequate leucine.


How much protein should you be eating?


Ideally, you should be eating around 35-40 grams of protein per meal to help maintain muscle mass, metabolism, and physical strength. While many Americans consume enough protein per day, they don’t get enough at breakfast. Your body responds best when you consume an even protein distribution throughout the day.


It’s best to consume protein throughout the day because the human body cannot use more than 35 grams of protein per meal. If you consume more protein in one sitting, this will either be stored as fat, excreted, or used for energy. So, consuming your protein at breakfast is even more vital, as you cannot make up that protein later.


Here are some protein-packed foods to include in your daily diet:

  • One cup of 2% cottage cheese → 30 grams

  • 3.5-ounce can of tuna → 30 grams

  • 4 ounces of chicken, beef, or pork → 30 grams

  • 3 ounces of turkey → 25 grams

  • 3 ounces of tuna or salmon → 22 grams

  • One cup of low-fat Greek yogurt → 20 grams

  • One ounce of soy nuts → 12 grams

If you’re following a plant-based diet, don’t worry, there are easy ways for you to get enough protein too! You supplement with foods like tempeh, edamame, seitan, nuts and seeds, legumes, and beans. A blender will also come in handy. Blend together 4 ounces of tofu with nut butter, hemp, chia seeds, and frozen cauliflower to get a vegan 30-gram protein hit.


Benefits of eating sufficient protein:


Eating enough protein is vital for reaching optimal health, especially for women. Some of the remarkable benefits include:


Maintains Lean Muscle Mass:


Women who strive for a toned physique not only benefit from regular exercise but also from ensuring they consume enough protein. Studies have shown that adequate protein intake contributes to increased muscle mass. Furthermore, protein plays a crucial role in preserving existing muscle mass and preventing age-related muscle loss. It also enhances the muscle's response to physical activity. For those aiming to lose weight, maintaining sufficient protein intake helps prevent the loss of lean muscle mass during the process.


Great For The Hair, Nails, And Skin:


Keratin, a structural protein responsible for the health of our hair, nails, and skin, can be naturally enhanced through protein consumption. Rather than relying solely on external products, incorporating protein-rich foods into our diet nourishes our hair, strengthens our nails, and promotes healthy, radiant skin. By working from the inside out, we can support the long-term health and vitality of these important features.


Stops Hunger:


If you desire an energetic and satiated feeling throughout the day, protein is your ally. Protein has been shown to effectively curb hunger, preventing frequent snacking on unhealthy foods. Unlike carbohydrates and fats, which often leave us craving more, protein keeps us feeling fuller for longer periods. Including protein-rich dairy products, such as Greek yogurt, in our meals can improve body composition, reduce hunger pangs, and promote a sense of satisfaction.


Gives You Strong Bones:


Maintaining adequate protein intake throughout life plays a crucial role in supporting strong and healthy bones. By providing essential nutrients like calcium, vitamin D, and dietary protein, we can prevent conditions like osteoporosis. Women, in particular, face a higher risk of bone density loss after menopause. Therefore, it becomes even more important for women to prioritize protein consumption to keep their bones in optimal condition.


Reduces Cravings:


Cravings can often sabotage our efforts to maintain a healthy diet. Fortunately, protein can help alleviate these cravings. When faced with the desire for a snack, opting for protein-rich options such as energy bites, cheese, chickpeas, pumpkin seeds, or protein fruit smoothies can provide both physical and mental satisfaction. By fueling our bodies with protein, we can prevent unwanted thoughts of indulgence from sneaking in.


Aids in Fat Burning:


Women seeking to burn fat and build muscle can benefit significantly from increased protein consumption. Protein has a higher thermic effect compared to carbohydrates and fats, meaning our bodies burn more calories during its digestion and absorption. This boost in metabolism can support fat-burning processes and contribute to overall body composition improvement. Understanding the connection between protein intake and increased metabolism, such as Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (NEAT), can provide valuable insights into maximizing the benefits of protein.


How to know if you’re not getting enough protein:


It's important to know the signs that show we might not be getting enough protein in our diet. If you're experiencing any of these signs, it could mean you need more protein:

  • Unusual fatigue or weakness: Protein plays a vital role in providing energy to the body. Insufficient protein intake can leave you feeling tired and lacking energy.

  • Moodiness: Protein is essential for the production of neurotransmitters, which regulate mood. Low protein levels can contribute to mood swings and irritability.

  • Brittle hair, damaged nails, and flaky skin: Protein is responsible for the growth and maintenance of hair, nails, and skin. Insufficient protein can lead to weakened hair, brittle nails, and dull skin.

  • Frequent hunger: Protein helps regulate appetite and keeps you feeling full. Inadequate protein intake can result in constant hunger and cravings.

  • Increased susceptibility to illness: Protein plays a crucial role in supporting the immune system. If you frequently get sick or experience prolonged recovery from illness, it may indicate low protein levels.

  • Slow wound healing: Protein is necessary for tissue repair. Insufficient protein intake can impair the healing process and delay wound recovery.

  • Edema and swelling: Protein helps maintain fluid balance in the body. Lack of protein can lead to fluid retention and swelling in the hands and feet.

The importance of protein as we age:


As women age, our bodies go through changes that can affect our muscle mass and overall health. After the age of 30, we start to lose muscle mass, which can lead to a condition called sarcopenia. Menopause can also accelerate this muscle loss. To combat these changes and keep our muscles strong, women need to make sure they're getting enough protein.


Research shows that older women, especially those over 50, need more protein to help their muscles stay healthy and prevent muscle loss. Protein becomes even more important during this stage of life to support bone health, hormonal balance, and overall vitality. By prioritizing protein-rich foods and meeting their increased protein needs, women can better protect their muscles, bones, and overall well-being as they age.


Protein is a superhero nutrient that women need to pay attention to. It helps our bodies build and repair muscle, keeps us energized, and supports overall health. By being aware of the signs of inadequate protein intake and understanding the benefits of eating enough protein, women can make informed choices to prioritize this important nutrient. As women age, the need for protein becomes even more crucial to support muscle mass, bone health, and hormonal balance.


To learn more about how much protein you need or to make an appointment, click here to contact us! If you have any more questions about your path to optimal health, email our office at thejohnsoncenter@gmail.com or call 276-235-3205.


The Johnson Center for Health services patients in-person in our Blacksburg and Virginia Beach / Norfolk locations. We also offer telemedicine for residents of Virginia and North Carolina!


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