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Do I eat enough protein? (spoiler alert: probably not)

Helping my clients find ways to eat more protein is one of the most common things I’ve done in the last few months, even though everyone has come to me for support with different challenges.


Hormonal imbalances, migraines, sleep issues, weight loss, high cholesterol, stress, anxiety – to name just a few – can be helped by including more protein-rich foods in the diet.


But why? I don’t want to build lots of muscle!


We need protein for SO many things in the body. It’s not just about helping our muscles stay strong. Here are just a few of the reasons why it is so important:


(1) It makes you happy

We need the amino acids in protein to make neurotransmitters - hormones that help our brain work well, help us cope with stress, moderate our mood and help us sleep well. If we don’t have the raw material to make these hormones it can negatively impact our mental health.


(2) It helps you maintain a healthy weight

Ensuring you have a good sized portion of protein with every meal is one of the easiest things you can do to avoid blood sugar peaks and troughs and help you feel more full and energised from your food (more on blood sugar balance in a future blog post). This has a huge impact on maintaining a healthy weight.


We also need protein to make our thyroid hormones – crucial for maintaining an effective metabolism. And of course, we do need it to build and keep muscle, which again promotes a strong metabolism.


(3) It helps keep your skin looking healthy

You can’t rebuild tissue without protein. It is also needed for collagen formation which plays a big role in skin elasticity and structure as we age.


(4) It helps get rid of toxins from everyday living

Your liver needs adequate protein to help us get rid of toxins and used hormones. Ever wondered why you crave eggs as a hangover cure? That’s your liver calling out for some more protein to help get rid of that wine.


So how much should I have?


A really simple rule of thumb is to try to get 1 gram of protein for every kg of your bodyweight. So someone weighing 70 kg (c. 11 stone) needs to be aiming for at least 70 grams of protein per day.


If you are trying to lose weight, are particularly active or going through periods of hormonal imbalance such as perimenopause, this requirement rises.


How on earth do I get that much protein into my diet?


I get it – it’s hard. Protein is like the unspoken, forgotten about macronutrient. Protein isn’t something that many people specifically consider unless they are particularly into sport. My housemates at University and I have horrible memories of the stench coming from my kitchen as my body-building boyfriend used to cook 6 egg whites in my microwave for his bedtime snack.


It’s particularly a challenge if you are vegetarian or vegan.


But it’s doable – you’ve just got to think about it and make a conscious effort to ask yourself ‘where is the protein source in this meal?’

The thing to remember is that the amount of protein in a food is not simply the weight of that food. For instance a standard chicken breast weighs around 150 grams but contains around 50 grams of protein. A 150g serving of chickpeas has around 11 grams of protein. There are also some vegetables that are richer in protein than others. For instance, 200 grams of peas has 11 grams of protein.


One simple way to increase your protein intake is to aim for 25g-30g per meal.

Protein-rich foods include eggs, cottage cheese, chicken, turkey, fish, nuts, seeds, tofu, tempeh, lentils, beans, chickpeas and quinoa.


I’m working on increasing my protein intake to support hormonal balance during perimenopause and I’ll share some ideas over the next few weeks that I’ve found useful.


In the meantime, if you’re interested to see if you are hitting your protein needs, how about tracking your food for a few days on something like Cronometer – the basic version is free and really easy to use on an app on your phone. I’d be really interested to see your daily totals if you’re happy to share – just drop me a line!


If you’d like to learn more about how I can help you

by tweaking your diet and lifestyle please do get in touch for a no-obligation chat, details on my contact page.


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