Both men and women should be mindful of their protein intake as they get older.
As women enter the menopausal years, they start to lose muscle, strength and bone mass at a greater rate. Even though we all begin to lose muscle after the age of 20, this process accelerates after menopause and the decline is steeper in women than in men. Exercise helps to reduce the loss of strength and muscle mass, but diet also plays an important role in holding onto lean body mass as well. A number of women notice an increase in body fat during and after menopause, especially around the waist and tummy as visceral fat, the unhealthiest kind, increases and they start to see a “muffin top.”
In an attempt to curb the increase in body fat, many women go on a weight loss diet. That can lead to an unhealthy consequence – further loss of muscle mass. A recent study looked at this issue. This study emphasizes the importance of consuming protein throughout the day when you’re trying to lose weight.
Dietary Protein Helps to Preserve Lean Body Mass:
Researchers at the University of Illinois divided 31 obese, post-menopausal women into two groups. Both groups ate a 1400 calorie diet daily for 6 months. The only difference was one group consumed protein three times a day – morning, afternoon and evening while the other group consumed a carbohydrate. Both groups were encouraged to do light exercise like walking and stretching.
At the beginning and end of the 6 month study, researchers used imaging studies to measure thigh muscle mass and body fat levels in these women and used a variety of tests to measure strength, physical function and balance. The results? The women who consumed protein throughout the day lost 3.8% more subcutaneous fat and had a relative gain of 5.8% more thigh muscle compared to women who didn’t consume protein throughout the day. The women did experience some loss of strength as they lost weight but eating a higher protein diet helped to preserve their performance on tasks that require strength and balance. Vegetarians need to take extra care to ensure they have adequate protein in their diet.
A handy PROTEIN CALCULATOR can be found here: