Last month I got my annual labs back and my protein levels were really low. I’ve always been in a healthy range, so this is a great example of why it’s so important to know your numbers!! Last year I played with cutting back on animal protein, but didn’t do a good job of increasing my plant based protein.
Why Protein Is So Important
Protein is the building block of your muscles and supports your body in building healthy tissues and cells.
Proteins are involved in just about every body function - blood sugar balance, wound healing, hormone and immune support, the list goes on.
Proteins are considered long chains of amino acids and can be found in many different types of foods. Green leafy vegetables, some in beans and seeds, but the highest sources are from animals – like meat, dairy, eggs and fish (wild, grass fed - from their natural environment vs conventionally raised).
I recommend the average women try to get about half your body weight in grams protein daily to maintain and build muscle as we age.
Do You Have a Protein Deficiency?
Eating too little protein can contribute to:
A sluggish metabolism
Trouble losing weight
Trouble building muscle mass
Low energy levels and fatigue
Poor concentration and trouble learning
Moodiness and mood swings
Muscle, bone and joint pain
Blood sugar changes that can lead to diabetes
Slow wound healing
Signs that Your Body Isn’t Getting Enough Protein
:: High cholesterol
High cholesterol and triglycerides are not just caused by eating fatty foods, it is also a result of increased inflammation, hormonal imbalances and highly processed, high-sugar diets. Protein rich foods often get replaced by sugary snacks, refined carbs and packaged convenient goods. As a result, cholesterol can start to rise and the liver will process fats less efficiently.
:: Anxiety and moodiness
Amino acids are the building blocks for neurotransmitters which control your mood. Proteins help the brain synthesize hormones like dopamine and serotonin that help bring on positive feelings like calm and positivity.
:: Exercise declines
Most of us know that protein is needed to build new muscle, but it’s also important for sustaining energy and motivation. A low protein diet can result in muscle wasting (atrophy), fatigue and even fat gain. Sadly, workouts can increase or get more intense, but see less results if diet isn’t adequate to support tissue repair or sustains energy.
:: Sleep issues
This can be a quick sleep changer for many women. Insomnia can often be linked to unstable blood sugar levels, a rise in cortisol and a decrease in serotonin production. Even if you don’t have the ‘hangry’ type blood sugar swings during the day carry, blood sugar dysregulation can over through the night. Carbohydrates require more insulin than fat or protein, so eating foods with protein before bed can help with tryptophan and serotonin production. *Protein slows the absorption of sugar during a meal.
Although sometimes higher in calories than carbohydrates, high-protein foods help with satiety and settle cravings.
:: Irregular cycles
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is so common and many women don’t even know it’s an issue for them. Obesity and pre-diabetes / diabetes are major risk risk factors— in fact, insulin resistance affects 50–70 percent of all women with PCOS.
Low-protein, high-sugar, high-carb diets can contribute to insulin resistance, fatigue, inflammation and weight gain which makes PCOS a major source of irregular periods and fertility issues.
The Top Protein Foods
Knowing what to eat, how much, and when can be overwhelming for many. It seems today in order to stay healthy and keep your family healthy you need a degree in nutrition – and even with that there all seems to be conflicting evidence and studies. I want to help to simplify this sometimes confusing topic for you.
When it comes to protein there are a few basic guidelines to follow; first you must understand that you (and your loved ones) need to consume protein on a regular basis; secondly, you must eat the right kinds of protein for it to have the desired, positive impact on your health.
In general, eating a mix of plant-based and animal-based options is the best way to get enough protein.
I’m a huge advocate of listening to food moods - if a grass fed steak sounds good, maybe you’re craving the iron… animal products have more protein per calorie than most plants do, but eating too much meat, dairy, fish or eggs can cause high acid in the body, so find a mix that works for your body and energy needs.
Vegetarian proteins often double as a great way to get more fiber, antioxidants, electrolytes and other nutrients, so try including them in your meals often in place of meat.
beans and legumes
nuts and seeds such as almonds, flax, chia and hemp
unprocessed/ancient grains like oats, buckwheat, amaranth, farro or quinoa
sprouting helps make their amino acids more absorbable once eaten, so look for these or sprout your own
Greens - spinach, kale, broccoli, Brussel sprouts
Protein powders - pea protein, cricket protein and protein powder made from bone broth
Animal protein is best grass fed, organic chicken and turkey, and wild-caught salmon - remember, what they ate is what you’re eating! It can be loaded with hormones, antibiotics, steroids and other chemicals that will actually destroy your health.
I recommend keeping a food journal; write down what you’ve eaten the past three days, and then add up the grams of protein you’ve actually gotten in your system - any food log app can help if you’re unsure of how to calculate.
Lastly, make sure you know your numbers - if you haven’t had an annual check up to test vitamins, minerals and hormones - do it now. I have a great resource you can take with you to ask better questions, keep track and make better choices around supplementation and anti-aging prevention!
Schedule your free 30 minute strategy session, I’d love to connect with you!