This week we will be discussing protein for menopause, why we need it, how much we need, and how to increase protein intake.
What is Protein and How Much Do We Need?
Protein is made up of one or more chains of amino acids, and these building blocks can be found in the body and taken in through our diets. Amino acids that are found in the body are known as non-essential amino acids, and ones that have to be obtained through our diet are known as essential amino acids.
Protein sources are can be animal-based or plant-based. Examples of animal proteins are egg, beef, turkey, and milk. Examples of plant proteins would be nuts, peas, soy, and lentils.
Did you know that less than 50% of older adults between 65- and 89-years old meet UK protein recommendations . The current recommendation for protein intake in the UK is 0.75g of protein per kilogram of body weight each day, this is around 45g of protein for the average woman .
Why is Protein Important for Menopause?
Proteins are broken down by the body into amino acids and used to build and repair our muscles. In addition, protein can also be used as an energy source, to make enzymes and hormones, and to create antibodies to help fight off infections.
Protein is increasingly important during menopause, due to ageing. Muscle mass decreases with age and is often accompanied with loss of muscle function [3,4]. This is due to a number of factors such as reduction in nerve cells that are involved in muscle movement, lower concentrations of hormones, and a decrease in the ability to turn protein into energy.  Therefore, the peri-menopause transition has been shown to a vulnerable period for the loss of muscle mass. A study in 2021 found that muscle mass loss occurred in 7, 3, 30, 27, and 32% in pre-, early and late peri-, and early and late post- menopausal women, respectively. 
This loss of muscle mass in ageing is known as sarcopenia. An increase in protein intake has been found to aid in reducing muscle wastage.
How much protein should I eat?
The current recommendation for protein intake in the UK is 0.75g of protein per kilogram of body weight each day. Some studies suggest increasing protein intake up to 1.6g/kg body weight/day [7,8], and including 20-25g of high-quality protein per meal .
Here are some examples of how to get 20g of protein from your diet:
|Food source||Portion size|
|Chicken, turkey||70g, 1 small breast|
|White fish||100g, 1 small fillet|
|Eggs||3 medium sized eggs|
|Chickpeas||138g, 1/2 can|
Top Tips for Protein for Menopause
- Try to include at least 25g protein in each meal.
- If you don’t eat meat, ensure you are eating a variety of protein sources.
- Try resistance training at least twice a week.
- Switch to whole grains which contain more protein than their refined alternatives.
- Incorporate high protein snacks into your diet, like nuts and cheese.
In summary, protein is essential at any age, however, these needs increase with age. By incorporating enough protein in your diet you will decrease the rate of muscle wastage and improve the chance of maintaining muscle mass and function with age. For more information about protein, click here.
Caroline Hill is a specialist menopause dietitian supporting women making dietary change. Caroline uses her extensive knowledge, skills and expertise of food and nutrition to help women manage their symptoms and weight during menopause. Caroline believes in providing sustainable, individualised, evidence-based advice to women making dietary change.