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Why Should Women Eat More Protein?

Protein is a very important nutrient, since it performs various functions in the body. Should men and women consume the same amount of this nutrient?
Why Should Women Eat More Protein?

Almost everyone is aware of the need to reduce their sugar consumption. However, there are certain restrictions regarding other nutrients that may not be adequate. Protein intake is an example. This bears the question: should women eat more protein?

For a long time, people claimed that protein shouldn’t account for more than 8 percent of the caloric value of our diets. But the current scientific understanding of the matter refutes this theory.

Proteins are necessary to maintain muscle function and for the large number of physiological reactions that happen on a daily basis. Contrary to popular belief, a high protein intake shares no connection with an increased risk of kidney disease.

It’s important to mention that women are more prone to protein deficiencies. Therefore, it’s essential to have clear knowledge about the functions of protein, and about the minimum daily contribution of the foods that contain it.

Proteins as tissue builders

One of the main functions of protein is to intervene in the genesis of lean tissue. It also helps to avoid muscle catabolism over the years. A controlled study published in The Journal of Nutrition provides solid evidence on this claim.

In this study, researchers administered 40 grams (or 1.4 ounces) of casein-like protein to elderly individuals before they went to sleep. The results concluded that the intake of this nutrient reduced the loss of muscle mass and improved its function.

Women, especially in the postmenopausal age, have a greater tendency to experience muscle catabolism. For this reason, it’s crucial for them to ensure their protein intake in order to preserve this metabolically active tissue.

A variety of protein rich foods that women can eat to increase their intake of this nutrient

There’s a direct link between a reduction in lean muscle mass and an increased risk of obesity, as stated in an article published in 2015. To reduce the chances of developing this pathology, we need to carry out a series of strategies that guarantee the preservation of functional muscle mass. Controlling the protein intake in our diet is an important part of this.

Eight percent of total calories is not enough

Despite the recommendations that the WHO has established so far, it’s not enough to get only eight percent of our total energy from protein.

Elite athletes use protein ratios of up to 2 grams per kilogram of body weight. A study published by the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition has shown that this dosage has a positive effect on muscle recovery.

For sedentary individuals, protein intake shouldn’t be less than 1 gram per kilogram of body weight. This means that protein would represent around 15-20 percent of their energy contribution. On the other hand, reducing the intake of carbohydrates could have a positive health impact as well, especially when it comes to simple sugars.

Eat more protein of high biological value

Not all proteins are the same. Proteins of animal origin have an extraordinarily higher quality. Their characteristics include complete aminogram and high digestibility. For this reason, at least 50 percent of the proteins in our diets should come from animal sources.

The rest of the proteins can come from vegetables. However, it’s important to try different food combinations to avoid deficiencies of essential amino acids.

Products such as eggs, white meat, and fish should be a staple in anyone’s diet, including women. Until a few years ago, there was a limit on weekly egg consumption. But this restriction was lifted, as there’s no evidence that eggs have a negative effect on cardiovascular health. On the contrary, they’re a source of excellent quality protein.

An older woman trying to eat more vegetables and increase her protein intake

Women should eat more protein

In order to preserve lean muscle mass and reduce the risk of being overweight, women should increase their protein intake if they don’t consume enough of this nutrient already. The contribution of this nutrient is especially essential for women of postmenopausal age.

To follow the recommendations backed by science, which are far from those set by the WHO, they need to consume animal protein every day. Eggs and fish should be priority products when it comes to protein.

These ingredients can be a consistent part of their diet to ensure that they’re getting nutrients of the highest quality. Vegetable protein is also necessary, but always in combination with other foods to avoid deficiencies of essential amino acids.

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  • Kouw IW., Holwerda AM., Trommelen J., Kramer IF., et al., Protein ingestion before sleep increases overnight muscle protein synthesis rates in healthy older men: a randomized controlled trial. J Nutr, 2017. 147: 2252-2261.
  • Wannamethee SG., Atkins JL., Muscle loss and obesity: the health implications of sarcopenia and sacropenic obesity. Proc Nutr Soc, 2015. 74: 405-12.