It’s Not Just About How Much Protein | Menopause Fitness

Episode #492 It’s not just about how much protein. It’s about what kind, when, and what phase of life or training you’re in that could increase your protein need. In this episode, amount of protein and when you need it as a woman in menopause. 

It’s still not clear for many so I’m going to attempt to clarify this for you again. We also struggle internally!

  1. Cover the wide controversy and reason you still question protein needs
  2. Dissolve the biggest challenge you may be have in your mind

How much protein do you need?

  • RDAs say .8g/kg body weight or .3 per pound
  •          Significant body of research disagreeing and contesting that this recommendation is far too low for good health, particularly in aging population
  • Protein research says 1.4 to 1.5g/kg body weight (about 120-130 a day)
  • Per meal requirements at least 30 gm per meal – a per meal dose

Who needs more protein?

  • Weight loss attempt/dieters

         “Whenever you’re talking about weight loss, you should always base protein needs on body weight, not percentage of calories,” says Donald Layman, PhD, professor emeritus of nutrition at the University of Illinois. “Percentage of calories is very misleading. Drop your calories and protein can easily dip below minimum levels. Keep the amount of protein the same and it can be considered high protein on one diet and low protein on another, yet it’s still the same amount of protein.”

         Breakdown that occurs with dieting or sensing starvation occurs 50/50, that is about 50% muscle and 50% fat to survive. Dieting on a high-carb diet like the food guide pyramid you’d breakdown 35% lean tissue and 65% fat. If you go on a high protein diet your muscle tissue breakdown drops to 20% while fat breakdown increases to 80%. Add the right dose of exercise and recovery and you get less than 10% muscle breakdown.

So suggestions for boosting your fat breakdown and reducing muscle breakdown during weight loss effort:

  • Watch your percent body fat and the amount of lean muscle mass. Don’t drive yourself crazy. Weigh and record once a week.
  • Then look closely at your muscle, fat, and habits if you’re not reaching your goals:
  • Are you getting the required amount of protein daily?
  • Do you need more protein at meals?
  • Support from protein powder, or an amino acid supplement?
  • Do you reach muscle fatigue during every set of exercise twice a week?
  • Do you have enough exercise volume – 3 sets of exercises for major muscle groups?
  • Are you allowing enough recovery between resistance training exercise?

In most weight loss groups where there is exercise – where walking, walking and Pilates, or strength training, only subjects with resistance training held on to lean muscle mass and experienced least amount of losses. It takes both high protein and resistance training. Especially as you age.

** High carb is basically RDA standards, High protein is only perception and based on if you reduce calories but keep the amount of protein you eat similar.

  • Older adults (over 65 significantly at risk for sarcopenia)
  • Injured or ill
  • Inactive adults (need high protein nutrient dense even more than active)
  • Under stress (losing weight is a stress)
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Osteoporosis
  • Obese

Why do older adults need more?

  • Reduced muscle protein synthesis
  • Potential reduced activity (resistance training stimulates muscle protein synthesis)
  • More easily in a catabolic state (women in menopause with less estrogen and more susceptible to negative effects of stress)
  • Osteoporosis
  • Sarcopenia (#1 reason for frailty is this significant loss of muscle and strength that occurs with aging unless mitigated)

When do you want your protein?

When you’ve established protein need, the question is when?

  • Evenly distributed throughout the day (not all at once)
    • Positive protein balance only lasts for about 4 hours after eating.
  • Bookending strength training workouts
  • Higher for 24 hours after strenuous exercise
    • Studies show ingesting protein before workouts increases energy expenditure after workouts (so as well as boosting strength and lean muscle it supports fat loss)

How much can your body absorb at one time?

  • About 15 grams of essential amino acids or 30 grams of protein per meal minimum (to stimulate muscle building)
  • Can’t handle more than 50g

What makes a protein high quality?

  • Higher essential amino acid profile (you have to eat less of it to attain the same results – meaning a if you eat low quality sources like those from plant foods – you have to consume overall more calories, more carbohydrates, or more fat)
  • Ease of protein digestibility
  • More creatine (for muscle, mental benefits) – very low in plant 3-9 for seniors – higher levels 9 grams per day
  • Greater anabolic response
  • Supports positive nitrate balance (note below)

The value of RDA for older adults is debated since its establishment was based on nitrogen balance studies. It doesn’t offer specific recommendations for older adults, who seem to need higher intakes of protein to maintain metabolic homeostasis. The nitrogen balance method is based on the fact that proteins are fundamentally composed of nitrogen, which, after being metabolized through transamination and deamination reactions, is mainly excreted in the urine and, in smaller quantities, in the feces and skin. According to this paradigm, when nitrogen intake exceeds its losses, a positive balance is achieved, which favors Muscle Protein Synthesis. On the other hand, a greater excretion of nitrogen defines a condition of negative nitrogen balance, which puts you in a catabolic state. Suspected the current RDA is insufficient to prevent muscle atrophy in older adults because it’s insufficient to put you in a positive nitrate balance.

What are the highest quality food proteins?

  • Organ meats
  • Wild meat (bison, elk, venison, etc)
  • Pork
  • Eggs

Why do certain proteins in midlife cause women digestive?

  • Change in hormones causes change in gut biome
  • Reduced stomach acid and enzymes
  • Leaky gut – permeability
  • Dairy (including whey)
  • Eggs
  • Soy

Why not whey?

  • Insulin sensitivity if you’re using it for meal replacement
  • Skin issues and food sensitivities (seen with gas, bloating, increased inflammation)
  • Poorly produced
  • Other ingredients
  • Isn’t filling (because its rapidly absorbed)

Why not just collagen?

When you’re looking at your collagen and counting that in your daily total, it isn’t included in your protein for lean muscle and body composition improvements.

It isn’t a complete protein. Collagen does not have a great enough amino acid protein. It’s wonderful for hair, skin, and nails. If given the right collagen strain (there are 5) it can benefit gut health. The essential amino acids (9) and then there are 3 that are BCAAs and one that seems to have the greatest impact which is leucine. You want about 2.5 grams of leucine per meal. Taking BCAAs alone doesn’t help. You need all the essential amino acids.

What’s the problem with plant-based sources?

  • The number of carbs and calories consumed to reach protein quota (problem creating a calorie deficit)
  • Carb sensitivity is common for midlife women
  • Satiety can’t be attained (fullness before reaching protein levels but not satiety)

What is “Protein Theory”?

You’ll receive a signal to eat more protein, or eat more, until your body has reached adequate protein levels  

What if you can’t possibly eat that much protein?

Food, protein shakes, and if still not then, boost your protein synthesis with amino acid supplements for high protein boost, the satiety, sleep aid, without the calories. But you also don’t achieve the same dietary micronutrient boost from high-quality protein sources.

Example of Combining dietary sources with amino acid supplements

You eat a protein – half is essential amino acid (that’s if it’s high quality – but may not be true for lower quality proteins)

Amino acid supplements – not “technically” protein (you miss the micronutrients -and the calories)

For instance eating 90 grams of dietary protein then adding AAs 20  =  110 grams of protein

But the supplements… it’s 100% amino acids 20 grams of protein

So you are getting a richer essential amino acid content.

However, yes, eat whole foods that support all your micronutrient needs!

The equivalent of what would be true for 40 grams of protein.

How can you get more protein without tons more calories/plant-based diet?

Amino acid supplements (see below if you’re ready to try)

What if I can’t digest protein very well?

(many older adults can’t due to reduced stomach acid & enzymes)

Digestive enzymes (Betaine HCL)

How much at breakfast(and what)?

Yes, it’s ideal to break your fast before you workout at high intensity

Not nothing, not coffee, and not high carbs: not even oatmeal

The question of Kidney function

Only for those with existing renal disease (eg. Those with diabetes at increased risk) a high protein diet may not be appropriate.

Resources mentioned in this episode:

Flipping50 Protein

Debra’s choice for Amino Acid supplements  

Smoothie Recipes

The Ultimate Smoothie Guide for Women in Menopause   


Courtney-Martin G.  False equivalence or fake news: is a peanut really an egg? The Journal of Nutrition, Volume 151, Issue 5, May 2021, Pages 1055–1056,

Coelho-Junior HJ, Marzetti E, Picca A, Cesari M, Uchida MC, Calvani R. Protein Intake and Frailty: A Matter of Quantity, Quality, and Timing. Nutrients. 2020;12(10):2915. Published 2020 Sep 23. doi:10.3390/nu12102915

Layman DK. Dietary Guidelines should reflect new understandings about adult protein needs. Nutr Metab (Lond). 2009;6:12.

Layman DK, Evans EM, Erickson D, Seyler J, Weber J, Bagshaw D, Griel A, Psota T, Kris-Etherton P. A moderate-protein diet produces sustained weight loss and long-term changes in body composition and blood lipids in obese adults. J Nutr. 2009 Mar;139(3):514-21. doi: 10.3945/jn.108.099440. Epub 2009 Jan 21. PMID: 19158228.

Paddon-Jones D, Westman E, Mattes RD, et al. Protein, weight management, and satiety. Am J Clin Nutr. 2008; 87(5):1558S-1561S.

Paddon-Jones D, Short KR, Campbell WW, Volpi E, Wolfe RR. Role of dietary protein in the sarcopenia of aging. Am J Clin Nutr. 2008:87(5):1562S-1566S

Park S, Church DD, Schutzler WE, Azhar G, Il-Young K, Ferrando AA, Wolfe RR. Metabolic Evaluation of the Dietary Guidelines’ Ounce Equivalents of Protein Food Sources in Young Adults: A Randomized Controlled Trial. The Journal of Nutrition, Volume 151, Issue 5, May 2021, Pages 1190–1196,

Other Episodes You may like:

Guest interview with Dr Gabrielle Lyons   

Guest interview with Douglas Paddon-Jones, PhD  

Guest interview with Stuart Philips, PhD  

How I use Amino Acids to reach Daily Protein goals   

5 Day Flip!

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