The Power of Protein: Starting Your Day Right During Menopause

breakfast protein what to eat for breakfast May 24, 2024

The Power of Protein: Starting Your Day Right During Menopause

As a woman navigating the challenging transition of menopause, it's essential to prioritize nutrition, particularly when it comes to protein intake. I recently discussed this with a group of runners I coach, emphasizing the importance of starting the day with an adequate amount of protein. This conversation sparked a deeper reflection on my dietary habits and how they have evolved, especially during my menopausal transition when muscle and bone mass decline.


A Journey Through Breakfasts Past

Like many of you, I grew up in an era dominated by Weetabix, Shredded Wheat, and porridge. Weekends occasionally featured a boiled egg, and if we were lucky, a full cooked breakfast. However, as I entered my late 40s, comments about my 'fat legs' led me to embark on a drastic diet, reducing my intake to a mere 1,000 calories a day and starting my mornings with Special K. This sweet cereal, though seemingly innocent, left me ravenous within 15 minutes!! 

At that time I was still nursing and working long shifts on the wards meant meal breaks were brief, and my only balanced meal was dinner. Lunchtime and breakfast were often overlooked - and if I did eat them, I certainly didn't focus on protein - it just wasn't really talked about much then, the focus was all about low fat! It wasn't until my early 40s, amid marathon training and frequent injuries, that I recognized the need to reevaluate my eating habits.


A Personal Transformation

Determined to optimize my health, I enrolled in a nutrition course for fitness coaches. This education was a game-changer for me. By tweaking my diet and timing, I lost 1.5 stone without ever feeling hungry. I realized that helping others achieve similar results was possible with simple dietary adjustments.

For the past decade, I have been advising clients on sustainable dietary changes. One of my core recommendations is to include protein in every meal. Recent research, however, has introduced a new dimension to this advice: not just the total protein intake, but also the timing, is crucial.

Emerging research highlights that women in peri-menopause and beyond need to consume 30-50 grams of protein at breakfast or their first meal of the day to build muscle effectively. For vegetarians or vegans, the target is 45-50 grams due to the lower absorption rate of plant proteins.

Reflecting on my own breakfasts, I realized I was falling short. I examined my typical meals and made adjustments to increase my protein intake.

For example, rather than have a dollop of yoghurt, I now have one CUP ( the american measurement) with more nuts, and seeds. Rather than having a single boiled egg I'll always have two and if I don't have tow, I'll add salmon or chicken or edamame beans. 

I'll always opt for sourdough bread as it's slightly higher in protein and I now embrace the use of protein powders on busy mornings because I know if I don't make a smoothie, I won't hit my target. 

I'm yet to try whisking cottage cheese into my eggs which is something the insta influencers are touting as an idea! 

The Benefits of Protein for Women in Menopause

As a menopause coach who specialises in lifestyle techniques to alleviate menopause symptoms and improve long term health, I think it's vital that women understand how food can impact how they feel, both in a good, and bad way!

In my opinion, nothing is off limits, carbohydrates, fats are needed just as much as we need fibre and protein - we just need to get the balance right!

Here are some key benefits to getting the right amount of protein: 

Hormone Production: Protein aids in the production of hormones, which is crucial during the hormonal fluctuations of menopause.
Muscle Decline: As we age, muscle mass naturally decreases. Protein helps slow this decline and supports muscle growth and repair.
Bone Health: Protein is essential for maintaining strong bones, reducing the risk of osteoporosis.
Healthy Skin, Hair, and Nails: Protein contributes to the health of skin, hair, and nails, which can be affected by hormonal changes.
Energy Levels: Starting the day with protein can boost your energy and keep you full longer, preventing mid-morning energy crashes.
Satiety: A protein-rich breakfast helps you feel full and satisfied, reducing the temptation to snack on unhealthy foods.


Fasting and Menopause: What You Need to Know

Fasting is often touted as a beneficial practice for various health reasons, but it's not recommended for women in menopause.

During menopause, the body undergoes significant hormonal changes, and maintaining stable blood sugar levels becomes crucial. Skipping meals can lead to fluctuations in blood sugar, increasing stress on the body and potentially exacerbating menopausal symptoms like fatigue and mood swings. Instead, my advice is to fast overnight and eat your first meal the next day. If you can't face food very early, it's fine to wait until a bit later or have something very small early and then a more substantial meal mid-morning.



My Top 10 Tips to Incorporate High-Protein Breakfasts into Your Busy Routine

1.Plan Ahead: Preparation is key! I always recommend my clients to prep in advance so they aren't caught off guard. If you have to jump in the car or on a train early in the morning, make uo a pot with your yogurt, seeds, nuts etc, the night before so you can grab it as you leave the house. I like the Bonne Mamman jam jars for this! 

2. Keep It Simple: You don't need a gourmet meal to get your protein fix. Even a piece of fruit with a small handful of nuts can make a difference.

3. Delay the Coffee: Hold off on that coffee until after you've eaten. We don’t need to spike our cortisol levels more than necessary!

4. Smoothie Magic: Whip up a protein-packed smoothie with nuts, seeds, berries, and non-dairy milk or yogurt. Add a scoop of protein powder for an extra boost. Prepare the dry ingredients the night before, then just add the milk and blend in the morning.

5. Chia Seed Yogurt: Grab a small pot of plain coconut yogurt and stir in 1-2 tablespoons of chia seeds. For even more protein, add a spoonful of protein powder or some nuts.

6. Hard-Boiled Eggs: Cook six eggs with dinner one evening. They'll keep in the fridge for up to a week. You’ve got 6 mid morning snacks or 3 breakfasts ready to go! 

7. On-the-Go Options: If you're heading into the office, find a local spot that offers protein-rich options like Greek yogurt, fruit pots with nuts, or protein bars. Most cafe's have protein pots – no excuses!

8. Make Time: We all spend time in the morning checking our phones or scrolling social media. Reclaim 5-10 minutes of that time for a high-protein breakfast to start your day right.

9. Avocado Simplicity: Got an avocado? Halve it, sprinkle with black pepper, and eat straight from the skin. Pair it with a hard-boiled egg or some smoked salmon for added protein.

10. Savory Breakfasts: Breakfast doesn’t need to be sweet. Pre-cooked chicken or turkey works great, and you can add some fruit or crudités for extra fiber and nutrients. For a vegetarian option, try a protein-rich tofu scramble.

Incorporating these high-protein tips into your routine can ensure you start your day with the nutrients you need, even when life gets busy. Remember, a protein-rich breakfast sets the tone for the rest of your day!


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