At menopause many women become conscious of carrying a few extra pounds, and how difficult they can be to shift. One of the dangers of many types of diet is that they promote swift weight loss, but it is all too easy to lose muscle as well as fat and that is definitely not what you want. To avoid this, a new study from the University of Illinois shows that eating protein throughout the day is the answer.
It will not only stop those hunger pangs so you will be losing weight, but it keeps body composition – that is the amount of fat relative to muscle – in better proportion.
High protein diets like Atkins have had great success but also some criticism. It now seems that for some menopausal women it could be the right approach. This is because a higher-protein weight-loss diet is more protective of muscle and we know that older women who diet risk losing muscle as well as fat.
The study wanted to look at the way body composition relates to physical function because muscle loss as part of dieting at menopause can affect strength, balance, and how well you perform everyday tasks, such as climbing stairs and getting up out of a chair. By increasing your protein intake when dieting the negative effects on muscle mass can be offset by maintaining more muscle relative to the amount of weight lost.
This was only a small six-month double-blind study of just 31 healthy, postmenopausal obese women but its results could prove applicable to a wider group of women. They were divided into two groups: each followed a 1,400-calorie standard weight-loss diet but one group received a powdered whey protein supplement in the morning and again in the afternoon or evening; the other received a placebo that contained carbohydrates. Both groups were encouraged to engage in light exercise of walking and stretching.
Women who ate more protein lost 3.9 percent more weight and had a relative gain of 5.8 percent more thigh muscle volume than the women who did not.
Before and after the study, the women were assessed for strength, balance, and the ability to perform such physical tasks as walking 50 feet, standing up five times from a chair, and lifting a book 12 inches above shoulder height. In both groups, strength decreased as weight decreased, but the study suggests that an increase in the amount of muscle relative to fat had beneficial effects on balance and performance.
The researchers concluded that it’s important to eat protein in the morning and through the day but many dieters often skip breakfast or cut protein in an attempt to cut calories. If you find it hard to incorporate more protein then try adding protein powder into a smoothie or eat a high-protein snack like cottage cheese, tuna, protein bars and even peanut butter. For breakfast you could try oatmeal with skimmed milk as one packet of instant oatmeal contains about 5 grams of protein.