by Linda Smyth December 14, 2021 4 min read
I used to associate protein with body builders. My husband when he’s training hard. And bad farts, like my old flatmate who looooved the gym and drank A LOT of protein shakes.
To me Protein = Muscle Building Man.
And the daily monitoring of it’s intake? Pfffffft, SO not for me. 100% a Muscle Man Bouff Head activity.
I’ve been vegan since I stopped breastfeeding my son, so about 3 years. I really love not consuming animals. I love that I’m not killing anything for my own benefit. I love the ‘purity’ of eating plants. It feels more of the earth. I feel kinder. Cleaner. Lighter.
But the past few months I’ve been feeling really low energy. Becoming more and more tired. Zero in the tank. Lots of us are feeling like this at the moment. 2020 and 2021 have not exactly been a walk in the park. But my whole body just felt empty. I was underweight. I felt like something was not quite right. I started thinking bad thoughts about having some kind of bad disease. I felt physically sick at the thought of not being around, healthy for my son. Even seeing that in black and white now makes me feel …. I can’t even bear to think about it.
So I saw my GP, got a few tests done, ticked anaemic and awful disease off the list, but still felt like shit. Absolutely totally lacking in energy.
And then I read a very simple, life changing post on instagram. My healthy living and hormone hero Lara Briden wrote a post about the importance of protein for Menopausal women. She stated that we need at least 20 grams per meal, and around 70 grams per day.
Body Builder styles, I monitored my protein intake over the next few days. WOEFULLY LOW.
I was consuming around 20 grams a DAY, instead of 20 grams a MEAL. No wonder I felt like shit. I had been high fiving myself for my excellent intake of vegetables and fruit, when in reality, I was doing a pretty average job of managing my nutrition.
I researched the best vegan proteins and just couldn’t find a way to consume 70 grams of plant protein a day without over eating and/or regularly supplementing with protein powder. For example, to get the right amount of protein in a meal (for me, a bit over 20 grams) I basically need to eat a whole can of chickpeas. Which I love, but ooph, that’s a lot of chickpeas, especially when factoring in the vegetables required for a balanced diet.
It was time to make some changes. Add small amounts of animal protein into my plant based diet.
I made scrambled eggs for lunch.
I cooked salmon for dinner.
I bought unhulled tahini to put on…. everything.
I monitored my protein like a 90’s gym junkie with terrible farts.
I grappled with not being kind to animals.
But physically, and actually mentally too, I felt a thousand times better and stronger.
Because, and how did I miss this?!, protein is vitally important for women, especially peri and post menopausal women.
Here is what I learnt:
Not to overstate it but proteins are basically the building blocks of life. Jeeeeez, not a great thing to be short on.
In short - Proteins are made up of Amino Acids. As well as being a source of energy, these little gems are used to build and repair every cell in our bodies. Of particular note are our muscles and bones as we naturally lose muscle mass and bone density through Menopause. We need to take special care to maintain it via nutrition (hey ho protein!) and exercise.
Amino acids are also vital for the production of hormones and enzymes, critical for the digestive system, immune system and brain. Again, not a great thing to be short on.
To find your optimum daily protein amount multiply 1.2 x your body weight. I'm 54kg so I need to aim for around 65 grams of protein per day *
Try to balance that out across your 3 main meals per day. Doesn’t have to be a perfect split, but don’t jam it all into one or two meals.
And here are just a few protein rich ideas (without resorting to bouff head muscle man behaviour, and/or red meat if you’re plant based and can’t deal with that yet). I also strongly urge you to follow @larabriden for fantastic guidance on this front ** I also love following Shelley @rythmicpilates for her regular drop of nutritionally balanced recipe inspo.
100 gram fillet of oven baked salmon = 20 grams of protein + loads of greens/salad.
2 scrambled eggs = 13 grams + ½ avocado = 2 grams + 2 Tbs of unhulled tahini = 10 grams.
This awesome vegan Chilli recipe from Healthy Little Foodies for the whole fam, which nets 22 grams per serve from a blend of lentils, chickpeas and kidney beans + an avocado garnish.
Poke bowls with a base of 90 grams sashimi tuna (or tinned, or salmon) = 20 grams + ½ C brown rice = 2.6 grams + ½ avocado = 2 grams + 1 Tbs sprinkle sesame seeds = 1.5 grams + loads of greens/nori/tomato…
80 grams balsamic poached chicken = 24 grams + ¼ avocado = 1 gram + greens + tomato + mango
Use pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, nuts as a garnish or little meal protein top-up
Bon appetit hotties! Comment below with your fave protein rich recipes and/or links to great recipe ideas too. xo, Linda.
* via Lara Briden @larabriden
** protein detailed is an approximate guide
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