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Protein for 'toning', during the menopause, after the gym? Ladies, it's a minefield!

Ladies, how much protein to we REALLY need?


Do we need to be smashing back the protein shakes immediately as we leave the gym? If we do, are we going to come out looking like Arnie?


First things first, let’s just clear one thing up – you will NOT build muscle to the extent that you look ‘bulky’ overnight, it would take a huge amount of food and a huge amount of hard work to do that. If only….


Often, when we talk about muscle building for women we are talking about the process of ‘toning’ – which is essentially building some muscle and losing a little body fat so that we can see that shape that you have created through your nutrition and your training.


Unfortunately, the research around muscle building in women is limited at best but today I would like to talk about it with reference to training and aesthetically building muscle, rather than health. We will certainly talk about the health benefits of protein intake, particularly during the menopause, another day.


Simply, a ‘positive protein balance’ i.e., synthesising more muscle protein than we break down leads to muscle gain, and the opposite results in muscle loss – something we certainly don’t want to see as we move beyond our 30s!


We must, however, consider, that no matter how much protein we eat, if we aren’t working those muscles as they should then we will not build muscle. Ladies, we should ALL be resistance training in some way, shape or form. Whether we are in our 30s, our 80, menopausal, living with PCOS or seemingly super fit and healthy – it’s for us all!


Once we have a sufficient training stimulus, our protein consumption for the following day or so is super important – NOT 30 minutes or you have missed the window as old research will have you believe!


The newer research tells us that around 5-10g of protein in the meal after we workout is enough to ‘kickstart’ that muscle building process, closer to 20g would be more optimal. That isn’t to say though that any more than that and it is ‘wasted’ as again, historical schools of thought will lead you to believe – what isn’t used in muscle building is used or stored as energy – no problemo!


It is important to note that these figures are super generalised though – what one person might find to be optimal at 55kg doing recreational exercise, will be very different to someone that is a 100kg powerlifter. If you would like some more specific figures to work with, just give me a shout and I can help you out with some numbers.


You may have noticed that I am talking to the ladies here so let’s address the menstrual cycle implications. Are there even any? Short answer, no, not really. We might choose to increase the protein content of our nutrition during our period to help with things like satisfaction with our food and feelings of fullness in a bid to limit cravings but in order to build muscle and when talking health, I wouldn’t choose to make too many overcomplicated changes here.


So, what’s the easy answer? Some practical guidelines to work with:


  • We should all be resistance training to retain as much muscle as possible as we move towards menopause.

  • We need to think about the amount of protein that we put into our bodies in a bid to build and maintain muscle mass as we age.

  • I would aim for around 1.5-2g of protein per kilo of bodyweight for most ladies each day.

  • We will NOT get ‘bulky’ if we train hard and eat well.

  • It is important to remember that we still need to consider the remainder of our nutrition around protein intake – what else is going in? Is that optimal too?

  • We do not all need to track our protein intake in order to see results that we would like.


If you would like some extra support to get that ‘toned’ look so many are after, if you would like to maintain as much muscle as possible as we age to keep us strong and healthy then I can help you to achieve that with a flexible approach that works for YOUR lifestyle. Just pop me a message and I’d be happy to chat!


Any questions on the article, fire away. I love to hear from you all.


Peace and love, A x

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