Episode #58: Protein & PCOS: The Benefits and How To Get Enough

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Protein & PCOS: The Benefits and How To Get Enough

What you’ll learn in this episode

This episode explores the numerous benefits of protein for improving PCOS. You’ll learn how incorporating protein into your diet can help you control your appetite, reduce cravings, and support better body composition, including stronger muscles and easier fat burning. Understanding these benefits will empower you to make informed choices about your nutrition and overall health.

Protein Sources

What are excellent sources of protein that you can easily include in your PCOS-friendly diet. 

And what is the recommended amount of protein you should consume daily. By understanding the right quantity for your body, you can ensure you’re meeting your nutritional requirements and supporting your PCOS management effectively.

How Much Protein to Consume in a Day

Additionally, we’ll explore the importance of when to eat protein during your day for maximal impact. And how this can positively impact your blood sugar control, which is especially crucial for PCOS hormone health. I’ll provide you with some practical ideas and examples to inspire your meal choices.

Whether you’re aiming to enhance your body composition, maintain a healthy weight, or improve hormonal balance for better fertility, incorporating protein can make a significant difference. Listen now to gain valuable knowledge on the benefits of protein for PCOS management and learn practical strategies to ensure you’re getting enough protein in your diet. 

Let’s Continue The Conversation

Do you have questions about this episode or other questions about PCOS? I would love to connect and chat on a more personal level over on Instagram. My DMs are my favorite place to chat more.

 

So go visit me on IG @nourishedtohealthy.com

 

Let’s Continue The Conversation

Do you have questions about this episode or other questions about PCOS? I would love to connect and chat on a more personal level over on Instagram. My DMs are my favorite place to chat more.

 

So go visit me on IG @nourishedtohealthy.com

 

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Read The Full Episode Transcript Here

There’s a big ton of conversation going on in my direct messages and with my private clients about the importance of protein for PCOS and how much protein is needed, how to incorporate it into our meals, and in what amount in order to get the benefits that we want from protein when it comes to our PCOS hormones. In this episode, we are going to go through all things about protein, good sources, benefits, and amounts that you may want to be looking at in order to really boost that metabolic health and help your PCOS symptoms out. Let’s get started.

You’re listening to the PCOS Repair podcast, where we explore the ins and outs of PCOS and how to repair the imbalances in your hormones naturally with a little medical help sprinkled in. Hi, I’m Ashlene Korcek and with many years of medical and personal experience with polycystic ovarian syndrome, it is my joy to watch women reverse their PCOS as they learn to nourish their body in a whole new way. With the power of our beliefs, our mindset, and our environment, and the understanding of our genetics, we can heal at the root cause.

Welcome back to the PCOS Repair podcast, where today we’re going to be covering all things protein. First of all, what are some of the benefits of protein when it comes to PCOS? If we think about a lot of the symptoms that we struggle with with PCOS, a big one is going to be cravings. Everyone I talk to really struggles with cravings. A lot of women who struggle with weight, whether or not they are currently trying to lose weight or being really diligent about trying to maintain their weight. I think it’s also really important to realize that if you’re having to spend a great deal of effort and energy and thought and fear in maintaining your current weight, even if you don’t technically have a weight problem, you have a weight problem. We shouldn’t have to spend so much of our waking hours and energy worrying about what we eat or how much we exercise in order to not gain weight and so if you are noticing some of those problems, you’re feeling calorie deprived, or you’ve actually lost your appetite because you’re so used to restricting calories that your body has forgotten on how to be hungry, if you feel like you have fatigue and energy swings throughout the day, these are all things that can be dramatically improved by getting adequate amount of protein from good sources in strategic times throughout the day in order to keep your energy up, to keep your cravings down, and to keep you full and satisfied while having that amazingly good energy that we want. Okay, so benefits of protein, touched on those is there. A big one is going to be cravings and appetite. These go together, so let’s talk about them together. When we eat something that has a large quantity of protein in it. So something like a cheese has some protein, but cheese is a lot of fat and protein and fat also breaks down slower in our digestive track. So that’s going to also help to elongate how long we stay satisfied and it’s also going to blunt the spike at which we release blood sugar. If we eat something that releases blood sugar really quickly, like a cracker or a granola bar or something that has a lot of sugar in it and a lot of refined carbohydrates, most processed foods, we’re going to get a spike in blood sugar, and then that spike is going to drop.

When we eat something that has protein in it, we have a lot lower spike and we have less of a drop. So if we pair, say, a couple crackers, so less crackers than maybe you normally would, with cheese and a cheese platter meat, you’re going to see a decrease in how much blood sugar spikes and consequently how much it dips afterward. What that does is it decreases that craving of I need another hit, I need another spike. It also keeps us full longer because all of that still had to be broken down and digested and slowly released into our bloodstream but the amount of insulin that was there to allow it to go into our cells didn’t have to go crazy high. Therefore, we don’t have this crazy drop because we just sucked it all into our cells really quickly and now we need more blood sugar because now we feel low. Those two things make it really important to incorporate at least a small amount of protein in proportion to what you’re eating at every meal. Now, I am guilty of this, especially in years past. I can’t tell you how many times I hear women say, All day I do really good, I stick to my salads, I stick to my healthy breakfast, I stick to my calorie allotment that I want to stay within. Then four o’clock rolls around and I start to lose motivation, I start to lose self-control. It’s not even that I feel super hungry, but I just start eating lots of food that I don’t want to be eating. Not only is it volume of food, but it’s type of food. This is something where we have set ourselves up to do this. One of the best ways to set ourselves up to not do this is start the day with more calories specifically from protein. If we get a lot of protein early on in the morning, not only do we not feel hungry, but our body has really good energy to go go off of and by the end of the day, we actually feel very satisfied, so we have a lot more self-control. Now, self-control just wanes throughout the day. We get tired, our energy is low, all of our motivation and thoughts about what it is that we want to be doing. They’re just less at the top of mind in the evening, we want to kick back, relax, comfort ourselves and so that is there. But if we are coming to that from a place of being hungry and depleted because we’ve been restricting calories all day and riding this roller coaster of spike, crash, spike, crash, spike, crash, then we are very physically worn out and depleted. The last thing we want to do is eat a small dinner and stop eating a couple of hours before bed. What we want to do is boost our energy with food. Another really important reason to consume protein, and then this gets into the amount of protein that we want to consume is it helps us to maintain our weight in the long term. You’ve probably heard before that as we approach menopause, it’s harder to maintain a healthy weight we tend to gain weight around the middle and so forth. More recent research has really torn apart the idea that this is because our metabolism slows down. Our metabolism is really not this third thing out there that’s allowing us to burn or not burn calories. We create our own metabolism through our muscle mass, through our activity, and through our metabolic health. If we have really good metabolic health, meaning that our insulin system is really humming along, we’re not being overly reactive to our carbohydrates because we haven’t worn out our insulin system by these constant spikes and drops. We have a good amount of lean body mass, so we have kept our muscles strong and healthy, and we’re getting regular activity. Our metabolism will slow down slightly only because at some point towards our 40s, our body breaks down muscle faster than we can build it, but not by much. So really, it comes down to when we were in our 20s and 30s, our body wasn’t breaking down our muscle, so we were getting away with it, so to speak but as we reach menopause, we start to decrease our muscle mass as we age and if we are not replenishing it through strength training and good protein intake, we are slowly losing ground and we feel that in our weight management but the same principles are true even earlier in life and so if we are getting adequate amounts of protein, and we’ll talk about the amounts for muscle maintenance as well, but if we are getting adequate amounts of protein throughout, we are maintaining healthy muscles.

We are allowing that protein to go in and repair muscles, to replenish our muscles because we’re a living thing. Our body is constantly replenishing all of our body cells and replenishing our skin cells, replenishing the cells in our organs, our digestive track, everywhere throughout our body, our hair, we’re constantly growing new hair and so if we’re not providing it with the nutrients and in the case of protein, all the amino acids that we need to create these structures for our body, as we replenish, we become more and more unhealthy because we didn’t have the right tools to create the new cells that our body needs as it continues to be a living human and turns over and replenishes all those different parts of our body. When it comes to the day-to-day, protein helps us with our craving control, it helps us with our appetite, it helps us feel like we have plenty of energy because we’re not spiking and crashing. It also, though, helps us long term because if we’re eating adequate amounts of protein, then we are maintaining healthy muscles. The amount that we need to do that, if you look at what your goal weight would be, and then if you times that by one gram per pound, that’s the ballpark of where you want to be aiming in grams of protein per day. So say my goal weight was 150 pounds, then my goal protein intake would be 150 grams of protein. Now that’s a lot of protein but in order for our muscles to get that protein, we need to eat it in larger quantities. Eating 5 grams of protein here, 10 grams of protein there, even 20 grams of protein here and there is not enough to tell it to go to our muscles. If we want it to go to our muscles, we need to eat a nice amount of protein in one setting. Minimum 30 aiming for about 35 grams of protein in order to break that threshold in one setting. So that doesn’t mean it has to all come from one source, it doesn’t have to all be chicken on a salad, it could be chicken, it could be some feta cheese, it could be a couple of things that you’re adding. There could be some protein in your salad dressing, you could have a protein like a smoothie with your salad, you could have protein from a couple of sources but in one setting, when you sit down in that half an hour to eat your meal, trying to get about 30 to 35 minimum grams of protein in that setting.

So if you’re trying to get over 100 grams of protein a day, which I think is a good place to start, just aim for over 100. You’re looking at that’s about 3 meals of 35 grams and so that breaks it down into feeling a lot more doable. However, that means that every single meal needs to have some high-quality protein. What are some good sources of high-quality protein? Well, this is where I find it really important to consider how you eat. I grew up vegetarian. I grew up at times playing around with being vegan. As a female, I actually really do like that way of feeling when I eat a lot of vegetables, a light salad and not necessarily with protein on my salad. I like the feeling of feeling not overly full, overly stuffed or having an overly heavy meal. Also, being vegetarian and vegan for a good portion of my childhood, made it difficult for me to transition to eating meat. Now, there’s a lot of mixed marketing right now on the meat market. I think there are some really good locally sourced meat options or even nationally sourced meat options. You can do your research on where you feel most comfortable getting your meat from. However, not including any eggs, meat, fish, makes it very, very, very difficult to reach these levels of protein intake that I’m recommending while not overdoing unprocessed foods. Anything that’s processed is going to increase your risk of inflammatory type food. Things that are going to be soy-based, like soy processed foods, you think about all of the better than burger or impossible burgers, how much is that really processed? What is in that? Kind of makes me a little nervous now. I don’t think it’s something bad to eat on occasion. However, when you’re trying to think of getting this much protein over and over and over, that may be a little bit rough. Also, one of the biggest benefits of protein is blood sugar management. When we’re doing a lot with plant-based proteins, we tend to be getting a lot of empty, non-nutritious carbohydrates that are just part of that protein mixture and there’s not a lot of ways around it and it’s just highly processed. There’s a lot of considerations in going into what we eat. Our budget, our beliefs, our way that we feel when we eat certain foods, our enjoyment of certain foods. But nutrition-wise, when it comes to PCOS, getting enough protein and finding good sources of clean, minimally processed protein is the hardest part. My recommendation is to get it from a combination of meat, eggs, and some minimally processed, as natural as possible companies that make protein powders. That way you can have a smoothie, you can make a really high protein smoothie that has some fruits and vegetables in it to make it a little more nutritious, but where you’re also getting a lot of protein and it’s sweeter. A lot of times when we look at all the meats and eggs, they’re going to be more savory. Something like a protein shake can allow us to have something that’s a little more sweet as well. My favorite protein powder is made by the company Naked Nutrition, and they have one called Naked Way. They also have a plant-based protein that’s based from, I believe it’s P protein. I think they have some that has some protein in it as well. Those ones are newer, so I’m blanking a little bit on exactly what they are. But this company keeps things very clean. There’s very few ingredients, they keep it as to the point as possible in their ingredient list. Now in their flavored ones, they do have some coconut sugar, which again is a better form of sugar than some, but it does increase the carb count just a little bit, and it is a sugar, so just be aware of that as you’re looking through the ingredients. But the ratios and everything I feel like are still really good and the lack of other fillers and additives, I think that the company does a really good job. I will link to that one in the show notes below so you can check them out. They’re a great way to just get your morning protein out of the way. Really easy in either a protein shake or in adding it to other things, even adding it to, if you like to do overnight oats. This is a great way to really boost that protein amount in your overnight oats or I’ve put this in my kids’ chia puddings, or if you have a flavored one, you can put it in Greek yogurt. There’s just different things that you can do to just increase the amount of protein that you’re getting in a setting.

Of course, things like lean Turkey, lean chicken, these are also great ways to get your protein. It’s okay to have some healthy fats from red meats as well. If you’re all worried about that, and you’ve been shying away from them, I encourage you to get a baseline lipid panel, have your doctor check your cholesterol and things like that, and then do a trial. We’re young, so our bodies will heal really well. If something doesn’t agree with us, do a trial of a or two of incorporating a little bit more red meat and then see how your body does. If your cholesterols are all looking really good still, that means your body is handling it really well. Our bodies should know how to handle cholesterols that we eat. In fact, our body needs cholesterol in order to make healthy hormones. So removing cholesterol can be very harmful to our bodies, but it’s just finding that right balance of all of this that works for us and has our body coming along the way we want it to be functioning as well as feeling the way we want to feel.

So okay, so important thing, starting with a high protein breakfast. So this is where, like I mentioned, you can put this in overnight oats. You can have something like a hard-boiled egg along with a protein shake. Eggs, although they’re a great source of protein, you have to eat a lot of eggs to get to that level that I was talking about. So whether or not you incorporate that with some sausage patties or include some meat in your egg omelet that you make for yourself, or you have eggs with a protein shake, or some cottage cheese or something that also has some protein. But ultimately, about one time a day, I’m using some protein powder just because the amount of meat that I would have to eat otherwise is just not really my cup of tea and then for lunch, I’ll usually have some chicken salad where I’m able to have a really great bowl full of vegetables of some kind. Sometimes I do almost more like a hot salad where it’s like steam vegetables and roasted vegetables, and then I add some meat alongside of it. That’s another option and then for dinner, depending on when I go about what my eating windows are and things like that with fasting. Sometimes I will do an episode on fasting coming up, but sometimes I will have a bigger late lunch and a mid between breakfast and lunch snack that has some protein in it. Otherwise, if I’m having a regular dinner, then I’m going to basically have it where I’m having some protein as the main thing with vegetables on the side, whether it’s some burger with a salad or whether it’s a grilled meat with some vegetables or like a deconstructed fish taco or so many different options of what you can do. Sometimes it’s like I’m making spaghetti and meatballs for the kids and I eat meatballs with the sauce and parmesan cheese with a bunch of zucchini. That’s one of my favorites. I don’t want to miss the pasta part of it but those are because you still have all that great flavors and it still tastes really Italian and delicious but I just didn’t need all of the empty carbohydrates from the pasta. Those are some things that are really helpful. But the big key thing is start early. If you wait until you start to have those energy slumps around 10 or 11 in the morning, it’s difficult to catch up for the day. So get some protein, even if it’s more of a snack protein and it’s not as much as you say, like that 35 grams that we’re aiming for in a setting, that’s still a great way to start your morning and get you off to a good start. For me, I like to put in about 20 grams of collagen powder in my coffee in the morning, and I have that with breakfast, so it’s not really having coffee on an empty stomach, but I’m adding in an extra 20 grams of protein through the collagen. Now, keep in mind, collagen isn’t true protein. It has most of the amino acids and it still has a really good benefit as far as protein goes. But you’re missing some of your key amino acids for muscle synthesis. While it is going to help with appetite control and it’s going to help with cravings, just keep in mind that it is missing a few components there that you’re going to want to make sure that you get throughout the day as well.

So there you have it, my friend. I hope that this has been helpful in understanding how protein fits into a PCOS healthy lifestyle, as well as how to actually go about with some practical tips, how to actually go about incorporating it into your healthy lifestyle.

If you have any questions about protein and PCOS, you know where to find me. I’m over on Instagram @Nourishedtohealthy. I love having conversations with you over there in my DM, so feel free to ask questions over there and until next time, get out there and start experimenting and exploring and finding out what proteins you enjoy as well as what it really looks like to eat that much protein. I’m going to give you a hint. It’s going to feel like and sound like it’s going to be just an enormous amount of protein. However, when you actually start doing it, you’re going to be like, oh, that was it? That wasn’t too bad. I know because I’ve been there, I’ve had to sit and calculate it out a while back and been very happily surprised that it did not feel as crazy heavy and as cumbersome to try to get that much protein in my diet in a daily basis as I thought it would. With that, I hope you enjoy and I will meet you here same place, same time next week. Bye for now.

Did you know that studies of PCOS epigenetics have shown that our environment can either worsen or completely reverse our PCOS symptoms? I believe that although PCOS makes us sensitive to our environment, it also makes us powerful. When we live learn what our body needs and commit to providing those needs. Not only do we gain back our health, but we grow in power just by showing up for ourselves. This is why I’ve created a guide for you to get started. My PCOS Fertility Meal Guide can be found in the show notes below. I want to show you how to create an environment that promotes healing while still being able to live a life that you enjoy. This guide is completely free, so go get your copy now so that you can step into the vision that you have for your life and for your health.

Take The PCOS Root Cause Quiz

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  Discover your current PCOS Root Cause

Start to reverse PCOS at the root cause. 

Results are not guaranteed. Please see Medical Disclaimer for more detail.

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About Show

Welcome to The PCOS Repair Podcast!

I’m Ashlene Korcek, and each week I’ll be sharing the latest findings on PCOS and how to make practical health changes to your lifestyle to repair your PCOS at the root cause.

If you’re struggling with PCOS, know that you’re not alone. In fact, it’s estimated that one in ten women have PCOS. But the good news is that there is a lot we can do to manage our symptoms and live healthy, happy lives.

So whether you’re looking for tips on nutrition, exercise, supplements, or mental health, you’ll find it all here on The PCOS Repair Podcast. Ready to get started? Hit subscribe now