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Maintaining Muscle Mass in Menopause

By Amanda Rosenberg, MS RDN, LD

woman in a boxing pose with pink gloves on

Pre-menopause, or the menopause transition, is when a woman’s ovaries start to make less estrogen and progesterone. When women enter pre-menopause, which can start as early as the 30’s, they begin to lose muscle. This muscle loss leads to losing 2-3% of muscle mass per decade, which is 4-5 lbs every 10 years in the average woman. Losing 4-5 lbs sounds great but in reality the weight on your bathroom scale is probably staying the same or even creeping higher. This is because women’s bodies aren’t necessarily losing weight but instead trading our muscle for fat. By menopause, women may have already lost 10-15 lbs of muscle and gained the same amount of weight in body fat, leaving women feeling fatigued, weak, and with uncomfortable weight gain. Menopausal loss of muscle is related to hormonal changes, especially low estrogen, lack of physical activity as we age, and the food we eat. Carbohydrates, fat and protein are essential during pre-menopause and menopause, but protein is essential for muscle growth and maintenance. Protein is essential for repairing and building tissues in our body, such as bones, muscles, cartilage, skin, and blood, and is involved in the function of every cell in our body. Unlike carbohydrates and fat, our body doesn’t store protein, which makes it an important nutrient to incorporate throughout the entire day. But how much is enough? In general, adults should aim for 25-30 grams of protein at each meal and 10-15 grams of protein at each snack. We rarely think of the foods in grams, so what do these recommendations look like in terms of food? 3 ounces of boneless, skinless meat or fish - 21 grams 2 large eggs - 14 grams 6 ounces of Greek yogurt - 14 grams 1 cup of tofu - 14 grams 1 cup of cow milk - 8 grams 2 tablespoons of peanut butter - 8 grams Sample Menu: Breakfast: 2 scrambled eggs with tomatoes and spinach (14 grams), whole wheat English muffin (4 grams), and 2 2-ounces slices of Canadian bacon (12 grams) - 30 grams of protein Snack: 1 ounce of low fat mozzarella (8 grams) 1 ounce of turkey (5 grams) – 13 grams of protein Lunch: taco salad with ½ cup of beans (7 grams), 1-ounce cheese (8 grams), ½ cup corn (4 grams), ½ avocado (2 grams) – 21 grams of protein Snack: 6 ounces of Greek yogurt (14 grams) with ½ cup of fruit – 14 grams of protein Dinner: 3 ounces of salmon (21 grams), ½ cup of brown rice (3 grams), stir-fry vegetables – 24 grams of protein Snack: 2 tablespoons peanut butter (8 grams), apple slices – 8 grams of protein

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