Did You Know Your Body Needs More Protein During Your Luteal Phase?

hormones Nov 03, 2023
eggs, beef, salmon, milk, cheese, tofu, and many good sources of protein are shown for a woman's Luteal Phase of her hormones.

During your menstrual cycle, the luteal phase is the time between ovulation and the beginning of menstruation. This phase is characterized by an increase in progesterone levels, which is essential for preparing the uterus for a potential pregnancy. However, recent research has shown that the natural increase in progesterone levels during the luteal phase can also lead to protein breakdown in the body, which can be mitigated through mindful increased protein intake in the diet.

WHY INCREASED PROTEIN IS NEEDED:

Studies have shown that during the luteal phase, the body's progesterone levels naturally increase, which causes an increase in cortisol production. Cortisol is a hormone that is involved in protein metabolism, and during the luteal phase, those increased cortisol levels can cause an increase in protein breakdown in the body (1). In other words, during this phase, the body tends to break down more protein than it synthesizes to use, which can be detrimental to overall health.

WHAT CAN YOU DO TO MITIGATE PROTEIN BREAKDOWN:

One way to mitigate this response is to increase protein intake during the luteal phase. Studies have shown that increasing protein intake during the luteal phase can help to reduce protein breakdown and increase protein synthesis in the body (2). Specifically, it has been recommended to consume an additional 10-20 grams of protein per day during the luteal phase to counteract this protein breakdown response (3).

One study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition investigated the effects of protein intake on protein metabolism during the luteal phase (4). The study found that increasing protein intake during the luteal phase resulted in an increase in protein synthesis and a decrease in protein breakdown. This suggests that increasing protein intake during this phase can help to counteract the negative effects of increased cortisol production.

Additionally, a study published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition found that consuming protein before bed can help to stimulate muscle protein synthesis and improve muscle recovery during the luteal phase (5). This suggests that timing of protein intake may also be important during this phase.

SUMMARY OF WHAT YOU JUST LEARNED:

  • The luteal phase of the menstrual cycle is characterized by an increase in progesterone levels.

  • This increase in progesterone (which is good for you!) can cause an increase in cortisol production and subsequent protein breakdown in the body.

  • To mitigate this response, it is recommended to increase protein intake during the luteal phase, specifically by consuming an additional 10-20 grams of protein per day.

  • Increasing protein by an additional 10-20 grams can help to increase protein synthesis and reduce protein breakdown, resulting in improved overall health and muscle recovery during this phase.

HOW TO TAKE ACTION ON THIS INFORMATION:

THERE ARE A NUMBER OF SIMPLE WAYS YOU CAN INCREASE YOUR PROTEIN INTAKE DURING THE LUTEAL PHASE:

  1. Include a protein source with every meal and snack: This can include foods such as eggs, Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, chicken, turkey, fish, tofu, tempeh, nuts, seeds, and legumes.

  2. Add protein powder to smoothies or oatmeal: Adding a scoop of protein powder to a smoothie or bowl of oatmeal is an easy and convenient way to boost protein intake.

  3. Choose protein-rich snacks: Snacks such as hard-boiled eggs, beef jerky, string cheese, and protein bars can provide a quick and easy source of protein.

  4. Opt for protein-rich drinks: Drinking protein shakes, milk or chocolate milk, soy milk can be a simple way to increase protein intake during the luteal phase. Note: other non-dairy “milk” choices are extremely low in protein and will not increase your protein intake including rice, almond, oat, and coconut milk.

  5. Plan ahead: Planning meals and snacks in advance can help ensure that protein is included in every meal and snack throughout the day.

By implementing these simple strategies, you can easily increase your protein intake during the luteal phase, helping to counteract the protein breakdown response that occurs during this phase of the menstrual cycle.

 

Sources:

  1. Stachenfeld, N. S., & Taylor, H. S. (2015). Progesterone increases protein breakdown in human skeletal muscle. American Journal of Physiology-Endocrinology and Metabolism, 308(5), E375-E382.

  2. Mauvais-Jarvis, P. (1987). The role of sex steroids in the modulation of insulin secretion, sensitivity, and action. Journal of steroid biochemistry, 27(1-3), 279-285.

  3. Berardi, J. M., Andrews, R. G., & St. Pierre, B. A. (2011). The Essentials of Sport and Exercise Nutrition, Second Edition. Precision Nutrition.

  4. Zello, G. A., Wykes, L. J., Ball, R. O., & Pencharz, P. B. (1995). Recent advances in methods of assessing protein and amino acid metabolism in vivo. The British journal of nutrition, 73(6), 883-902.

  5. Snijders, T., Res, P. T., Smeets, J. S., van Vliet, S., van Kranenburg, J., Maase, K., ... & van Loon, L. J.