Should you UP your Protein game if you have PCOS ?

Raise your hands if you have been in a fix that if you should consume more protein or not? Should you buy that protein powder or not! Well, Protein is that one subject which has been debated globally for the longest time. I have had my share of trying protein powders, getting obsessed with it & getting sick and now learnt how to include protein in my diet that my body loves!
In this article, I aim to get some FAQs answered through my course learnings, personal experiences, & through credible research, so read on!

What is Protein and why do we need it?

Protein is made up of 20+ building blocks called amino acids crucial to build & maintain our muscles around our organs, collagen, bones, skin, nails, hair, haemoglobin, hormones and enzymes to regulate our metabolism. Unlike extra fat (which we can store very easily on our bums and bellies), we don’t store lots of extra amino acids. Protein is always getting used, recycled, and sometimes excreted. So if you are not getting enough protein, one of the ways it can show is hairfall, slow metabolism, cracky nails or not able to build muscles amongst many other signs, (Though low protein alone may / may not be responsible for the signs that you are noticing!).

So How much protein do we really need?

The Harvard health research recommends 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of your body weight to meet the basic nutritional requirements. In a sense, it’s the minimum amount you need to keep from getting sick — not the specific amount you are supposed to eat every day!  For instance, if you weight 60 kg, your minimum daily protein intake must be 60 X 0.8 = 48gm.

But yes, active people specially those who are trying to build muscle mass may need more. Hence, we often see people consuming protein shakes when they are going to gym! For an average person (who is not an elite athlete or heavily involved in body building),   The Harvard health research recommends not to exceed more than 2 gm/kg. To compare your meals with respect to their gms, please refer this detailed list , some of them I have highlighted below for your quick reference.

We always consider our roti or rice with carbs, or dal with protein, and nuts as fats.  The below references might clear some air that or grains  nut and seeds have protein too! Interesting right?

Food itemProteinFood itemProtein
Kidney beans (rajma)22.9Walnuts15.6
Black beans (sabut urad)21Almonds18.4
Green Mung24Peanuts25.8
White chickpeas19Cashews21.2
black Chana20Pistachios19.8
Jowar10.4Amranth seeds14
Wheat11.8Poppy seeds (khus)18
Buckwheat13.2Hemp seeds30
Peas5.1 Sesame18
Nutrition Value per 100gm (approx 1/2 cup) [Source : https://righttoprotein.com/]

Side effects

As we say, too much of everything is bad, for instance, people who  eat very high protein diets have a higher risk of kidney stones, high cholesterol levels leading to heart diseases or colon infections!Nutritionfacts.org explains that our kidneys appear to handle plant protein very differently from animal protein. Within hours of consuming meat, our kidneys rev up into hyperfiltration mode, dramatically increasing the kidneys’ workload. This is true of a variety of animal proteins—beef, chicken, and fish appear to have similar effects. But an equivalent amount of plant protein causes virtually no noticeable stress on the kidneys. Animal meat being already high on saturated fat can be a burden on your digestive system. Personally I can resonate to this fact that through my journey sometimes I have experienced frequent urination, gassiness all night after fish or meat dinners, Every time!  It also significantly depends how you paired your meals, portions and these side effects could also be a result of an already underlying condition such as bad lipid profile or poor gut health being aggravated through high protein intake.  

Fulfilling your Protein being a Vegetarian?

I read about people living happily and healthy for more than 100 years , they never had protein powders, or  had big portions of animal meats or never were they obsessed about calculating their protein , fat, carb and fibre portions. They paired their meals in a way to get all essential nutrients from them . “Protein Complementation” when applied can help you get the all the nine amino acids from a vegetarian diet.
Protein complementation is when you combine two vegetable proteins (legumes and grains for an example) to get all 9 amino acids that are essential for your body.  

Source: https://nutrition.org/protein-complementation/

https://nutrition.org/protein-complementation/ further explains Protein complementation does not have to be done at the same meal. If you ate beans for lunch and then had some raw almonds for a snack later, you would be adding the methionine that you had missed out on during lunch. A vegetarian diet, if planned correctly, can provide you with all of the vitamins, minerals, and amino acids the body needs.

Going through PCOS, below Questions you should be asking yourself?

Keeping in mind the above factors that we discussed, it makes sense to ask ourselves :

  • How much total energy we do we need, how active are we.
  • If Im spending 12 hours working in front of a computer, Do I need extra supplementation in form of protein powders?
  • If  I do decide to include supplementation, Im I active enough to be able digest that extra protein?
  • When in the day should I eat that protein?  
  • How is my gut health? Is my plate well balanced to be able to digest that protein?
  • How hormone friendly are my protein sources- plant based or animal based?
  • If I have underlying conditions of bad lipids, is it okay to consume high quantities of animal based proteins sources such as red meat, pork etc?

PCOS & Protein

Astudy “Effects of increased dietary protein-to-carbohydrate ratios in women with polycystic ovary syndrome” conducted on 57 women concluded that the High protein diet helped with improving insulin sensitivity and led to greater fat loss and reduction in waist circumference when compared to standard protein diet . This is understandable considering protein are high on satiety levels, they are low on glycemic index and help tremendously to increase insulin sensitivity.
But, Majority of women with PCOS also have poor gut health showing signs of constipation, frequent diarrhea, IBS, leaky gut etc and I have come across many of who take protein powders and have severe constipation & haemorrhoids! That was me at some point- took protein powders with severe gut issues , the protein powders only made me feeling more heavy, and unrested!

  • If you have bad gut health and you are not  able to digest the natural protein sources such as Indian lentils, heavy pulses and you notice that they give you frequent burping, flatulence, lethargy, bloating;  Then don’t even think about protein powders at that point! Work with a health practitioner to heal your gut heath, eliminate toxins and build on your digestion powers!
  • You must consider including lots of fibre in form of vegetables to fast track your digestion. Our natural digestion powers start to slow down after 6pm, so you must practice taking your heavy pulses before 6pm to be able to completely digest them by the time you hit the bed!
  • Protein Source can change your Hormones Game! Through my journey switching to plant based proteins (not powders) is probably the best decision I took, which helped me overall to reduce my triglycerides , increase metabolism and improve my overall hormonal health. Animal sources can be a bit harder to process. Remember, undigested food for long hours in your stomach is a recipe for toxin build up hence leading to dis- ease and discomfort to your gut! Another important protein source “SOY’ might not work great for your hormones as it tends to mimic estrogens!

Final Take
High protein diet is fantastic for PCOS and you don’t necessarily have to depend only on animal based proteins!! Personally, for my PCOS health condition, protein powders didn’t play any role on my natural healing process. Yes increasing my proteins through Indian meals helped a lot!
The most important factor is how active are you, how you plan your meals, no harm increasing your protein intake once your body is ready but equally important is  where you are sourcing it from Animal based or plant based OR Protein powders or naturally sourced through our meals. If you do require protein powder which one are you choosing (whey vs plant protein) keeping in mind your underlying health conditions. Overall, what is your goal, are you looking for faster results to build your muscles, whether it is a sustainable approach! is great but protein powders are definitely not something you can continue for life and could be looked as a short-term approach, always consult a health practitioner before you do so!

Hope you find this information useful! I would love to hear your experiences. Let me know in comments section if you can resonate with this article and if you found it useful 🙂

Happy Healing