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You’re here because you’re ready to feel better, be stronger, and lose weight by changing your relationship with Hashimoto’s. Let me first say, congratulations! Change is possible and your diet is the best place to begin focusing your efforts to gain and maintain muscle mass. I want to help you tweak your diet to stay fuller longer, maintain your muscle mass, and begin healing on a cellular level. To accomplish these goals, we’re going to talk PROTEIN.
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Benefits of Quality Protein When You Have Hashimoto’s
Protein is necessary for the creation and function of important processes in your body like hormones, enzymes, tissues, and chemicals. No wonder it’s such a critical component of a diet recommended for those of us with an autoimmune disorder, especially one directly impacting our hormones. If you want to lose weight with Hashimoto’s, consuming an optimal amount of protein is the key to a healthy metabolism. It helps with building and maintaining muscle mass, staying fuller longer, and decreasing your hunger hormones. Protein will also fuel your muscles so they can work to burn fat and support healthy thyroid function. When you don’t consume enough protein, you’re more likely to over consume carbohydrates and fats which results in blood sugar imbalance and a sluggish metabolism.
As shown by a study at A&M University, the branch chain amino acids gained from protein also benefit the immune system by further encouraging the production of antibodies that fight infection. When a woman with Hashimoto’s is depleted of these essential amino acids, a vicious cycle of food sensitivity and weakened immunity ensues. It is common for people with Hashimoto’s to have low amounts of stomach acid which depletes the body’s ability to absorb key nutrients and synthesize the benefits of the amino acids.
Find more Hashimoto’s diet resources on my website and in my course Thyroid Strong. I created Thyroid Strong after being diagnosed with Hashimoto’s eighteen months after the birth of my son. Luckily after changing how I was eating, addressing underlying environmental factors like living in mold, and changing my workouts, my Hashimoto’s is now in remission.
How Much Protein is Enough to Maintain Muscle Mass with Hashimotos?
Because women with Hashimoto’s have a harder time maintaining muscle mass, when you’re first making changes in your diet, you have to ask yourself if you’re getting enough protein in each meal. The recommended amount of protein per meal to stimulate muscle protein synthesis is a minimum of 30 grams per meal. Yes, 30 grams at every meal! By balancing your protein intake throughout the day, your blood levels reach and remain at the threshold that enables your body to stimulate the muscle protein synthesis process. Muscle protein synthesis is the body’s process of using amino acids from the protein you consume to build new muscle and repair existing muscle tissues.
Another benefit of eating sufficient amounts of protein is that you will stay fuller longer without needing to reach for empty carbs or fats to regulate your blood sugar. If you’re unsure of how to track your protein intake, a proper amount of protein is roughly the size of your palm. Using a macro tracking app (I recommend the Carbon Coach app) to record your meals is another great way to learn what 30 grams of protein per meal should look like. You can also meal prep recipes designed to support Hashimoto’s health which will often contain notes on the macro levels. I partner with several health-conscious chefs to bring you recipes that will bolster your efforts to reverse your Hashimoto’s symptoms.
What Type of Protein Should You Be Consuming?
Now that we’ve discussed how protein supports your Hashimoto’s diet and where to track it, let’s talk about which type of protein will best serve you and why. In a recent applied nutritional investigation by the University of Split, it was proven that foods higher in protein and saturated fats are associated with better thyroid function. Choosing a plant-based diet over a diet rich in animal protein will only lengthen your journey toward fitness with Hashimoto’s. Choose complete proteins – the ones containing all 9 essential amino acids – which are found in animal protein. Your body cannot produce all nine essential amino acids on its own. Some other necessary nutrients for thyroid health found in animal protein include selenium, zinc, iron, and tyrosine.
Common sources of protein in the vegan diet like tofu, tempeh, imitation meats (highly processed) are inflammatory and do more harm than good. When you consume animal proteins, your body is also receiving both a quality and quantity of food that will better serve your metabolism. Think of it this way, you would need to consume 2.5 cups of chickpeas to obtain the same amount of protein in 3.5 ounces of chicken. Even then, animal protein is superior to plant-based protein because a larger percentage of protein from an animal source is absorbed by the body than when the same amount of protein is consumed from a plant-based source. With the previous statement in mind, I’d like to note that I prefer to chew my protein source, but if I’m in a rush to get the kids out the door, a smoothie or protein shake works too. I like to add collagen or protein powder to my smoothies or shakes to ensure that I’m reaching the recommended 30 grams of protein per meal minimum.
For those busy mornings with the kids, I love these three protein-packed smoothies from Food by Mars.
Protein, Protein, Protein!
Isn’t it amazing that being strategic with your protein intake can have such a positive impact on your journey toward healing Hashimoto’s? If you take anything away from this post, let it be these two practices: incorporate 30 grams of protein in each meal and eat more animal protein to get those essential amino acids. Don’t be surprised when you end up with more energy, muscle tone, and the metabolism of your dreams.
– Dr. Emily Kiberd