Winter Protein Smoothies for Weight Loss

Written by Amanda Tracy, ND

On December 6, 2023

Baby, it’s cold outside…even in California.

But that doesn’t mean the healthy habits you’ve developed over the year get tossed aside – especially your morning protein shake. I admit, as the weather gets colder and mornings are a bit darker, I’m not craving my usual spinach and frozen pineapple breakfast shake but I do have a few tricks up my sleeve to keep my plant based protein intake up in the colder months.

My first trick is to have my protein shake in the afternoon between 3-5pm when I’m craving a snack, the weather’s warmer and the sun’s usually shining. My second trick is to shift my recipes to use less frozen fruit and include warming spices – ginger, cinnamon, cayenne. 

But before we get into the recipes, let’s look at why you should be having a daily protein shake all year round.

 

#1 Reducing hot flashes during menopause by stabilizing sugar

With over 80% of women in menopause having hot flashes and many of those women experiencing over 20 hot flash episodes each day, it can get quite confusing to know what triggers each hot flash. However, research shows that hot flashes are triggered when blood sugar falls between meals.1 

One of the best ways to stabilize blood sugar between meals is with a diet that overall favors protein and fiber. A plan that utilizes multiple small meals and snacks throughout the day is also helpful, as hot flashes may be banished for up to 90 minutes after each meal.1 Protein shakes are an optimal way to achieve this style of diet while still reaching your daily goal of 35% of total calories per day as protein.2

 

#2 Curbing hunger during perimenopause and menopause

The hormone changes in both perimenopause and menopause can increase appetite and decrease satisfaction after meals.3 It is well known that estrogen is an appetite suppressant and that’s why some women notice less of an appetite or less cravings around ovulation and a reverse of these symptoms before their period begins and during the first few days of their period (when estrogen levels drop). 

During perimenopause, estrogen levels can achieve somewhat dramatic highs and lows, causing cravings for carbs, sugar and caffeine to go haywire. Many women in menopause also experience a shift in their hunger and satiety hormones, ghrelin and leptin, as well as losing the appetite suppressing action of estrogen. In either case, maintaining a diet with consistent protein throughout the day is the path to curb cravings, improve satiety and prevent weight gain.

 

#3 Easing digestive symptoms like bloating, cramps and pain

The digestive system changes for all adults as we age, starting around age 40. In our 40’s, we begin to produce less stomach acid and in turn, less digestive enzymes. This can lead to more frequent heartburn, reflux and bloating after meals as well as increasing food sensitivities and changing our gut microbiome to be less resilient. 

The balance between estrogen and progesterone also plays a role in maintaining healthy gut function, which many women can attest to experiencing the outcome of on a monthly basis. In the perimenopausal and postmenopausal years, the direct role of hormones in the gut is not quite clear but we do see a correlation between these years and growing numbers of digestive symptoms – pain, bloating, and constipation.

In my practice, I often see women turning to a diet higher in raw foods as a way to cut down on calories to maintain a healthy weight and to increase the amount of vegetables they consume. This is a fine strategy for some women however, with the changes in our aging digestive tracts, many women find themselves more bloated and crampy after a big salad. Blended foods, particularly pureed soups and smoothies, can be an impactful way to boost nutrition while not asking too much from your upper digestive tract as far as digestive power. 

 

Smoothies: For each recipe, combine ingredients in a high speed blender and add water, as needed, to reach desired consistency. Each recipe here is for one serving however, in reality, I make 2-3 servings at once and store them in the refrigerator for a few days in glass jars or shaker cups.

 

Pumpkin Spice

1 cup almond milk

½ cup pumpkin puree

Half of a banana (fresh or frozen)

½ tsp cinnamon and a dash of nutmeg or ½ tsp pumpkin pie spice

1 tablespoon ground flax seeds

A dash of vanilla extract or vanilla powder if using unflavored protein powder

A few ice cubes

Protein powder of your choice – unflavored or vanilla

 

Black Forest

1 cup hemp or oat milk

1 cup defrosted frozen black cherries, along with their juice (defrosted overnight in the fridge)

1 tablespoon hemp hearts

2 tablespoons cocoa powder

A dash of vanilla extract or vanilla powder if using unflavored protein powder

A few ice cubes

Protein powder of your choice – unflavored, chocolate or vanilla

 

Winter Farmstand

1 cup water or coconut water – you may need to use more or less depending on your preferences and sizes of the fruits you use

½ an apple, cored and chopped

1 orange, peeled

½ lemon, peeled (if you want less tartness, use less lemon)

About an inch of fresh ginger root, peeled

Pinch of cayenne pepper

Handful of baby spinach or baby kale

A few ice cubes

Protein powder of your choice – unflavored or vanilla

 

References and Resources:

  1. Dormire S, Howharn C. The effect of dietary intake on hot flashes in menopausal women. J Obstet Gynecol Neonatal Nurs. 2007 May-Jun;36(3):255-62. doi: 10.1111/j.1552-6909.2007.00142.x. PMID: 17489931; PMCID: PMC2765999.
  2. https://www.britishjournalofnursing.com/content/comment/nutrition-during-the-menopause-clinical-considerations/
  3. https://dieteticallyspeaking.com/how-menopause-can-impact-your-relationship-with-food
  4. Heitkemper MM, Chang L. Do fluctuations in ovarian hormones affect gastrointestinal symptoms in women with irritable bowel syndrome? Gend Med. 2009;6 Suppl 2(Suppl 2):152-67. doi: 10.1016/j.genm.2009.03.004. PMID: 19406367; PMCID: PMC3322543.
  5. https://www.vogue.com/article/menopause-digestive-gi-issues-side-effects

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