Protein Intake: Sustaining Muscle Mass in Old Age

As we age, our body changes significantly, including decreased muscle mass. Muscle loss is a common problem linked to various health issues such as frailty, reduced mobility, and increased risk of falls.

However, there’s good news. Consuming adequate amounts of protein can help to prevent muscle loss and sustain muscle mass as we age.

In this blog post, expert Eric Kim UBC explores the importance of protein intake and how it can help maintain muscle mass in old age. We’ll discuss how much protein is recommended, the best sources of protein, and how to incorporate it into your diet.

Why Is Protein Important For Maintaining Muscle Mass?

Protein is crucial in building, repairing, and maintaining muscle mass. When we consume protein, our body breaks it down into amino acids, which are used to repair and rebuild muscle tissue. Without enough protein, our body lacks the building blocks to maintain muscle mass.

As we age, our body’s ability to use protein becomes less efficient. This leads to a condition known as anabolic resistance, which means that our body has a decreased ability to build muscle in response to protein intake. Consuming larger amounts of protein can help overcome this anabolic resistance and aid in muscle maintenance.

How Much Protein Is Recommended?

The protein needed varies depending on age, sex, and activity level. For adults over 50, the recommended daily allowance (RDA) for protein is 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight per day. However, recent research suggests that older adults may need more protein than the RDA to maintain muscle mass.

Studies have found that consuming 1.2-1.6 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight daily can help in muscle maintenance. Additionally, consuming protein throughout the day, rather than in one or two large meals, may improve muscle maintenance.

What Are The Best Sources Of Protein?

There are many sources of protein, including both animal and plant-based options. Animal sources such as meat, fish, and dairy tend to be higher in protein and provide all the essential amino acids needed for muscle maintenance. Plant-based protein sources include legumes, nuts, seeds, and soy products.

When choosing protein sources, it’s essential to consider the nutritional value and the amount of protein provided. For example, a 3-ounce serving of chicken breast provides roughly 25 grams of protein, while a cup of cooked lentils provides 18 grams.

The Timing Of Protein Intake

Another essential factor for muscle synthesis is the timing of protein intake. Several studies have suggested that consuming protein evenly spaced throughout the day, rather than in one or two large meals, can enhance muscle protein synthesis in older adults.

Studies have also shown that consuming a protein source before bed can increase overnight muscle protein synthesis, leading to better muscle maintenance.

How To Incorporate Protein Into Your Diet?

Incorporating protein into your diet doesn’t have to be challenging. Start by choosing protein-rich foods at each meal, such as eggs for breakfast, chicken breast for lunch, and fish or tofu for dinner. Snacks such as Greek yogurt, nuts, and seeds can boost protein.

If you have difficulty meeting your protein needs through food alone, protein supplements such as whey protein or plant-based protein powders can help. However, speaking with your healthcare provider before starting any new supplement regimen is always best to maintain happy aging.

Final Thoughts

According to Eric Kim, UBC, consuming adequate amounts of protein is essential for maintaining muscle mass in old age. Older adults may need more protein than the RDA to overcome anabolic resistance and maintain muscle mass.

Animal and plant-based protein sources can provide the necessary building blocks for muscle maintenance, and incorporating protein-rich foods throughout the day can help meet protein needs. Making small dietary changes and incorporating protein into your meals can help preserve muscle mass and improve overall health as you age.

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