You have probably heard that gaining and maintaining muscle mass is important as you age. In case that hasn’t sunk in yet, I am here to remind you once again… maintaining your muscle mass is absolutely crucial if you want to age gracefully, remain independent, and maintain your quality of life!
According to a systematic review, muscle mass decreases 3–8% each decade after the age of 30, and continues to decline even faster after the age of 60.
There are many factors that contribute to the amount of muscle mass you have, but one secret to maintaining your muscle mass is to optimize your body’s utilization of protein! Luckily, this is all under your control, and with the following lifestyle practices that focus on optimizing your protein intake, you will be well on your way to more muscle mass, greater strength, and improved functionality.
Follow these 4 rules consistently to maximize your protein utilization:
Studies show that muscle protein synthesis decreases with age, meaning that a higher protein intake is necessary to stimulate muscle growth as you get older. According to the PROT-AGE study, people over age 65 should consume at least 1.0-1.2 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight daily to maintain and regain lean body mass and function.
To keep it simple for us folks who use the Imperial system, take your body weight in pounds and divide it by 2, and that is how many grams of protein you should aim for per day. For example, if you weight 150 pounds, aim for at least 75 grams of protein every day!
The same study also recommends that, “Most older adults who have acute or chronic diseases need even more dietary protein (i.e., 1.2-1.5 g/kg body weight/d).”
Note: Individuals with kidney dysfunction should talk to their doctor about a protein intake that is healthy and safe for them.
According to the PROT-AGE Study, older adults also need a larger amount of protein at each meal in order to maximally stimulate muscle growth. While younger individuals may only need 20 grams of protein per meal, older adults require at least 25-30 grams of protein per meal in order to stimulate muscle growth.
To consume enough protein to meet the amount described in tip #1, you should aim for 2-3 meals per day, with 25-30 grams of protein at each meal. If this does not fulfill your protein requirements based on your weight, or if you are frail, losing muscle, or having trouble gaining muscle, it may be helpful to add in 1 or 2 high protein snacks as well.
Bonus tip: Be particularly sure to get adequate protein at breakfast, as this is when your body needs it the most!
While many plant-based foods do contain a moderate amount of protein, meat will almost always provide a higher concentration of protein with fewer accompanying calories from carbohydrates and fats.
Eggs, chicken, fish, turkey, and lean cuts of beef are great sources of protein. If you experience digestion or absorption issues, consider taking a digestive enzyme supplement with meals that contain any animal protein.
Protein powder is also a convenient source of protein if a whole food meal is not available. Whey protein has been shown to stimulate muscle synthesis more effectively than casein, so opt for a whey protein concentrate if you are sure that you can tolerate dairy (consider a goat whey supplement like Naked Goat which may be even easier to digest). Otherwise, choose an organic plant-based protein made from rice, pea, or hemp.
When it comes to your muscles, the old adage holds very true – “If you don’t use it, you lose it!” Study results showed that resistance exercise was as effective in older adults as it was in young adults for reversing muscle loss and low muscle protein synthesis.
To maximize the results of your workout, aim to consume at least 20 grams of protein along with at least 15 grams of carbohydrates within an hour after completion. If you can’t fit in a full meal at this time, opt for a protein shake and a piece of fruit.
It may not have taken much work to maintain a strong and fit physique when you were in your 20s, 30s, or even 40s. Muscle mass is much easier to build and maintain at that age! However, if you are a woman over the age of 60, maintaining adequate muscle mass is now something that you must actively work on.
It’s never too late to start, but if you still feel strong and healthy, then NOW is the best time to begin implementing these practices on a daily basis!
Do you make sure to consume enough protein in your daily meals? What do you include on most days? Every day? Which is your most protein-rich meal?
Tags Healthy Eating