eating · nutrition · sports nutrition

Sam is thinking (again) about protein and aging muscles

Bitmoji Sam in a purple tank top and shorts frolicking under the sunshine in a field full of flowers with bonus butterflies and mountains in the distance.

I’ve been seeking out nutrition advice again, trying to manage what I can in a messy, unhappy situation with my left knee.

One of the interesting bits of research to come out in recent years is that as we age our need for protein goes up even as our need for calories goes down, if we intend to maintain muscle mass.

It’s as if, as with diabetics and insulin resistance, with age we’re protein resistant. We need to eat a lot more to get the same effect. When you add to that the need to eat fewer calories, that makes for a protein heavy diet.

Here’s an excerpt from a summary of the research published by MacMaster University:

“People who would like to become physically stronger should start with weight training and add protein to their diets, according to a comprehensive scientific review of research at McMaster University. The review finds that eating more protein, well past the amounts currently recommended, can significantly augment the effects of lifting weights, especially for people past the age of 40,”

A summary of the research from MacMaster University is here. The study itself is here.

I’ve blogged about this research before here, It’s striking both for the results and how they were obtained. The research doesn’t just look at young people, in particular it doesn’t just look at young men. It’s interesting that the research actually included middle aged men and women.

What the study shows is that there’s a sweet spot for protein consumption and it’s higher than many of us thought, 1.6 g of protein per day per kg of body weight. For me that’s a lot more protein than I currently eat. Eating more as a vegetarian is challenging. I’m working on it.

You can read the New York Times account of this study here.

Is this something you worry about? Think about? Track? How much protein do you aim to eat each day?

3 thoughts on “Sam is thinking (again) about protein and aging muscles

  1. I don’t officially track my protein intake, but I am far more mindful than I used to be. Exactly the reason why I’m grateful I don’t have cholesterol issues, so I can eat lots of eggs. And, the reason why as much as I’d like to be strictly vegetarian, I do eat fish here and there. I feel so much physically better when I do.

  2. I think the quality of your protein is way more important than the quantity. Too much protein ( of animal products ) actually leach calcium from your bones and cause a host of other problems. Current science says that a whole food plant based diet is the way forward for aging adults. As a 65 year old vegan trainer who eats 40 -60 grams per day of protein, I can tell you building and maintaining muscles are no prob.

  3. Thanks for this post. I am 52 and through menopause. I am also a full-time student and my overall activity level has dropped considerably, yet I find myself seriously craving protein! I have been perplexed by this…after all my calorie needs should be going down…right? I look forward to delving into some of the research and sharing this information with friends and family.

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