It goes without saying that protein is the number one nutrient when it comes to building muscle.
It is essential not only for the growth of new muscle tissue, but it is involved in many chemical processes inside the cells, provides coordination between various biological processes, stores reserve energy and protects the existing muscle tissue from breakdown.
The loss of muscle mass related to aging is known as sarcopenia, and it is also one of the most significant causes of aging.
As we get older, muscle mass slowly decreases, which also results in a decrease in the stores of energy available for use. All of this leads to less stamina, strength, and endurance.
Healthy older adults need more protein to sustain muscle mass
Studies (1 , 2, 3) have been done which have confirmed that adding more protein to your diet is the best strategy to stave off this age-related muscle mass loss.
It’s also been shown that the generally recommended daily protein intake to prevent sarcopenia, especially among the elderly is a minimum of 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight.
You might wonder why? Well, the recommended intake amount, mentioned above, is for all adults aged above 19. It’s grading on the curve, considering the unique diet requirements of the elderly are not taken into account.
Getting the 0.8 grams of protein per kilo of body weight won’t be enough to protect them from losing their muscle as they age.
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How much protein is enough, then?
According to one review, senior people should up their protein intake by a stunning 50%, or at least 1.2 grams of protein per kilo of body weight. However, the amount of protein is not the only thing that matters.
The same review concluded that the main focus should be on the amino acid leucine, which is one of the three branch-chain amino acids that have an important role in the building on new muscle mass.
Elderly people need more leucine to build muscle proteins. Leucine can be found in great amounts in dairy products such as milk, yogurt, cheese, as well as whey protein.
Exercise is a must
The effects of all that has been suggested above would be greatly diminished if it weren’t accompanied by exercise. It is very important to note that engaging in any type of physical activity, be it taking a stroll in the park, walking the dog, gardening or actually going to the gym and following some type of a training regimen, will have a significant effect on staving off muscle mass loss, the same way upping the protein intake will do.
The RDA figures were designated as a reference point that should be easily achievable and weren’t made for optimal nutrition. The quality of the protein is also an important issue, but there still aren’t any standards which could be applied to the general population.
Much more research needs to be done in order to provide effective nutrition advice to people of all ages and walks of life.