Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Older Muscles - Protein Intake & Muscle Mass Maintenance in Older Adults

This is a subject near and dear to my heart - I find it incredibly annoying that, at the age of 56, laying off my usual active lifestyle for a few weeks, my muscles melt away.
Unfortunately, muscle mass and strength decrease with age, even in elite older athletes, a condition called sarcopenia,and the process does indeed speed up after age 50.

This sucks.

Now, exercise does indeed offer a protective effect - so, yes, three weeks without dancing, hiking, or massaging caused my muscles to practically wither away (well, I was busy, my son got married :-)).

Most of us know that you need protein to build - and maintain - muscle.
I did not know that after 50, the body apparently is less efficient at metabolizing protein--according to the papers linked to below, older people need more protein to build/ maintain muscle.

In addition, protein intake should be divided between meals in order to maximize effects - this is true in individuals of all ages.

I myself do not take supplements of any type, nor do I intend to; the interplay of nutrients in any food is complex, and is not understood--no matter WHAT the manufacturers of supplements and vitamins might tell you.

  • I intend to make sure I take in adequate protein during the day, and increase that slightly on days that I exercise.
  • I will space my protein over my meals, with a daily goal of 45 to 50 grams - appropriate for my size, weight and age.
    For example, my  usual breakfast: plain yogurt, fruit, a few nuts works out to be 12 grams of protein, my usual lunch of salad - arugula, olives, feta cheese, chick peas - works out to be about 25 grams. 
  • I will not go the 'high protein' route - this has not consistently been shown to be of benefit, and may be detrimental to kidney function.

Dietary protein recommendations and the prevention of sarcopenia Protein, amino acid metabolism and therapy, 2009 full text article

Functional impact of high protein intake on healthy elderly people, 2008, full text

Moderating the portion size of a protein-rich meal improves anabolic efficiency in young and elderly,
2009 full text

Protein and Amino Acid Restriction, Aging and Disease: from yeast to humans, 2014, full text
Leucine supplementation chronically improves muscle protein synthesis in older adults consuming the RDA for protein, 2012, full text

Dietary protein and resistance training effects on muscle and body composition in older persons., 2007, abstract

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