Midlifers Need More Protein
A HIGH PROTEIN diet can boost fitness and help us maintain muscle later in life. But exactly how much protein should midlifers be consuming? I have continued to not only keep my muscle strength, but I have also made slight increases.
The answer could lie with my diet, more specifically, in my protein increase. Scientists say it's much easier to build muscle mass and strength by consuming adequate protein; as we age, we need more than we think.
After the age of 30, we lose 3-8 per cent of our muscle mass every decade, and this rate of decline is more rapid after 60. What's more, from the age of 50, muscle quality and strength also decline.
This can eventually cause a muscle-weakness condition called sarcopenia, which is a risk factor for frailty and falls. It can occur as early as 65 and affects most people to some degree by the age of 75, especially if they are inactive.
Increase protein as you get older
Once we hit our 40s, our body's ability to turn protein into muscle starts to fade, and we need to get more of it from our diet than when we were younger. According to Priya Tew from Dietician UK, without sufficient protein, "the body can break down existing muscle tissue to make enzymes, hormones and immune system proteins".
Scientists don't know exactly why we become less efficient at synthesising protein into muscle as we age, but in women, it could be linked to menopause and, in both sexes, to changes in our gut microbiome.
The more muscle you have, the more protein you'll need
Research shows that adults in good health over 50 need 1-1.2g per kg of body weight of good quality protein every day for optimum health. For me, weighing 67kg, I need 65g of protein daily. That can be challenging because I eat one main meal daily.
The University of Sheffield researchers suggest consuming around 25-30g of protein at each of our three daily meals to optimise muscle mass. I would meet the target with my shake's 25g protein powder—and one main meal in the evening.
My smoothie contains approximately 40g of protein.
Half Avocado 2g
Handful of Nuts 5g
Protein Powder 25g
Daily Nut snack 3g
Here are three of my typical evening meals:
• Salmon Fillet with pre-made Quinoa and chickpeas 40g
• Two scrambled eggs with a slice of smoked salmon and sourdough toast 28g
• A chicken breast with mushroom pasta 40g
Eating whole foods is always better than using a protein powder due to the combination of nutrients.
Look for high-quality protein powders. I use a non-dairy. Check the label to ensure that your protein powder includes at least 20-25g of protein per serving, and avoid those with added sugars (natural sweeteners such as xylitol, erythritol, and stevia are preferred). Be wary of synthetic ingredients as well.
Finally, according to a review published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, people who ate more protein during exercise with weights gained 10% more strength and 25% more muscle growth than those who did not, particularly in those over-40.