Protein is the most important part of our diet. Not only does it contribute to new muscle growth, but it carries out chemical functions in the cells, coordinates biological processes, stores energy, and protects existing muscle mass.
Age-related muscle mass decrease, also known as sarcopenia, is one of the most significant contributors to aging. As we grow older, our muscle mass decreases, which in turn reduces the amount of energy available for use. This leads to less strength, stamina, and endurance.
According to a , adding more protein to your diet is the best way to reduce this age-related muscle loss. The study states that the current recommended daily protein intake of 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight is insufficient to prevent sarcopenia among the elderly.
Why is that? Simple: this recommendation is for all adults above the age of 19. It's grading on the curve, not taking into account the unique nutritional requirements of the elderly. Just getting those 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight will not be enough to protect senior citizens from losing muscle mass as they age.
So How Much Is Enough?
According to the review, elderly people should increase their protein intake by a whopping 50%, up to 1.2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight.
But it's not just the amount of protein that matters—the review states that the focus should be on leucine, one of the three branch-chain amino acids that play an important role in building new muscle tissue. The elderly need more leucine to build muscle proteins. To get more leucine, milk-based proteins—like yogurt, milk, cheese, and whey protein—are highly recommended.
You Need To Exercise.
Of course, there's one more important recommendation: you need to exercise. As the lead author says, “I do think that it’s more important to emphasize somewhat like the protein message that being physically active and engaging in whether it’s physical activity in a leisure time, walking or gardening that sort of thing or actually going to the gym and doing structured exercise has a similar effect as protein. It is essentially anti-sarcopenic.”
RDA figures were set as a base that should be achievable and were not designed for optimal nutrition, so to speak. The issue of quality is pretty important, more so than not with protein, but we really don't have any standards to apply to the general population. There's a long way to go to providing effective and sound nutrition advice to people across the spectrum.
1. Stuart M. Phillips. "." Frontiers in Nutrition, 2017; 4 DOI: 10.3389/fnut.2017.00013.