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If you’re like most people, you’re not a planner when it comes to protein…
Some meals you eat lots of protein. Other meals you don’t eat much. But you figure it all evens out in end. Unfortunately, that assumption could cost you something very important — your muscles.
You may have heard that you gradually lose muscle mass as you get older. This phenomenon is called sarcopenia. And it’s a major cause of declining mobility and independence among older adults. If your muscles get weak, you can’t climb stairs, carry groceries, play with your grandchildren — you get the picture.
Luckily, lots of recent research shows that being more planful about your protein intake could prevent sarcopenia from striking you in a serious, quality-of-life-ruining way…
Why you need to pay more attention to your per-meal protein intake
A recent study from the University of Birmingham found that older adults eat less protein at breakfast and lunch then they do at dinner… and that could be a big mistake.
You see, your body needs protein to build muscles. But as you get older, your body becomes less efficient at processing protein. It’s part of the reason older adults develop sarcopenia.
Since your body becomes worse at using the protein you give it, you need to give it more than you did when you were younger. But you also need to think about how you distribute your protein intake throughout the day…
As your body becomes less efficient at processing protein, getting most of your daily protein intake from one meal means you’re ultimately getting a lot less protein than you think. Why?
Your body can’t process that much protein at once, and a lot of it goes to waste. That’s why the total amount of protein you eat per day may not be as important as your per-meal dose of protein.
One study conducted several years ago by researchers in Germany found that when older adults ate the same total amount of protein per day, some would become frail and others wouldn’t.
Of course, there was one important difference between the two groups — how they distributed their protein intake throughout the day. The ones who ate protein unevenly throughout the day were more likely to become frail, fatigued and walk slowly, most likely due to weakening muscles.
Hatch a protein plan to protect your muscles
Uneven protein intake among older adults is a problem in many countries — including the U.S.
Research shows that most older men and women in the U.S. eat far more protein for dinner than they do for breakfast or lunch. And that isn’t going to cut the mustard if they want to stay strong, mobile and independent with age.
Based on the latest research, older adults need to eat 25 to 30 grams of protein per meal to keep their muscles growing (or at least not shrinking as fast). And that likely means exceeding the current RDA for protein, which is 0.8 g protein per kilogram of body weight per day.
Now, getting 25 to 30 grams of protein at every meal will require some planning. Eating a bowl of oatmeal or cereal with milk won’t do the trick. You’ll need to add something protein-rich like Greek yogurt, nuts, turkey sausage or an egg to hit that high target.
So, start hatching a protein plan to protect your muscles. Sit down and reflect on how much protein you typically get per meal. Then think about creative ways you could increase that. Even if you’re not quite categorized as a “senior” or “older adult” yet, it’s better to develop good habits now. Sarcopenia starts as early as your 30s and 40s and it spares no one… especially those with poor protein habits.
Editor’s note: While you’re doing all the right things to protect your brain as you age, make sure you don’t make the mistake 38 million Americans do every day — by taking a drug that robs them of an essential brain nutrient! Click here to discover the truth about the Cholesterol Super-Brain!
- A more balanced protein intake can reduce age-related muscle loss — MedicalXpress
- Why Older Adults Should Eat More Protein (And Not Overdo Protein Shakes) — Kaiser Health News
- Protein Intake and Muscle Function in Older Adults — Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care
- 20 Delicious High Protein Foods — Healthline