Whether you’re running an Ironman or walking laps at the mall, current guidelines on protein intake just aren’t enough to keep you healthy – especially if you’re over 50. We reach peak muscle mass by our late 30s, and after that point, we begin losing approximately three to five percent over each decade. This age-related muscle mass loss is termed “sarcopenia.” Sarcopenia, the gradual loss of muscle mass, has been associated with a litany of health problems, including insulin resistance, low bone mineral content and density, falls, and fractures – even death. Sarcopenia is a normal aging response, but once it hits it is up to you to decide how you’ll react. Loss of muscle is an inevitable consequence of aging that can lead to falls or mobility problems. Eating enough protein is one way to remedy it. By spreading protein equally among three daily meals, you can ease into aging by building mass and muscle strength.
Balancing Your Protein
A study at the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre found that men and women who consumed protein in a balanced way during the day had more muscle strength than those who consumed more during the evening meal and less at breakfast. The distribution of protein throughout the day was not, however, associated with their mobility. All body tissues, including muscle, are composed of proteins, which are made from building blocks called amino acids. If protein intake decreases, the muscle synthesis is not done correctly which can lead to a loss of muscle mass. Many seniors, especially in North America, consume the majority of their daily protein intake at lunch and dinner. Evidence has demonstrated that older people need to consume more protein at each meal because they need more amino acids for protein synthesis.
Research has shown that older adults who strength train maintain more muscle mass as they age, in comparison to adults who don’t include strength training. By adding strength training exercises into your healthy living routine (shoot for at least three times a week), you'll not only build muscle, but you'll wind up eating more protein without even thinking about it. In response to exercise, your body will work to convert your foods' amino acids into muscle, it will automatically crave more protein. As we age, we naturally lose muscle mass and strength due to a trifecta of reduced muscle response to protein intake, changing hormones and for some, less physical activity.
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