Can Protein Powders Help Aging Muscles?

Q: Should older adults use whey protein powder or other supplements to help maintain muscle mass as they age?

A: Protein is a particularly important macronutrient for older adults.

Studies show that, on average, people begin to lose muscle gradually between the ages of 30 and 40, and that after age 60, this decline accelerates.

Aileen Son para The New York Times

When it gets bad enough, this loss of muscle mass with age, known as sarcopeniacan cause serious health problems.

Studies show that sarcopenia can increase the risk of falls, fractures, and physical disabilities, all of which can hinder an older adult’s mobility, independence, and quality of life.

Sarcopenia can also cause insulin resistancea precursor to type 2 diabetes.

But consuming an adequate amount of protein can help slow or minimize this muscle loss with age.

Whey protein powder can certainly help you meet your protein needs, experts say, but it’s not necessary if you make sure you get enough protein from your daily meals.

Federal guidelines recommend that most healthy adults consume at least 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day.

However, this is the minimum amount you need to avoid malnutrition, and many experts say that for optimal health you should aim for a little bit higher.

As you age, especially if you’re 65 or older, you’ll need to consume more than the recommended daily amount to preserve your muscle, said Katie Dodd, a registered dietitian and founder of the Geriatric Dietitian blog.

“Research has shown that older adults need slightly more protein than younger adults,” he said.

“A lot of it has to do with sarcopenia. They need it to protect their muscle mass. I talk a lot about protein because you need it to get the most out of your golden years.”

Dodd recommends that, in general, healthy adults age 65 and older consume at least 1 to 1.2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight.

For a person who weighs 150 pounds, this means incorporating about 68 to 82 grams of protein in your daily diet.

However, Dodd cautioned that protein needs can vary depending on one’s circumstances.

Older adults who have a wound or injury may need a little more protein to help with healing, he said, while people who have a renal disease they might be advised to reduce their protein intake.

Different levels of physical activity can also change the estimate.

It’s a good idea to check with your health care provider before making any significant changes to your diet.

Whether you get your protein from supplements or whole foods, it’s best to spread your intake throughout the day, rather than consuming most of your protein at one meal, so your body has time to soak it up.

You should focus on getting your protein from whole foods like fish, dairy, meat, eggs and poultryDodd said.

You can also get it from plant foods like nuts, beans and lentils.

If you can’t get all the protein you need from whole foods, then it’s okay to increase your intake through protein supplements, Dodd said.

Whey protein is a particularly good source of protein because it is rich in amino acidsthe building blocks of protein, and are very well absorbed by the body.

It has also been shown in studies to be particularly beneficial for muscle health when combined with exercise.

But for people who are vegan, supplementation with soy, pea, or hemp protein products can also work.

“The standard healthy adult following a healthy diet doesn’t need a protein supplement,” Dodd said.

“But if they can’t meet their protein needs through food, then that’s when supplements can be helpful.”

If you need help determining your daily protein needs, try visiting the protein intake calculator at Examine.coma large, independent database of nutritional research.

The calculator takes into account your gender, weight, and activity level to help you determine how much protein you need.

If your goal is to minimize your risk of sarcopenia, combining an adequate level of protein intake with regular physical activity will go a long way to protect your muscle mass as you age, said Bill Willis, a scientist who studies muscle protein synthesis at State University of Ohio and a researcher for Examine.com.

Resistance exercises like fpushups, squats and weightlifting or the use of resistance bands are the best.

But studies show that even low-intensity forms of physical activity, such as walking, gardening, mowing the lawn, and grocery shopping, can help offset muscle loss with age.

“The bottom line for people over the age of 65 is to make sure you’re getting enough protein, and secondly, be active,” Willis said.

“Being sedentary seems to promote sarcopenia more than anything else.”

c.2022 The New York Times Company

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