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× HomeNutritionMuscle and TrainingHealthRecipesWhat Is Whey Protein?FAQsGlossaryAbout
Muscle and Training

Stay Strong as You Age

However we try, we can’t avoid getting older. Although we might still feel youthful, from the age of 40, the fact is that we start losing muscle mass. But there are ways to stay healthy and fit at all stages of life. And sometimes they are as simple as taking regular exercise and being aware of your diet. In particular, protein plays a big role in keeping the body strong.

Losing muscle mass is a natural condition known as sarcopenia. The effects of sarcopenia are gradual and it’s generally not that noticeable until we get close to retirement aged 65-70[1]. That’s why getting enough protein as we get older is an important part of staying strong. And this is where whey protein comes in.

But before we look at how much protein we need and why whey protein supplement can make a big difference to muscle health, we need to understand a process called anabolism. Put simply, this is the mechanism whereby the muscles can benefit from the protein you eat.

Just like our eyesight and hearing, anabolism is affected by the aging process. The older we get, the more difficult it is for our muscles to make use of the protein we eat. And this makes us more likely to suffer from sarcopenia. That means we need to eat more protein to get the same benefits for our muscles.

Protein Requirements Increase With Age

So how much protein is enough? In general, a 50-year-old active person weighing around 70 kilograms will need around 60 grams of protein per day (0.86 grams of protein per kilograms of body weight). That is not substantially different to the needs of a younger person. However, as we age, our protein needs increase. When we reach 65, we need an extra 10-15 grams per day and by the age of 80, this rises to around 100 grams per day. This rise in protein needs is caused by the less efficient management of the ingested protein for muscle growth. Increasingly, research is pointing to around 30 grams per meal to cover protein needs in the elderly[2].

What’s more, this protein intake must be distributed evenly over the day. This can be a problem in western diets where not all meals provide us with sufficient protein. Especially breakfast is often way too low in protein, providing only a third of the recommended amount. And even if you make up the protein shortfall through protein from meals eaten later in the day, the muscles still won’t get enough. This is why a whey protein supplementation during meals can be a great way to be sure you’re getting the right amount of protein.

Why Older People Struggle to Get Enough Protein

A protein supplement is even more relevant for older people. Because not only do we need more protein as we age, but older people often have less appetite. What’s more, around 20% of them have difficulty chewing or suffer from dental problems, such as missing teeth[3]. Which all make it even more difficult for older people to get enough protein[4].

Whey Protein Is High in Amino Acids

We know we need more protein as we age and we need to eat it throughout the day. Finally, we need to be sure that it is the right kind of protein. For muscle health, the best kind of protein is one rich in essential amino acids (amino acids which can’t be synthetized by human and need to be provided by the diet), such as leucine. As whey protein contains all essential amino acids, has a high leucine content and is easy to digest[5], it is ideal. When you eat whey protein, it sends a large amount of leucine into the blood, which sends a signal to the muscles to trigger the process of regeneration[6].

So, if you want to stay strong, healthy and active for as long as possible, remember whey protein in your diet. We’re not promising that you’ll turn into superman overnight, but you’ll be helping your muscles to stay strong so you can continue to live life to the fullest and keep sarcopenia at bay.

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Your Protein Needs Throughout Life

[1] Jackson, A. S., Janssen, I., Sui, X., Church, T. S. & Blair, S. N. Longitudinal changes in body composition associated with healthy ageing: men, aged 20–96 years. Br J Nutr 107, 1085–1091 (2012).
[2] Stuart M. Phillips – Nutrition in the elderly: a recommendation for more (evenly distributed) protein ? – 2017
[3] Gil-Montoya, J. A., Ferreira de Mello, A. L., Barrios, R., Gonzalez-Moles, M. A. & Bravo, M. Oral health in the elderly patient and its impact on general well-being: a nonsystematic review. Clin Interv Aging 10, 461–467 (2015).
[4] Morley, J. E. Decreased Food Intake With Aging. The Journals of Gerontology: Series A 56, 81–88 (2001).
[5] Boirie, Y. et al. Slow and fast dietary proteins differently modulate postprandial protein accretion. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 94, 14930–14935 (1997).
[6] Devries, M. & Phillips, S. Supplemental Protein in Support of Muscle Mass and Health: Advantage Whey. Journal of Food Science 80, (2015).

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