Eating more protein at breakfast or lunchtime could help older people maintain muscle mass with advancing age.
As you age you tend to lose muscle mass. Muscle mass is highly correlated with lifespan, health span and your resilience to illness. If you want to live a long, healthy and happy life preserving muscle mass as you age is a wise decision.
There are several factors which contribute to age related muscle loss. Some of which you have little control over. Others which you are 100% in control of. It makes no sense to worry about stuff outside of you control so, let’s focus on what you can do. maintain muscle.
In this article, I’ll cover a simple diet strategy that will help you…
When we eat protein containing foods it stimulates muscle protein synthesis (MPS). MPS is the process of repairing and rebuilding muscle tissue. As we age this process becomes less efficient. We do not get the same high levels of MPS in response to meals compared to our younger selves. The MPS response to eating protein is blunted.
To quote a leading researcher,
“We know that older people show a blunted response to muscle building when consuming a certain amount of protein. Therefore, older individuals need to eat more protein to get the same muscle building response as younger and middle-aged people.”
This muted MPS response has led to the term “Anabolic Resistance” being used to describe the impact of muscle mass.
As we age, stimulating new muscle mass growth and maintaining what we have is harder. The body doesn’t give us the same muscle building bang for our buck it used to. A simple solution is to eat more protein. Sadly, most people eat a diet which is very low in protein at breakfast and lunch and then have a large protein serving at dinner.
This approach is NOT enough to overcome anabolic resistance even if you have hefty hunk of meat for dinner.
Researchers in the School of Sport, Exercise and Rehabilitation Sciences at the University of Birmingham studied the diets of young, middle-aged, and old-aged. They paid particular attention to the type, amount and pattern of protein consumption.
The results of their study showed that, despite exceeding the national guidelines (RDA) for protein the distribution of protein across meals was extremely varied.
Side Note.If you train with weights and want to build muscle you will be best served consuming considerably more than the RDA. For a full write up on how to perfect your protein intake go here
The discovered that the elderly were more likely to consume lower quality protein sources. With large quantities of their daily intake coming from trace quantities in foods such as bread.
To maximise MPS consuming sufficient protein is important. Consuming high-quality protein sources (egg ones including all the essential amino acids) is also very important. Complete protein sources with high levels of Leucine should be prioritised. Examples, of such foods are eggs, chicken, beef, and whey protein. Finally, distributing this protein evenly across the day in multiple meals seems to have powerful effects on MPS and overcoming anabolic resistance. So, eating a sufficient serving of a complete protein at breakfast, lunch and dinner will go a long way to helping you to retain muscle and stay healthy as you age.
Eating the same total protein, but spread over multiple meals will maximise your daily MPS much more than eating the same quantity of protein in one huge serving. As with everything, there are guidelines in place that apply to everyone, but exactly how you should apply these guidelines to your specific situation will be different from one person to another.
The researchers concluded by saying that,
“…our results show that a one-size-fits-all guideline for protein intake isn’t appropriate across all age groups. Simply saying older people should eat more protein isn’t really enough either. We need a more sophisticated and individualised approach that can help people understand when and how much protein to consume to support muscle mass.”
Interested in learning how to optimise your diet for muscle gain? I have a book coming soon on Amazon taking you step-by-step through the process. I’ll post about its launch soon.