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The Importance of Protein if You’re Over 40

March 13, 2019 2 min read

The Importance of Protein if You’re Over 40

We all know protein is king. Protein is not only essential for building muscle, but it also plays a role for brain cell function and creating hormones and enzymes that are vital to essential physiological processes in our bodies.

In another blog, we’ve tackled how much protein we actually need. And found that protein intake differs for everybody, depending on variables such as age, gender, and body weight. Researchers from McMaster University in Hamilton did a meta-analysis on a total of 1,863 people, including men and women, young and old, and experienced weight trainers as well as novices. They have found that people around the age of 40 and up need to increase the amount of protein in their diets as the decline in protein from the body’s muscles begin in our 40s and 50s.

What happens in our bodies over the age 40?

1. Your body was not like it used to be.

Once we reach our 40s or 50s, we begin losing muscle mass at a much faster rate. In the same way, our bodies are less likely to make protein compared to a 20-year-old body. Therefore, it is best to increase the amount of protein intake to preserve muscle mass.

What are some of the hindrances to increasing protein intake?

  • Reduced appetite
  • Dental issues
  • Impaired taste, swallowing problems
  • Limited financial resources

2. You are moving less.

As we age, we *typically* adapt to a more sedentary lifestyle when work occupies a huge role in our lives, and we are tucked away behind a desk for more than half of our lives. If that is not the case for you, then kudos to you!

But generally, when older adults are more sedentary, the body becomes accustomed to this and will not waste energy synthesizing protein for muscles if it sees that the body’s muscles won’t be used. Thus, the expression: ‘use it or lose it.’

3. You are eating less.

Older adults often find their appetites decrease as they age and so they end up eating less and not meeting their daily required food guidelines. The human body is beautiful and quite a smart machine. However, for our survival, when we eat lesser, or do not eat enough protein, our body sources it elsewhere; our muscles. And this could speed up muscle loss even faster.

What are the health risks for older adults who consume less protein in their diet?

  • Deteriorating muscles
  • Impact on functionality/ Compromised mobility
  • Slower recovery from illnesses
  • Loss of independence

The only solution is keeping your protein intake up as well as develop a more active lifestyle. In the case of chronic illnesses as an issue, especially with kidney disease, we highly recommend visiting and consulting your doctors first before making changes to your diet.  

If you are or know someone who is over 40, let them know about the importance of increasing their protein intake to enhance their performance and recovery.

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Reference for The Importance of Protein if You’re Over 40:
Br J Sports Med. 2018 Mar;52(6):376-384. doi: 10.1136/bjsports-2017-097608. Epub 2017 Jul 11.
Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2016 Apr;26(2):168-78. doi: 10.1123/ijsnem.2015-0102. Epub 2015 Sep 24.

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