By Brian Wu

Age Defying Senior Resting Mid Run

Canada is an aging country, and with more and more people living longer, dietitians and other scientists are paying more attention to the nutrition needs of seniors. This is great news, as diet can play an important role in helping to keep seniors fit and active – and independent at home!

One of the most important factors in a senior’s diet is the amount of protein that they are consuming. Research is indicating that senior protein needs may be higher than that of younger adults, mostly in order to prevent the loss of muscle mass. Sources of protein like whey powders are convenient, easy to digest, and have many health benefits for the elderly.

Protein Prevents Muscle Loss

The single most important reason why protein is so important for senior citizens is that it prevents age-related muscle loss, a medical condition known as sarcopenia. According to
Today’s Dietician, this loss begins after age 50 after which it is expected that a person will lose between 0.5% and 2% of their muscle mass per year. It is believed that men generally lose muscle mass faster than women, but elders of both sexes are affected.

The Mayo Clinic reports that on average, a person in their senior years can lose somewhere between 8% and 50% of their total muscle mass. This loss of muscle means:

  • Increased weakness
  • Less mobility
  • A greater fall risk
  • Increased difficulty with everyday activities
  • Increased risk for loss of independence

Because of this, recent studies suggest that seniors should be consuming between 1 and 1.3 grams of protein for every kilogram of body weight each day. High protein diets can reduce the progression of increased muscle loss and weakness, especially when combined with physical activity.

Protein Should be Consumed throughout the Day

While the amount of protein that seniors eat is important, the timing matters, too! A
recent study finds that eating protein throughout the day is better for the support of healthy strong muscles in seniors.

Today’s Dietician agrees, noting that when seniors eat protein at every meal, this distribution is able to enhance the impact that amino acids have on the building of muscles. They believe that the seniors should aim for around 30 grams of protein for each meal in order to improve muscle strength throughout the day.

Protein can come from many sources: red meat, poultry and fish as well as eggs, dairy products, nuts, seeds and beans. However, the quality of the protein that seniors get is also important — and one particular source of protein that many seniors should consider is whey.

The Muscle-Building Benefits of Whey

It’s not necessary to eat piles of meat with every meal in order to meet protein goals for the day! Whey powder is a great source of protein for seniors to help fight age-related muscle loss and stay active.
Whey is a complete protein and naturally high in BCAA’s, essential amino acids which are important for muscle development. One study found that seniors who consumed 20g of whey-based protein a day were able to build muscle more easily than those consuming alternative protein sources, especially when they participated in regular exercise as well.

There are other benefits that whey has for seniors. Whey protein is easy to consume, especially for people who have a hard time chewing large or tough cuts of meat. It is also easy to digest and easily absorbed.

In addition to this, whey is convenient.  It often can be purchased in the form of whey powder and added to a variety of foods and beverages. One popular method of use is to add it to a smoothie in combination with yogurt or milk, fruits, honey and other healthy ingredients. It can be used to make easy-to-prepare breakfast smoothies or a midday snack to help you get enough protein throughout the day.

Keeping senior citizens healthy and independent becomes more and more important. Fortunately, research is pointing to the fact that a combination of physician activity and good protein intake can keep a person’s muscle strong and healthy well into their senior years.

Brian Wu
Brian Wu

About the Author:

Brian Wu is a current psychiatry resident at Los Angeles County + USC Medical Center after finishing his MD/PhD at University of Southern California. He is the founder of Health Stories For Kids and is an avid storyteller.