Did you know that getting enough protein in your diet can be just as important as getting enough calcium or vitamin D? While you might think you are getting enough, your protein needs increase as you age, so it’s important to re-evaluate them regularly. Protein is even more vital after the age of 40 not only to overall nutrition, but for building muscle mass and preventing muscle loss.
Research has proven that the more protein you eat, especially distributed throughout the day, the better your body will be at building and maintaining muscle. This is important because as we age, our bodies naturally lose muscle mass and function. Maintaining your protein intake and increasing your muscle mass can help you stay active and enjoy your favorite activities.
More Benefits of Protein
Did you know a diet high in protein can help speed up your recovery after exercising and help you deal with hunger? It can also help with slowing or preventing a reduction in bone mass. Muscle and bone mass are necessary for maintaining an active lifestyle and performing routine activities as we age, such as standing, sitting, or walking.
Research suggests that middle-aged and older adults don’t eat enough protein, partly because we often lose our appetites over time, and require less energy than younger adults or children. Studies show that timing when you eat and how much protein you get at each meal can be just as important for long-lasting health.
Breakfast is the meal most lacking in protein among active adults and aging populations, while dinner was predictably the highest protein-filled meal. Balanced daily meals with a protein intake between 25-35 grams per meal is the ideal range for adults in their 40s and beyond.
In other words, increase protein in the morning by adding eggs, nuts, low-fat dairy, and lean meats. If that sounds like it will take more time than you have in the mornings, a protein shake is a great solution because they are easy to prepare and contain other beneficial ingredients.
Here are a few nutritious breakfast food options with their calorie counts.
1 cup cooked oats: 166 calories
2 hardboiled eggs: 155 calories
1 banana: 250 calories
1 cup Greek yogurt: 120 calories
Plenty of research suggests that because of metabolism changes and decreased physical activity, we naturally lose muscle mass as we age. Several studies estimate a decrease between 25 and 40 percent of our body weight by age 80, or three to five percent per decade starting in our 30s. This process is called sarcopenia.
The good news is you can stymie sarcopenia’s effects by maintaining an active lifestyle and eating more protein to help sustain your muscle mass and function.
The combination of strength training and increased protein intake could be the best way to keep your muscles active and strong. Most types of protein appear to be effective, with whey protein being especially effective for muscle building and maintenance.
Adding much-needed protein to your diet is simple:
- Look for protein-rich snacks, like nuts or protein crackers
- Add hard-cooked eggs or egg whites to salads.
- Add a scoop of whey protein to baked goods and hot cereals.
- Add nuts, seeds, or wheat germ to casseroles, breads, muffins, pancakes, fruit, cereal, and yogurt.
- Add beans (kidney, pinto, black) and lentils to soups, casseroles, or salads.
Easy, right? These simple hacks to increase your protein are a great solution for anyone who wants to look and feel as good as they did in their 30s.