Proteins are the main building blocks of the human body. However, protein insufficiency is common in aging population. As many at middle-age or after modify their diet due to weight and cholesterol concerns, but neglected protein intake. Other reasons may include physiological aging changes, such as lack of appetite, inactivity, dental health, etc.
Protein is very important for active healthy adults and elderly, for maintain overall body functioning, muscle strength, and resilience. As aging will lose muscle mass, protein needs of older adults increase for their muscle functioning and strength. The National Institute of Health recommends that 10-35% of calories should be from protein, regardless of total calorie intake.
The message is clear – older adults need to eat more protein. Now the challenge is to educate and advocate food protein sources. A good balance of protein should be obtained from quality food sources, including plant, dairy and an emphasis on white meat.
Complete and incomplete proteins from food sources
Be aware that there are complete proteins and incomplete proteins from food sources.
Complete protein food sources contains all nine essential amino acids that human bodies can’t make by itself. Some top sources of complete protein include like meat, poultry and seafood (e.g. steak, chicken and salmon). Other animal sources include eggs and low-fat dairy, which are also good sources of complete protein. It is true that some high-protein foods may have a lot of saturated fat. Take steak for example, which has a lot of good quality protein (40 grams) but 12 grams of saturated fat. Some also think red meat may be an issue in development of cancer. Therefore, low-fat meat and poultry became more preferable. Seafood is also a good choice, with healthy cooking and avoid frying.
Incomplete proteins don’t have one or more essential amino acids needed to make a complete protein. Unfortunately, most plant proteins are incomplete (e.g. beans, peas, seeds, nuts, soy beans). It would be hard to remember which foods combine to make an optimal complete protein combination (such as rice and beans), so try mixing different types of plant proteins may get enough essential amino acids, especially for vegetarians.
Some protein rich food examples are –
Cow’s milk (1 cup, 250 mL) ~10 grams
Soy drink (1 cup, 250 mL) ~8 grams
Cottage cheese (serving, 150 mL) ~17 grams
Lean meat (portion, 150 gram) ~33 grams
Fish (portion, 150 gram) ~30 grams
Egg ~6 grams
Tofu (portion, 100 gram) ~10 grams
Tuna (can, 95 gram) ~19 grams
Nuts (30 gram) ~7 grams
Legumes (1/2 cup, 75 gram) ~7 grams
Protein bar 20-25 grams
Protein shake 20-25 grams
Taking whey protein is a convenient way to add protein on top of your daily intake. This can be important for muscle building, as well as for weight loss or simply lacking protein from diet.
Most people can easily get enough protein without using supplements. Keep in mind that unless your diet is already lacking in protein, supplementing with protein powders is unlikely to have a significant effect on your physical performance acceleration. Isolated and hydrolysate protein powers are also heavily processed products.
If you need more protein intake for prevent muscle loss and/or for nutritional needs, supplements are an easy and safe way to add extra protein in your diet. There are many varieties of protein powers available, such as Animal-based protein powders include casein, whey, and collagen and plant-based protein powders include soy, pea, rice, and hemp.
Concentrate: About 70–80% protein; contains some lactose (milk sugar) and fat and has the best flavor.
Isolate: 90% protein, or higher; contains less lactose and fat and lacks a lot of the beneficial nutrients found in whey protein concentrate.
Hydrolysate: Also known as hydrolyzed whey, this type has been pre-digested so that it gets absorbed faster. It causes a 28–43% greater spike in insulin levels than isolate.
Whey protein concentrate seems to be the overall best option. If tolerance is an issue, or try to boost protein while keeping carbs and fat low, whey protein isolate — or even hydrolysate — may be a better option.
A commonly recommended dosage is 1–2 scoops (around 25–50 grams) per day, usually after workouts, or follow the serving instructions on the packaging. Elderly may adjust accordingly per medical recommendations for individual nutritional needs. Generally speaking, whey protein has an excellent safety profile and most people can consume it without problems. However, be aware that both plant and animal proteins can cause inflammation and digestive issues.
When trying a new protein powder, pay attention to how your body responds. As with any supplement, you may wish to take a break every so often or alternate between different products.
Exercise and resistance training for muscle strength
The guidelines for physical activity for adults aged 65 years and older, as recommended by the World Health Organization are:
Older adults should do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity throughout the week or do at least 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity throughout the week or an equivalent combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity activity.
Aerobic activity should be performed in bouts of at least 10 minutes duration.
For additional health benefits, older adults should increase their moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity to 300 minutes per week, or engage in 150 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity per week, or an equivalent combination of moderate-and vigorous-intensity activity.
Older adults, with poor mobility, should perform physical activity to enhance balance and prevent falls on 3 or more days per week.
Muscle-strengthening activities, involving major muscle groups, should be done on 2 or more days a week.
When older adults cannot do the recommended amounts of physical activity due to health conditions, they should be as physically active as their abilities and conditions allow.
Adequate dietary protein intake combined with physical activity is essential for healthy aging. Including resistance exercise several times per week is considered to be crucial to maintain muscle strength, maintain muscle mass, and reduce falls and fractures.
Track daily food diary for a week for protein intake self-evaluation
Get start or continue exercise routine with resistant training
Disclaimer: This information is for educational and informational purposes only. It is not medical advice. Consult your healthcare professional for personal conditions.
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