The benefits of protein for seniors’ muscle strength

Many older adults in North America get most of their protein during dinner and less at breakfast, says McGill University. However, older women and men who consumed protein more evenly through three daily meals retained greater muscle mass and strength than those who consumed most of their protein late in the day, reported a 2017 McGill study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Seniors who consumed protein in a balanced way through the day had greater hand, arm and leg strength. Older adults also need to consume more protein per meal than younger adults to help maintain muscle strength with aging, said the McGill researchers.

In older adults, age-related muscle loss can affect daily activities such as getting up from a chair, walking quickly across the street and lifting a bag of groceries, says The Globe and Mail. Declines in muscle strength and function also increase the risk of falls and bone fractures.

How much protein?

Healthy older adults are advised to consume 1.2 grams of protein a kilogram per day, according to The Globe and Mail.  For a 75 kg (165 lb) man, that represents 90 g of protein, or 30 g a meal. For a 63 kg (139) woman, that translates into about 75 g of protein, or 25 g a meal.

Breakfast is the most challenging meal for many people. Cottage cheese (mixed with berries for flavour), eggs, low fat milk, cooked oatmeal, peanut or almond butter, and Greek yogurt are some protein-rich foods you can choose, suggests HealthLinkBC.

Lean meat, poultry, fish, seafood, and cheese are all good sources of protein that can add variety to lunch and dinner, while helping to keep your muscles strong and healthy. For vegetarians, tofu, lentils, chickpeas, beans, nuts, and pumpkin or hemp seeds can help boost protein intake, says Medisys.

Strength training for seniors

Regular physical activity, especially resistance exercises, along with enough daily protein is also important for maintaining muscle mass and strength, according to Journal of the American College of Nutrition. A 2015 Experimental Gerontology study of men and women ages 65 to 97 in retirement homes found that doing strength exercises just two times a week over six months significantly improved their mobility and performance.

Chartwell Retirement Residences offers nutritious and delicious meals that make it easy for older adults to enjoy healthy diets that meet their protein needs, and a variety of physical activities that build strength, endurance and flexibility.