Maintaining muscles & protein powder

The advice for older people is use it or lose it. We lose muscle mass as we age and that’s not good. Is protein powder the answer?

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  • Health
  • Read Time: 3 mins

Key Points

  • Protein benefits muscle mass in ageing people.
  • The amount required depends on age, weight, activity and health issues.
  • Protein can be delivered in whole foods and supplements.

Protein is an essential part of a healthy diet throughout our lives but is particularly important for maintaining muscle mass as we get older.

Consuming enough protein as we age can help slow down muscle loss and reduce our risk of injuries, falls, and disabilities.

The minimum amount of protein recommended each day is 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight to avoid becoming malnourished, but Katie Dodd, a registered dietitian and founder of the Geriatric Dietitian blog says you should aim for more than this, especially if you are 65 years or older.

“They need it to protect their muscle mass. I talk a lot about protein because you need it in order to get the most out of your golden years.”

According to Dodd, healthy people older than 65 should eat between 1 to 1.2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. If you weigh 68 kilos, for example, this would mean consuming between 68 to 82 grams of protein each day.

She did warn, however that protein consumption varies from person to person and could in fact be more or less than this.

If you’re suffering from an injury, for example, you may need more protein while you recover. On the other hand, if you have kidney disease, you may need to consume less protein.

It is always a good rule of thumb to speak with your health care provider before you make any big changes to your diet.

How to get more protein

If your healthcare provider has indicated you need to up your intake of protein, there’s a lot of ways you can get it from your diet naturally, without turning to supplements. Meat, fish, poultry, nuts, dairy, eggs, lentils, beans and some grains such as quinoa are all excellent sources of protein and readily available at the supermarket.

If you do need to take supplements, The New York Times Health Writer Anahad O’Connor has this recommendation, “Whether you get your protein from supplements or from whole foods, it’s best to spread your intake across the day, rather than consuming the bulk of your protein in one meal, so your body has time to absorb it.”

“The standard healthy adult who is eating a healthy diet does not need a protein supplement,” Dodd says. “But if they can’t get their protein needs through food, then that’s when supplements can be helpful,” says Dodd.

Protein powder features whey protein, which is rich in amino acids (which helps build/rebuild muscle) and is easily absorbed by the body, making it a good option if you can’t get enough protein in your diet. Some studies have also found muscle health can be improved by combining whey-based protein supplements with exercise.

While whey-based protein supplements aren’t suitable for those on a vegan diet, there are other alternatives including soy, pea, and hemp protein supplements.

One tool that can help you determine if you’re getting enough protein is the protein intake calculator provided by, a large and independent database of nutrition research. The calculator can help you determine the ideal protein intake for your age, gender, weight, and level of physical activity.

Exercise and protein

Bill Willis, a scientist specialising in muscle protein synthesis at Ohio State University and a researcher at, says exercise has a key role to play, along with protein, in preventing muscle loss in older age.

Activity that involves resistance, such as push-ups, squats, resistance bands, or weights, are the best for retaining muscle as we age, according to Willis.

It’s not all bad news if you can’t do these either. Studies have found that lower-intensity exercise such as walking, grocery shopping, and gardening, can all help reduce age-related muscle loss.

“The take-home message for people 65 and up is that you should make sure you consume enough protein and, number two, be active,” Willis says. “Being sedentary seems to promote sarcopenia more than anything else.”

Source: New York Times

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