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Health & Fitness Bulletins

May 29, 2024

Americans Losing Muscle Due to Too Little Protein

Strategy for maintianing strength with age.

After age 30, most Americans lose 1% of their muscle mass per year, amounting to an average loss of 30% over their lifetimes. This leads to higher instances of chronic pain in middle-age adults and to fall injuries, disability and institutionalization in older adults. However, to a large extent, the situation is manageable through diet and exercise. With the right plan, people can put on muscle and maintain strength at any age.

One of the reasons people lose strength as they age is that they do not adjust their diets. Under age 30, humans are better at breaking down protein and creating the building blocks for muscle. We can overcome this lowered ability to use protein simply by eating more, high-quality protein. Most nutritionists agree that maintaining muscle as we age requires more protein than the FDA’s recommended 50 grams per day - a lot more.

Unfortunately, up to 41% of Americans don’t even get the recommended daily allowance of protein. Research has shown that, as we age, 1.0 grams of protein, per 2.2 lbs. of bodyweight, per day is the minimum for maintaining body weight, and that up to 1.6 grams per 2.2 lbs. of bodyweight is known to improve the effects of exercise. That’s why, when the goal is to prevent age-related muscle loss, nutritionists recommend 1.0 to 1.5 grams of protein, per 2.2 lbs. of bodyweight, daily, for people over 30.

The maximum recommended protein intake is 35% of energy. A gram of protein delivers 4 calories. That means, on a 2,000-calorie diet, the maximum recommended protein intake would be 175 grams. For a 185 lb. person, the minimum protein would be 84 grams. Anything less will not give your body the protein it needs to maintain muscle like it did when it was younger.

Protein is only one part of the solution. The most important part of the solution is a safe and effective individualized exercise plan that balances strength and power. As our bodies become less adept at building and maintaining strength, we need to be using the best strategies available during our strength training sessions.

Source: Morley JE, et al. Nutritional recommendations for the management of sarcopenia. Journal of the American Medical Directors Association. 2010 Jul 1;11(6):391-6.

In reviewing this data, you agree that this is not medical advice and that medical advice should only be heeded after a proper assessment from a licensed healthcare professional.

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