You need more high quality protein in your diet as you age
Aging has many undesirable effects on the body, and muscle loss probably tops the list for anyone with athletic ambition. Another change that goes hand in hand with this is a reduced ability to use the protein we eat to form muscle.
For this reason, both the quantity and quality (content of essential amino acids from a good source) of protein in our diet becomes more important as we age.
But the question remains, how much protein should you actually consume as a 40, 50 or 60+ year old athlete? What are the best sources, and is there any other way we can make better use of the protein we eat?
1. How much more protein should you consume as a masters athlete?
Many official nutritional organizations recommend a fairly modest protein intake of just 0.8 grams per kg (2.2lb) of body weight - for everyone.
But athletes are different, right?
The American College of Sports Medicine thinks so. They suggest consuming 1.2 to 2.0 grams of protein per kg of body weight per day for athletes. So basically double.
To add to this, research shows that a slightly higher protein intake may also be warranted if you’re an older athlete - about 5-10% more - and that timing your protein intake around training is more important.
Our suggestion: Consume above 1.2g protein per kg body weight a day and add a shake before or after training
2. What are the best sources of protein for an aging athlete?
Protein from real food sources will always be your best bet, and this is because of the added minerals, vitamins and other nutritional benefits that come with it. Lean meats and well thought out non-meat protein sources like nuts and vegetables are king.
If you do choose to add supplemental protein to your diet, be conscious as to how processed it is as research shows that highly processed foods can speed up the aging process. Whey and plant based protein products can be convenient but some come with the downside of being highly processed. This is especially true of whey protein isolates or hydrolysates.
Here at Blonyx we like the idea of convenient supplemental protein for ageing athletes, and developed an egg white protein isolate with the intention of providing a very low processed and great tasting alternative. Here is a list of other alternative low processed protein supplements.
Our suggestion: Get your protein from high quality real food whenever possible. If going for a protein shake for convenience post training, stick to lower processed alternatives like our egg white protein isolate.
3. Are there other things you can do to support muscle protein production as an aging athlete?
The short answer is yes!
The one single thing that improves our muscle protein synthesis and keeps our muscle more than anything else as we age is doing heavy resistance/strength training. In fact this excellent year long study shows that taking whey protein supplements will have zero impact on strength and muscle unless you strength train.
On top of this, there are nutritional adjustments that have been shown to retain and even increase muscle as you age. Here are our suggestions:
- Take HMB. It has been shown to reduce muscle loss with age with and without training (it’s also an excellent sports supplement)
- Make sure you aren’t deficient in vitamin D as this has been shown to slow muscle development in older adults
- Take creatine - as it will help increase muscle in aging athletes doing strength training
- Leucine is also worth a mention as it has also been shown to slow muscle loss although there are studies showing it also had no effect.