As we age, we naturally lose muscle mass and strength. This is called sarcopenia. Beyond the impact on aesthetics, this loss of muscle mass increases the risk of falls and fractures. Loss of muscle is also one of the reasons that calorie requirements decrease as we age, leading to weight gain for many individuals.
Thankfully, this loss of muscle mass can be combated with physical activity that includes resistance training. However, what we eat, in particular protein, is critical in order for our bodies to stimulate muscle synthesis after a workout. However, many athletes fail to consume optimal amounts of protein to stimulate protein synthesis. Read on to find out more:
- Amount: The amount of recommended protein post-exercise is higher for older, compared to younger, athletes. This is because of a phenomenon called “anabolic resistance,” which is really just decreased muscle synthesis as we age. However, this can be overcome by consuming more protein. While younger athletes, should aim to ingest about 20 grams of high quality protein, older adults may benefit from up to 30-40 grams of high quality protein post exercise.
- Type of protein: Plant proteins are less effective at stimulating muscle synthesis compared to animal protein sources. This is due to the lesser essential amino acid content, leucine content and digestibility of plant based proteins. Those who don’t consume animal products should aim to consume larger amounts of plant based proteins and multiple plant based proteins together to create a complete amino acid profile. Getting enough protein from plant sources may be hard for athletes watching calorie intake due to lower protein content. For instance, 125 grams of chicken provides 30 grams of protein and 210 calories, while 2 cups of cooked black beans contains the same amount of protein but would contain 510 calories. .
- Other food components: Non-protein components such as the carbohydrate, fat, vitamin and mineral content also influence muscle synthesis rates. This is a very complicated topic and can’t be fully discussed in this blog. Just know that research has shown that consumption of whole foods results in an increased muscle synthesis, which is thought to be due to the micronutrient content. However, some nutrients consumed in excess (i.e. from supplements) may inhibit muscle synthesis. Aim to get your protein post-workout from whole, unprocessed foods.
Who doesn’t want to stay strong and healthy as we age? If you’re putting the hard work and time into training, ensure that your nutrition isn’t sabotaging your results. Ensure that you refuel with a good quality source of protein post workout to ensure that your muscles stay healthy as you age.