The typical adult aged 75-80 has only half as much muscle as he (or she) had in their twenties. That’s pathetic. Loss of muscle (sarcopenia) is a major contributor to diminished quality of life with aging.
Why do so many people let their muscle melt away as they age? How can you prevent it?
There are two main issues.
- You’ve got to exercise. And resistance training or weight training has got to be part of your program. A twenty minute walk isn’t enough.
- You’ve got to eat enough protein. You need 1.0 to 1.5 gram of protein per kilogram of your body weight. (A pound is about half a kilogram – actually it’s a little less than that but that estimate is close enough for our purposes.) The more you exercise, the more protein you need.
Take me for example. I weigh between 180 and 185 pounds. That’s about 90 kg. So I should be eating 90 to 145 grams of protein every day. How do I get that much?
- 3 ounces of meat or chicken is 20-22 grams of protein
- one cup of greek yogurt has 19 grams
- an egg is 7 grams
Here’s a chart with lots more detail.
Protein quality is also important. Protein from plant sources typically lacks one or more of the essential amino acids we need for building human protein. That’s why protein from animal sources is considered more “efficient.” But you can also combine protein from two or more plant sources (grains combined with beans, for example) to make up some of the deficiencies.
Depending on the totality of my diet, I might benefit from using protein powder or munching a protein bar. (But these products can also include a lot of extra sugar – shop carefully.)