Protein: Are You Getting Enough?

protein-foodsAs you all remember from the post on macronutrients, protein is one of the Big Three. How much protein should you be getting? Are you getting enough? These are important questions for anyone, but especially folks on the high side of 40...and they get more important as we go along.

As usual, the answer to these important questions starts with, "It depends..."

I was prompted to write this post after seeing this article:

4 Types Of People Who Should Be On A High-Protein Diet

To summarize, the four types of people the article suggests should be on a "high-protein" diet are:

  1. Bodybuilders. (Really, anyone who does meaningful resistance training.)
  2. People who are prone to weight gain.
  3. People with a very sugary, carby, crappy diet.
  4. People in middle age.

Since StrongFast readers are generally over 40, this list would mean pretty much everybody. Let's explore:

  1. Everyone should be doing meaningful resistance training (lifting weights, doing bodyweight exercises, using resistance bands, etc.). There are so many benefits to strength training that it's a no-brainer.
  2. Who isn't prone to weight gain? Particularly the over-40 folks like us. Yes, that includes me. There's some effort involved to stay this svelte. (Or, as Captain Awesome said, "Babe, this didn't happen by accident.") OK, there are probably some of you out there staying slim effortlessly but don't tell anyone: they'll hate you for it.
  3. This doesn't apply to anyone here, right? I hope not. StrongFast Planet readers should know better! Really, folks who have this problem don't just need more protein, they need to stop eating crappy food.
  4. I'm not sure what constitutes "middle age" these days, but the older you get the more protein seems to help. While studies show resistance to amino acid absorption in the elderly, it surely doesn't happen suddenly. In any case, getting enough protein appears to be important at any age.

senior man doing dumbbell rowSo how much protein do you need? The DRI (Dietary Reference Intake) for protein for adults is 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight (link is a PDF), or for the non-metric crowd about 0.36 grams per pound. That's not much, especially for active older folks.

Today's Dietician noted: "Metabolic changes in older adults result in the production of less muscle protein than for younger adults who consume the same amount of dietary protein." The linked article also mentions that, "In 2008, the Society for Sarcopenia, Cachexia, and Wasting convened an expert panel...[that] recommended a total protein intake of 1 to 1.5 g/kg/day." That would be about 0.45-0.68 grams per pound, or a heckuva lot more than the RDA. Bodybuilders will often go for more than that..."broscience" in action.

So how much protein should you be consuming? Again, it depends...on your age, activity level (in particular, how much resistance training you do), and fat-loss needs. The gang at Lifehacker did a rather nice job in their post How Much Protein You Really Need In Your Diet . For a more detailed examination, you can check out Authority Nutrition's post Protein Intake - How Much Protein Should You Eat Per Day? .

In the end, no one really knows the answer, no matter how authoritative they sound. But chances are (at least) a little more will help, especially as we get older.

Be seeing you.

-gary

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