Protein and Ageing: Maintaining Muscle Mass as You Get Older

Protein and Ageing: Maintaining Muscle Mass as You Get Older


Ageing is a natural process that brings about various changes in the body, including a gradual loss of muscle mass and strength. However, by prioritizing proper nutrition and lifestyle choices, it is possible to mitigate the effects of ageing on muscle health. 

Protein plays a critical role in maintaining muscle mass, promoting healthy ageing, and preserving overall functionality. 

In this blog, we explore the importance of protein in combating muscle loss as you get older. We discuss protein recommendations for older adults, dietary strategies to increase protein intake, the synergy between protein and exercise, and lifestyle factors for healthy ageing. By understanding the role of protein and implementing effective strategies, you can support muscle health and maintain an active and independent lifestyle as you age.

Understanding Muscle Loss and Ageing

Sarcopenia: Age-Related Muscle Loss

Sarcopenia refers to the loss of muscle mass, strength, and function that occurs with ageing. It can negatively impact mobility, balance, and overall quality of life. Understanding the factors contributing to sarcopenia is essential in devising strategies to prevent or minimize its effects.

The Role of Protein in Ageing

Protein and Muscle Health

Protein is the building block of muscles and plays a crucial role in muscle synthesis, repair, and maintenance. Adequate protein intake becomes even more important as we age to counteract muscle loss and promote muscle protein synthesis.

Protein and Age-Related Muscle Loss

Ageing is associated with reduced muscle protein synthesis and anabolic resistance. Consuming sufficient protein can help overcome these age-related challenges and support muscle health, functionality, and overall well-being.

Protein Recommendations for Older Adults

Daily Protein Intake

The recommended protein intake for older adults is higher compared to younger individuals. Aim for 1.2 to 2.0 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day to support muscle protein synthesis and maintenance.

Protein Quality and Timing

Distribute protein intake evenly throughout the day, focusing on high-quality protein sources that provide essential amino acids. Consuming protein-rich meals or snacks containing 20-30 grams of protein at each occasion optimizes muscle protein synthesis.

Dietary Strategies to Increase Protein Intake

Protein-Rich Foods

Incorporate protein-rich foods into your diet, including lean meats, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy products, legumes, nuts, and seeds. These whole food sources offer a diverse array of nutrients along with protein.

Protein Supplements

Protein supplements, such as whey protein, casein protein, or plant-based protein powders, can be convenient options to increase protein intake. They are easily digestible, provide high-quality protein, and can be incorporated into meals or consumed as snacks.

Exercise and Resistance Training

Benefits for Muscle Health

Engaging in regular exercise, particularly resistance training, is crucial for maintaining muscle mass and strength as you age. Exercise stimulates muscle protein synthesis and improves muscle quality and functionality.

Protein and Exercise Synergy

Combining exercise with adequate protein intake creates a powerful synergy. Protein provides the necessary building blocks for muscle repair and growth, while exercise optimizes muscle protein synthesis and utilization.

Lifestyle Factors for Healthy Ageing

To support healthy ageing and maintain muscle mass, consider other lifestyle factors such as adequate sleep, managing stress, maintaining a healthy weight, and avoiding excessive alcohol and tobacco use. These factors contribute to overall well-being and can positively impact muscle health.

Aging is a natural process that involves changes in various aspects of life. While genetics and external factors play a role, lifestyle choices significantly impact healthy ageing, including the preservation of muscle mass. Here are some important lifestyle factors to consider:

Adequate Sleep

Quality sleep is essential for overall health and well-being, including muscle health. During sleep, the body repairs and regenerates tissues, including muscles. Aim for 7-9 hours of uninterrupted sleep each night to support optimal muscle recovery and growth.

Managing Stress

Chronic stress can have detrimental effects on health, including increased inflammation and muscle breakdown. Implementing stress management techniques such as meditation, deep breathing exercises, yoga, or engaging in hobbies can help reduce stress levels and promote better muscle health.

Maintaining a Healthy Weight

Maintaining a healthy weight through a balanced diet and regular physical activity is crucial for healthy ageing. Excess body weight, especially fat, can increase inflammation and muscle loss. Strive for a healthy body weight that is appropriate for your age, height, and body composition.

Staying Hydrated

Proper hydration is essential for overall health and muscle function. Water plays a vital role in nutrient transport, waste removal, and maintaining proper muscle hydration. Aim to drink adequate water throughout the day to support optimal muscle performance and recovery.

Balanced Nutrition

A well-balanced diet rich in nutrient-dense foods is crucial for healthy ageing and maintaining muscle mass. Ensure your diet includes a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats. These foods provide essential nutrients, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that support overall health and muscle function.

Physical Activity and Exercise

Regular physical activity and exercise are key components of healthy ageing. Engaging in activities that promote strength, balance, flexibility, and cardiovascular fitness can help preserve muscle mass and prevent age-related muscle loss. Incorporate a combination of aerobic exercise, resistance training, and flexibility exercises into your routine to maintain muscle strength and functionality.

Avoiding Excessive Tobacco Use

Excessive tobacco use can have detrimental effects on overall health, including muscle health. Alcohol can interfere with muscle protein synthesis and contribute to muscle wasting. Conversely, smoking reduces the oxygen supply to the muscles and impairs their ability to repair and regenerate. Minimize or eliminate alcohol consumption and avoid tobacco use for optimal muscle health and overall well-being.

Social Connections and Mental Stimulation

Maintaining social connections and engaging in mentally stimulating activities can contribute to healthy ageing. Social interactions and mental stimulation promote overall well-being, reduce stress levels, and positively impact mental and emotional health. Participate in social activities, hobbies, and intellectual pursuits to support healthy ageing and muscle health.

Incorporating these lifestyle factors into your daily routine can optimize healthy ageing and preserve muscle mass. It’s important to remember that healthy ageing is a holistic approach that encompasses various aspects of life, including physical, mental, and emotional well-being. Consult with healthcare professionals or experts in nutrition and exercise to create a personalized plan that suits your specific needs and goals.


In conclusion, protein plays a crucial role in maintaining muscle mass and countering age-related muscle loss. By understanding the importance of protein, following the recommended daily protein intake, choosing high-quality protein sources, and engaging in regular exercise, older adults can support muscle health and promote healthy ageing.

Incorporating lifestyle factors that contribute to overall well-being further enhances the benefits of protein. Embrace the power of protein in maintaining muscle mass as you get older and enjoy an active and independent lifestyle for years to come.


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