As we age, our bodies and our physical goals change. When we’re younger, we typically use protein supplements to build muscles and enhance athletic performance. As we age, those goals shift and we can utilise protein to maintain muscle mass that’s more susceptible to deterioration, especially during illness or injury.
Because these goals shift, we need to use protein supplements a little differently as we age, particularly after age 50. It doesn’t require drastic change, but it’s essential to know a few tips to help you make the most out of your protein supplements.
What Happens to Muscles as We Age?
Sarcopenia is a loss of muscle mass and strength and can be a common sign of ageing, but adequate dietary protein and supplements can help maintain those muscles. As we age, protein goals revolve around maintaining energy, strength, and muscle mass, and rebuilding a loss of muscle after incidences like bouts of illness or a more extended hospital stay. It doesn’t need to be simply a matter of age that muscle tone deteriorates – with great nutrition and a focus on strength training, we can limit the loss of muscle mass with age.
Do we Really Need Protein Supplements?
Although it was found that only 14% of older adults were not meeting the recommended intake for protein, studies have shown that a higher intake of protein by older adults helps to reduce muscle loss with ageing and therefore helps to maintain muscle strength and function. A decreased appetite and reduced nutrient intake is common as we age, and so using a protein supplement can prevent this. Using a supplement also makes it easier to spread protein intake throughout the day, rather than all in one big meal.
Benefits of Protein Supplements:
There are a huge range of protein supplements available in Australian Sports Nutrition Stores, so it is important to find a clean, natural product that is easy to digest and doesn’t contain unnecessary chemicals and additives. Plant-protein such as Bindi Organic Pea Protein has been shown to:
- Lower your risk of developing chronic heart disease
- Result in similar muscle growth to other types of protein (eg whey)
- Easier to digest as it’s gluten and dairy free and therefore gentler on your gut than other proteins
- Less likely to cause inflammation and chronic diseases
Older Age, More Protein and Nutrients
It’s essential that we consume more protein plus other nutrients as we age. When our bodies age, our systems process protein less efficiently, especially during episodes of stress. The simple act of ageing is stressful on the body, as are illnesses and life changes. These hormonal effects of stress can can inhibit protein absorption, so older people need to adopt a protein-rich diet or supplement with protein.
The problem isn’t necessarily consuming extra protein. Instead, it’s more about avoiding protein deficiency. To help the body utilise this protein, it is recommended to spread out the intake over the day, rather than have it all at once.
The nutrient profile of plant-protein is huge, and generally a much wider profile than animal sources. Plant-Proteins are jammed pack full of all the good stuff including vitamins, minerals, fibre, antioxidants as well as vital protein. They can provide nutrients that animal sources can’t, such as folate, Vitamin E and Vitamin K which are essential for us.
Exercise is Crucial
Studies showed that participants aged 50+ who consumed protein supplements but didn’t exercise still experienced muscle loss. However, once they began to work out again, they regained lost muscle mass. We know exercise is critical to people of all ages, but it’s critical to maintaining muscle mass as we age. Simply consuming a protein supplement won’t maintain muscle mass without regular exercise!
Using Protein Supplements in Your Diet
Sometimes it’s challenging to consume enough of a specific nutrient with food, especially with a smaller appetite. As Australian sports nutrition recommends, supplementing with protein is also useful and may be more beneficial to the overall diet. At Bindi Nutrition, we offer naturally sourced proteins packed with those essential amino acids that we need as we age.
While naturally sweetened and low in sugar, they’re also high in flavonoids, so they’re a great source of antioxidant benefits. Our protein is also gluten-free, vegan, and easy to digest, which is particularly helpful as you age. Protein powder can be added simply to water as a shake after exercise, or added to a smoothie as a high protein snack. Try mixing protein with oats and soaking overnight for a healthy and quick breakfast. Protein Powder can also be using in baking for high protein snacks such as this Raspberry Bread or Protein Balls. What’s your favourite way to add protein to your day?