One of the most frustrating things about getting older is how much harder it is to lose weight.
One of the main reasons for this? The loss of muscle mass.
Beginning at age 30 (yes, 30!), most of us lose about 1% of muscle each year, as the body starts tearing down old muscle at a faster rate than it builds new. This is due to a host of reasons: a dampened ability to utilize protein to support and synthesize muscle, changing hormones and, for many, reduced physical activity.
And since muscle keeps your metabolism humming, the less of it you have, the tougher it is to lose weight and the easier it is to pack ON pounds. Even when you’re eating the same way you always have.
And it’s not just weight that gets the shaft. When you lose muscle, you lose strength. That means that lifting groceries out of the car, opening a jar of peanut butter or reaching for a pair of pants on a high shelf will be tougher and tougher as the days progress.
If left unchecked, this loss of muscle mass can lead to a whole host of issues later in life, including loss of bone density, increased risk of fractures, insulin resistance, disability and even an early death.
The magic formula
There is something amazing in your diet that may help you build muscle as you age. And according to a study published in the American Journal of Physiology-Endocrinology and Metabolism, the current U.S. guidelines may not be high enough, particularly if you’re over 50.1
Researchers studied the effect on muscular health for 4 different eating plans with this hidden gem of a nutrient.
Group #1 ate according to the current guidelines, dividing the nutrient up equally among breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Group #2 ate according to current guidelines, eating the majority of the nutrient at dinner.
Group #3 ate double the current guidelines, dividing the nutrient up equally among breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Group #4 ate double the current guidelines, eating the majority of the nutrient at dinner.
Who had the most success at building muscle?
Groups #3 and #4.
So, what is this miracle nutrient that helped them build muscle?
Yes, no matter what the timing of consumption, the more protein participants ate, the better their bodies were at building muscle.
Why is protein so paramount?
The amino acids in protein are the building blocks of muscle and work by stimulating muscle protein synthesis. And it didn’t take long to see the muscle-boosting effect. In the study, participants had higher rates of protein synthesis within just 4 days!
Real muscle building for grown ups
You might be wondering what the current RDA recommendation for protein is. You know, the guidelines you may want to double — especially if you are over 50.
The current recommendation is to consume about 10 grams of protein for every 25 pounds of body weight. That means if you weigh 150 pounds, you need at least 60 grams of protein.
This is what we currently recommend in our Fat Loss Fast Start program. We also recommend including at least 20 grams of protein at every meal. This will help you control your appetite until your next meal and ensure that you get enough total protein to protect your lean muscle mass while dieting.
However, this new study shows us that, if you’re over 50, your body is less efficient at synthesizing muscle protein. It also indicates that increasing your protein intake to double the RDA (about 19 to 20 grams of protein for every 25 pounds of body weight) helps counteract this age-related decline and triggers more protein synthesis in your muscles.
Yes, we may modify our recommendations based on this new research … stay tuned.
When choosing your protein, pick healthy sources. Low-fat dairy, ﬁsh, lean meats and vegetables — yes, vegetables — are all good sources of protein.
And when snacking, make it a point to reach for foods with protein — hard-boiled egg, low-fat cottage cheese, Greek yogurt, or hummus and vegetables — to boost your protein intake.
And, if I might add, a protein-rich shake made with our product, RealMeal GF, with 17 grams of protein per serving, is an ideal way to boost your daily protein intake. You can enjoy a shake with a meal or as a snack or even make a smoothie (you’ll find plenty of recipes in our RealSmoothies recipe book. It delivers 120 nutrient-dense, protein-packed calories to not only help boost muscle, but to control hunger and eliminate cravings.
Its key ingredient is one of the most bioavailable forms of whey protein you can find. An added bonus: RealMeal GF tastes delicious and takes less than a minute to prepare.
And here’s another important component: weight training. Try it 2 to 3 times a week and you’ll likely notice yourself craving protein naturally, as your body works to convert food into muscle.
Steven Sisskind, M.D.
1. Kim IY, Schutzler S, Schrader A, et al. Quantity of dietary protein intake, but not pattern of intake, affects net protein balance primarily through differences in protein synthesis in older adults. Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab. 2015 Jan 1;308(1):E21-E28. PMID: 25352437.