Protein is not just for those people who train in the gym, play sport or want to grow large, bulbous muscles, this is a common misconception caused by media and general public perception. Yes, protein does have a major part to play in muscle recovery and growth in those who exercise hard and place strain on their muscles, however it is important that we look past this and see the full potential of the essential macronutrient…protein.
Protein is present in every cell in our body, in fact, each cell (and there are countless numbers of these) contain approx. 10 billion proteins, a staggering number that warrants a 24/7 manufacturing process by the ribosomes, our cellular protein factory. So I think it’s fair to say that protein is pretty important for us all, but with this in mind I think it’s fair to argue that the elevated strain placed on a gym goers body will necessitate a larger habitual intake of protein than a sedentary persons. This is where balance comes into play….
Get the balance right
Although protein is needed by us all, some need more than others in order to maintain what they have, or to sustain growth. To use two opposite ends of the spectrum, a sedentary (relatively inactive) male bus driver weighing in at around 70kg, who doesn’t go to the gym, may need around 70- 100g of protein a day tops. Compare this to a 70kg male labourer on a building site who after an 8 hour day heads straight to the gym to workout, this chap could quite feasibly need 130- 150g of protein to sustain his energy and protein expenditure. Whatever way you look at it, both of these individuals need protein in order to sustain their current level of muscle, and to maintain their muscle structure and function, but the person that performs the most exercise justifiably warrants proportionately more.
Based on the general public’s perception of protein, you would be forgiven for thinking that an elderly person that is relatively inactive wouldn't need all that much protein either… but you’d be wrong. As we age our bodies demand for certain things change, sex hormones for example, these deplete as we reach 40 or 50 years old. On the other hand, despite physical activity levels generally decreasing as we age, protein requirements can begin to increase. So how does this direct relationship between age and protein come about?
Age related sarcopenia
Sarcopenia is a recognised syndrome which results in the general loss of skeletal muscle mass and strength over time. It generally occurs as senior individuals become less active and….DON’T CONSUME ENOUGH DIETARY PROTEIN. It doesn’t affect every body, approx. 16% of men, 12% women aged 70-79 might experience it (Booth, 2000). The elderly often notice a general reduction in the total protein they consume, often secondary to a reduction in appetite and worsened by the elevated protein requirements due to ageing. An elderly person is recommended to consume approx. 0.8g protein per kg bodyweight per day, but research by Burton, (2010) suggests that only 40% of those over 70 actually manage this. It is important that the elderly try to increase their consumption of protein, but they often struggle to consume the volume of whole food needed to meet protein requirements.
Enter whey protein…
There are multiple benefits of whey protein, it is extremely protein dense meaning you get a lot of protein from a comparably small amount of food/drink. Whey protein shakes have a high biological value meaning they are absorbed well by the body, this makes them your bodies preferred protein source. Anybody will benefit from a good quality whey protein (except for those with dairy or lactose intolerances, in this case consider a lactose free option), they are ideal for topping up ones daily intake of protein and are proving to be highly effective at minimising age related muscle breakdown, particularly in the management of conditions like sarcopenia.
Some of the best whey proteins on the market are those that are high in protein and low in carbs and fillers, some great examples include PhD Nutrition Pharma Whey HT+, Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard 100% Whey, Optimum Health Ultimate Whey, or Reflex Nutrition Instant Whey.
Arla Foods Ingredients, (2015). Sarcopenia and whey proteins. Retrieved 22nd April, 2015, from file:///C:/Users/tomi/Downloads/HO%20Whey%20Sarcopenia.pdf
Burton L. A. & Sumukadas, D. (2010). Optimal management of sarcopenia. Clinical Interventions in Aging. Retrieved 22nd April, 2015, from Discount Supplements
Booth, F. W. et al. (2000). J. Appl. Physiol. 88:774- 787