You’ve heard of low-carb diets and low-fat diets. But you’ve probably never heard of anyone telling you to avoid eating protein –especially after age 50 or so, when we need to double our efforts to get enough of it. You need protein to grow and maintain muscle mass, which we naturally lose as we mature, causing frailty, falls, and more problems. Most of us get protein from meat, eggs, and dairy; vegetarians find plenty in beans, nuts, certain vegetables, soy, and more.
Consider these key points.
- When we exercise, our muscle cells break down and need repair. (This is all a good thing!) That’s why some people like a protein smoothie right after they exercise.
- We need protein to produce energy for muscle contractions used in everyday activities of normal life. (Think you’re not using muscle to get off the toilet? Think again.)
- And here’s a really hot benefit of protein. It has a high “thermic effect,” meaning the body has to burn additional calories to metabolize it. We burn a quarter of our protein calories just as we process what we’ve eaten.
- Eating protein will minimize the spike in blood sugar levels that comes from eating simple carbohydrates.
Try to get about 1 to 1.2 grams for each pound of body weight, and talk to us if you want more information.
Later in life, our eating desires sometimes change and we inadvertently go light on protein. But this is the time to make sure you’re getting enough.
Holly Kouvo is a personal trainer, functional aging specialist, senior fitness specialist, brain health trainer, writer, and speaker.