Do we need more protein as we get older?

Alright, when I began training, I did make some remarkable gains as a newbie. My understanding was that muscle mass and body composition remain consistent as long as you eat right, train right, and rest adequately. Well, theoretically it is correct, however, there is this one variable that is often overlooked. As we age, training and nutrition must be modified to allow our bodies to progress. Also, we must learn how to manage injury and improve recovery as we progress. The older your training age and the older you are as an individual, your progress stalls as you continue to exercise. You need to do more than just eat, train and sleep right.

I quickly want to highlight 3 very important points you need to be mindful of as a lifter to ensure consistency and progression in body composition and training performance.

  1. Training intensity- You go through metabolic changes over the course of your life that contribute to you looking and feeling in a certain way. Now, you can get by with a less strict diet and moderate exercise regime when young.
  • This happens as a result of hormones driving your body’s ability to achieve success.
  • And the hormones can be optimized relatively better when you are younger.
  • When you get older, you must work hard to up your game and maintain the status quo.

So, the right approach is not performing a workout that includes 30 sets of 10 reps each or 15 sets of 25 rep each to achieve the right intensity, it’s performing an exercise till failure, or at least 1-2 rep short of failure. This ensures you are stimulating your muscle just enough to achieve the right outcome. Also, adding 2-3 cardio sessions a week will improve your athletic ability. You see, weight training uses a different energy pathway (Creatine Phosphate System) and cardio uses a different one(Oxygen).  A lot of people don’t know that both these pathways complement each other and oftentimes people choose just one depending on what their goal is. e.g. for fat loss, weight training is far better than cardio(have explained this in plenty of my articles) but cardio is still an important variable in your program.

  • Your cardiovascular health facilitates your oxygen uptake.
  • resulting in longer workout sessions.
  • So, if you’re someone who does not do cardio at all, you will sort of be lacking holistically.

Don’t get me wrong, you can maintain a very good physique just by way of weight training, but your cardiovascular health is a very good indicator of your mortality and helps to keep you longer in the game. Also, take training and diet breaks every 3 to 4 months. Take a week off from training and do a good refeed once or twice depending on how you go (check progress) This helps your body and mind to improve hormone production, especially leptin if you have been dieting long enough and it also improves recovery.

  1. Protein synthesis and protein intake- I don’t want to science this out but if you are someone who is over 40, this is paramount to your progress and success as a lifter. So, PS is the body’s ability to get a muscle synthetic response which can be achieved by way of exercise or by way of consuming protein. A combination of the two provides the best results. You want this to ensure you are building new muscle tissue and repairing damaged ones.
  • More muscle equals improved oxygen uptake
  • Resulting in better metabolic response.
  • More lean muscle and improved metabolism mean you will burn more calories.

Okay, this is pretty straightforward when you are young. Exercise consistently, eat the right amount of protein and you will be able to achieve the right muscle protein synthetic response.  But, has anyone told you that when you get older you need more protein? Yes, your body is ageing which means it is going through a process of muscle breakdown naturally and this rate compounds every decade.

  • So, you need to be exercising harder than ever (why harder is explained in my second point below.
  • Quantity of protein- A good rule of thumb is 0.75gms to 1 gram of protein per pound of lean body mass.
  • What is lean body mass (the difference between total body weight and body fat weight.) If you’re 165LBs (75 kgs) with 10% body fat, then your LBM is 148.5.
  • The protein intake will be different for people with different body composition levels.
  • For example, a person with 25% body fat will need less protein than a person who is 10% body fat due to lean body mass Structure and TDEE( Total daily energy expenditure that defines protein consumption recommendation.
  1. Sarcopenia– In simple terms- loss of muscle mass and strength as a result of ageing. So, if you have been training for a while and you are beyond 40, you have to train harder than ever. Why? ‘cause the older you are, the less strong are your connective tissues and muscle fibers. You must train harder than ever ‘cause as an older adult, you potentially stimulate muscle tissue from exercising and not so much from a hormone standpoint.

Your choice of exercise and its intensity will determine your longevity in the sport. This will help delay the process of Sarcopenia. In simple terms, your training intensity is an indicator of your progress. In your 20’s you will be able to perform a certain set of exercises in top form and as you get to a 40, you may not be able to do the same. For example, a manual bench press vs a bench press on a Smith machine(Assisted). So, how can older adults ensure they continue to lift with the right intensity and recover as quickly as possible.

  • One- choose to perform lifts that involve alternate between free and assisted movements. (Bench press vs smith, Free Squats vs Squats on the Smith, regular Deadlifts vs deadlifts with a T-bar or using dumbbells)
  • Two- you could take an intra or post-workout supplement which contains amino acids, e.g BCAA, EAA , glutamine, etc. if you are someone who is pounding hard through your training and doing it over and over, these supplements potentially help you recover faster and ensures you are ready for your next workout. Now, to be honest, you don’t need BCAA or EAA if your protein intake is on point (have explained this in other videos of mine), however, I personally started this a few weeks ago and have noticed my recovery has improved to a great extent. Why does it work for me?
  • I do a low carb diet on a fasting protocol most days of the week
  • And I like to train hard in the rep range of 6-8 with a decent amount of weight as per my bodyweight.

Now the younger me managed all of this like a breeze. But as I got older, injuries and recovery became significant. So, the older me has started supplementing with amino acids as my diet protocol (low carb and intermittent fasting) kind of impairs my ability to utilize nutrients efficiently. Now, I can stop these supplements and reduce my training intensity and continue to maintain the status quo, however, as I get older, it will lead to a state where I may not be able to hold a good physique at decent body composition which is my primary goal.

So, just to sum it all up, strength training along with a relatively high protein diet is by far the best way to ensure you remain close to the fountain of youth. If you haven’t yet already, make sure to check me out on Instagram and Facebook- fitdadaesthetics

We lift, therefore we are!

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