Eating an adequate amount of protein is critical for Active Wellness. Proteins are the main building blocks of the body—they’re used to form muscles, tendons, organs and skin. The body also uses protein to help repair tissues when recovering from injuries and intense exertion.
When it comes to the right amount of protein for you, many factors come into play. Although the DRI (dietary reference intake) calculated by most official nutrition organizations is based on body weight alone (.8 grams of protein per kilogram or .36 grams per pound)1, individual and gender requirements may vary widely. Your activity level, state of health, age, and body mass are all important considerations. Even the goals you want to achieve for your body matter, for example, if you are intent on increasing muscle mass.
The Institute of Medicine offers a way to break down protein needs based on activity level. Sedentary people would multiply their weight in pounds by .4 and active people by .6.2 Competitive athletes would increase protein intake by multiplying their weight in pounds by .75 and a light body-builder by .85.3
As the body ages, metabolism and the absorption of key nutrients slows down. This puts those 65 and older at risk of developing sarcopenia, which is the loss of muscle mass, strength and function. The essential amino acids in protein are key nutrients for muscle health, but older adults are less responsive to low doses of amino acid intake compared to younger people. A 2016 study from researchers at the departments of Food Science and Geriatrics at the University of Arkansas found that this lack of responsiveness can be overcome with higher levels of protein consumption. The study says that protein levels in the range of 30 to 35 percent of total caloric intake may prove beneficial.4
Another interesting variance was shown in an eight-week study with two groups of women who completed a strength training plan of two upper body training days and two lower body training days per week. One group ate a high protein diet and another, a lower protein diet. Results showed that the women on the higher protein diet gained significantly more lean body mass with an average of 4.6 pounds compared to an average of 1.5 pounds for the lower protein group. 5
The surprise finding in the study was that even though the women on the higher protein diet consumed about 423 more calories from protein than those on the lower protein diet, they did not gain body fat. Instead, they lost an average of 2.4 pounds of fat mass vs. 1.7 pounds fat mass lost by the women with lower protein intake. The women in the higher-protein group also gained just over two pounds but when body composition was measured, they gained more muscle and lost more fat than the lower protein group.6
According to Tara Dellolacono Thies, a registered dietitian, most women need between 50 and 60 grams of protein a day, more than the 46 grams calculated by the DRI. She explains that vegetarians can get plenty of protein without eating meat and dairy by consuming green peas, tofu, nuts, chickpeas, soybeans, broccoli, quinoa, chia seeds and cocoa powder.7
Even higher amounts of protein are recommended by Nancy Rodriguez, a registered dietitian and professor of nutritional science at the University of Connecticut. She attended a “Protein Summit” with 60 nutrition scientists and published a paper in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition where she noted that “taking in up to twice the RDA of protein is a safe and good range to aim for. The potential benefits of higher protein intake, these researchers argue, include preserving muscle strength despite aging and maintaining a lean, fat-burning physique. Some studies described in the summit reports suggest that protein is more effective if you space it out over the day’s meals and snacks, rather than loading up at dinner.” 8
As with any health and nutrition change, it is important to talk to your doctor about your protein needs and intake as you age. Additionally, protein should be paired with resistance exercise to help prevent muscle loss, medical experts say.9
Having a hard time meeting your daily protein requirements? Kenzen Vital Balance® contains 20 grams of vegan protein per serving. It’s certified kosher and organic and naturally sweetened with monk fruit.