How much protein do us women over 50 need?
It’s “strength” month in the Be Healthy Enough Community! As I’ve been doing my research on strength training over 50, along with how to properly lift those weights another topic that always pops up is Protein! So today I’m going to share what I’ve learned about why we need protein, how much we should be getting now that we’re over 50 and my Be Healthy Enough tip to fit it in.
Before I get started I am not a doctor or registered dietitian. Before trying ANYTHING I recommend please consult with one of these first
First, WHY is getting enough protein important as we age?
Protein and the building blocks of protein called amino acids are responsible for the repair and maintenance of muscle tissue.
The need for more protein as we age is due to a decrease in muscle mass and a typical increase in fat mass in women over the age of 50. Bodybuilders consume more protein to ‘build’ their body, us women of a certain age require it to maintain our body.
The loss in muscle mass is known as sarcopenia (Greek for muscle poverty – I learned that this week! ): At about the age of 30 we start to lose muscle mass due to changes in our hormones, decreased activity and the general aging process. By the time women near 80 years, they may have lost as much as half of their skeletal muscle mass.
Unfortunately with loss of muscle mass come things like; weight gain, increased risk of falls, poor posture, not being able to do the things we LOVE to do and the things we NEED to do to maintain our independence such as walking, picking up our groceries, getting off the pot.
There is good news! By making sure we’re getting adequate protein and incorporating strength training into our exercise routine (yay for strength month!) we can minimize our risks and maximize our ability to make this second and better half as amazing as we want!
Just so you don’t leave me, yes, protein is needed to build lean muscles but protein can also help if you are trying to lose weight! Did I grab your attention now? I know that most of you reading this would like to lose a few pounds – most women do.
How does protein help with weight loss?
- A pound of muscle mass burns about 7-10 calories per day while a pound of fat burns only 1-2 calories per day. This means that the more muscle mass you have the higher your metabolism or calorie burning efficiency is. Protein is key to building lean muscle mass
- It can help you feel more satisfied and full compared to fats and carbohydrates. If you’re trying to lose weight you must be burning off more calories than you consume. To do this you typically have to cut some calories but loading up on protein-rich calories can help you feel satisfied (and therefore less hungry).
- Protein is a higher thermogenic effect food meaning it takes more calories to break down as compared to fats or carbohydrates. The process of digesting protein gives your metabolism a slight bump
Now let’s talk about how much protein we really need. This data has changed over the years and of course IT DEPENDS on you! But I’ll share what I’ve learned.
RDA or the Recommended Daily Allowance are guidelines set by large government agencies that have researched the minimum amount of protein humans need to maintain baseline health.
The RDA numbers are 0.8 gram per kg of body weight or 0.36 g per pound of body weight
If you’re a 150 pound woman that’s about 54 grams of protein per day.
The general concerns with these guidelines are they do not account for the progressive loss of muscle as we age.
Here is what I’ve found as of Feb 2022 as the optimal amount of protein for older adults (again I am not a registered dietician this is from studies I’ve researched)
Optimal protein needs for older adults is 1.6 grams per kg of body weight or 0.73 gram per pound of body weight
If you are 150 pounds that’s 109 grams. That may seem like a lot but don’t leave me now. You’re with me and my philosophy is Be Healthy Enough.
Yes, you could start tracking everything you put in your mouth and get exactly the amount of protein you need each day…. and while I recommend that every once in a while you do spend time with a food tracker I do not recommend tracking your food for an extended period of time because it can make you go CooCoo for Cocoa Puffs (do you remember that commercial from the 80s.
I did this for about 2 weeks recently because I was very curious how much protein I was getting AND I had put on a few pounds and wanted to understand my total calories per day. It was VERY eye opening! I am very happy to say that with a few adjustments (cutting out those mindless handfuls of nuts every day) adding a bit or protein to each meal I am getting “enough” protein and have taken off 2 pounds in just 2 weeks!
It also brought out some of my obsessive compulsive and neurotic thoughts about food and my goal in life is to BE HEALTHY ENOUGH so I’m only going to do that when something is not right and I need more data.
Now let me show you how easy it can be to get “enough” protein in. Stop and do the calculations for how much protein you need.
Remember: 1.6 grams per kg of body weight or 0.73 gram per pound of body weight. If you’re trying to lose weight I recommend using your goal weight in these calculations.
Do you have it? Now let’s throw it out the window and Be Healthy Enough!
Keeping it simple is going to be the key to consistency. And consistency is key to overall health.
My little trick is to strive for 20-30 grams of protein at each meal and build a snack around protein. My protein goal is about 100 grams per day. If I get 30 grams in at each meal (90 grams) plus a light snack of 10 grams of protein, I’m good.
Here are a few examples of how to do that:
2 eggs (12 g) + ½ avocado (2 g) + 2 pieces whole wheat bread (3.6 g) + of turkey bacon (4.8 g) = ~21 g
2 egg Omelet (12 grams) with bean chili (16 grams) = ~28 g
Or a veggie packed smoothie with a scoop of protein powder = ~29 g
Or ½ cup Greek Yogurt ( 17 g) + ¼ chopped mixed nuts (13 g) + fruit = 30 g
Lunch – is lots easier
Turkey Sandwich with 3 slices (11 grams) + a cup of Lentil soup (14 grams) = ~25 g
Salad with 4 oz of chicken or salmon or tuna = ~26 to 42 grams
Dinner is even easier
Plan your dinner around about 3- 4 oz of meat based protein or plant based proteins such as tofu, lentils, other beans/legumes, quinoa, nuts/seeds, even veggies contain some protein.,
And don’t forget a protein rich snack
Greek Yogurt (16 g 6oz serving)
Handful of nuts Nuts (6 grams)
Veggies and hummus (4 grams)
Turkey roll up (5 grams)
Peanut butter and celery (4 grams)
Jerky (9 grams per ounce)
Hard boiled eggs (6 grams each)
You think you can do it?
Just a couple of quick notes I found…
- It’s better to spread your protein throughout the day. I saw a statistic that your body can only utilize 20-30 grams at a time. Don’t try to get it all in one meal
- The best way to get your protein is through high quality foods (and they do not have to be animal based)
- If you can’t get your protein in through the foods you are eating you may want to supplement with a protein powder (please read the ingredients and make sure it’s a high quality one. Here is the link to the brank I am using now Tru Nutrition
- If you start digging in you’re going to see a lot of stuff on protein before and after workouts. Unless you are training to be a bodybuilder or have a condition you are working with your doctor on, don’t get caught up in the marketing hype that you have to consume protein so many minutes after a workout or before a workout. Remember they are probably trying to sell you a powder
- Yes, there are some risks with getting too much protein. Please consult your doctor or a registered dietician before trying ANYTHING I recommend.
Are you ready to start building some strength? Make sure you watch my video or read my blog on the top questions I get about starting a strength training routine and how to safely progress.
Read the BLOG or watch the Video
If you’d like to try my 20 Minute Beginner Strength Workout for free just click on the link.
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Looking forward to getting stronger with you!