Canadian researchers have found the consumption of protein at each of the three daily meals has the potential to help senior citizens stay strong. Pioneered by McGill University professor Stephanie Chevalier, the study highlights the importance of the consistent consumption of protein.
Sadly, most people wait until dinner to consume a meaningful amount of protein. This approach to eating is certainly normative in Western diets yet it does not do any favors for the aging body. To be specific, the researchers determined protein-rich meals spaced out across the day decrease the rate of muscle decline.
The Undulations of Muscle Protein
The protein in your muscle is dynamic, meaning it changes with regularity. It consistently moves up and down rather than staying at one level for an extended period of time. Muscle protein builds right back up after being broken down. However, if protein is not in the body, muscle will not rebound in its usual fashion. Protein is necessary for muscle growth in youngsters, middle-age adults and senior citizens. Protein is especially important for the elderly as it is likely to break down later in life.
About the Study
The Canadian research team tracked 1,700 men and women who were in relatively good shape. The Quebec residents were monitored across a three-year period. The participants were between 67 and 84 years old. Each listed his or her dietary information and had their legs, arms and hand strength tested. Mobility was also gauged to determine if it had changed.
The researchers determined both men and women endured reduced physical performance in the three years the study spanned. Participant muscle strength decreased in excess of mobility. Those who spread out protein consumption in each of the daily meals enjoyed enhanced muscle strength.
However, they did not have superior mobility compared to those who consumed the bulk of their daily protein in the early evening hours and beyond.
What to Take Away From the Study
Professor Chevalier stresses senior citizens should strive to eat ample protein spread throughout the day. It is not enough to leave one protein-loaded entree for dinner. If you do not consume enough protein or simply fail to consume protein throughout the day, there is the potential to stop muscle growth and ultimately decrease your strength.
You need as much strength as possible to maintain your balance as you age. All it takes is one fall to break a hip or another bone and cause a lengthy stay in the hospital. The vast majority of such senior citizen falls are the result of a weakened core or lower body.
Chevalier is also adamant a better distribution of protein across the three daily meals might also help boost physical performance. Furthermore, Chevalier believes spreading out protein across the day reduces the rate at which seniors’ condition gradually declines in general.
A Word of Caution
It is important to note this study did not identify the cause and effect between spreading out the consumption of protein and the improvement in muscle strength. The researchers noted a link between muscle strength and the consumption of protein. In other words, it is not clear that senior citizens had greater strength due to protein consumption across each of the three daily meals. More research is necessary to establish concrete proof. However, Chevalier is quick to point out the findings of the study held true when different levels of protein were consumed.
Previous Research on the Subject
Prior studies show adults of all ages should consume 1.2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. As an example, a man weighing about 150 pounds requires three ounces of protein per day. The best way to approach this consumption is to spread it out across all of the daily meals, eating an ounce of protein with each meal.
It is also interesting to note prior studies show senior citizens need more protein than those in other age cohorts. According to the guidelines of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), those older than 50 should consume between 5-7 ounces of protein per day. A single ounce of protein is in an egg, a tablespoon of peanut butter, ½ an ounce of nuts or seeds or an ounce of poultry, fish or meat.
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