You probably already know protein is an important macronutrient for building muscle. But as a senior, perhaps you are wondering how much protein you really need. Do you still need to be mindful of your protein intake now that your bodybuilding days are behind you? The answer is yes! Protein is important for more than just muscles. Let’s explore how much protein seniors really need.
What Does Protein Do?
Protein is necessary for every single cell in your body. In fact, protein is considered one of the main building blocks of all life! So, your body needs protein both to repair its cells and to make new ones. If you’re healing from an illness, injury, or surgery, protein is crucial to your recovery. You also need protein for energy, digestion, and blood clotting (1).
Hormones are also made of protein. Did you know that insulin is actually made of protein (2)? That means that protein is also going to play an important role in managing diabetes.
Collagen and elastin are also proteins. Collagen helps keep your hair, skin, and nails healthy, and elastin is important for lung health.
Protein has many other important roles, like your immune system, too (3). As you can see, your body requires protein for almost all of its life-sustaining functions.
Do Seniors Need Protein?
You might be surprised to learn that as we get older, adults actually need more protein, not less. Losing strength and muscle mass is a common and serious problem for seniors. When this happens, you are more at risk for illness and injury, which can even lead to death (4). Many studies have shown that by eating more protein, you increase your strength and lean muscle mass. This will help to prevent injuries and illnesses, which is especially important for seniors.
Just How Much Protein Do I Need?
So now that you know protein is critically important for all people, but especially older people, how much protein do you actually need to eat?
People over the age of 65 should aim to get about 0.45-0.55 grams of protein per pound of body weight. So, a senior who weighs 150 pounds should eat 68-83 grams of protein each day.
To put that into perspective, that’s 50% more than the recommendation for younger people!
How Can I Eat More Protein?
In order to get enough protein each day, you’ll have to eat protein from a variety of different sources. Meat tends to be the easiest and most convenient source of protein. Dairy, eggs, beans, nuts, and whole grains also contain protein.
Some proteins are not “complete,” meaning they don’t have all of the amino acids your body needs. Proteins that come from animals, like meat and dairy, are complete proteins. Soy and quinoa are plant-based complete proteins. Other plant-based proteins don’t contain all the necessary amino acids, so you’ll need to make sure you eat a variety of them each day to meet your body’s needs.
It can be helpful to aim for about 20-30 grams of protein in each meal at a minimum. Here are some examples of foods and meals that meet these protein requirements:
- 3 scrambled eggs (18g protein) with 2 tablespoons of shredded cheese (7g protein)
- ½ cup shredded boneless skinless chicken breast (27g protein), in a salad or sandwich
- Ham sandwich with 4 slices of deli ham (14g protein) with 1 slice of cheese (7g protein) on multigrain bread (9g protein)
- 8 oz steak (58g protein)
- 2 cups cooked quinoa (16g protein)
- Peanut butter and jelly sandwich (20g protein)
You can also get extra protein with high-protein snacks, like protein shakes, protein bars, beef jerky, nuts, cheese, greek yogurt, cottage cheese, and hard boiled eggs.
So how much protein do seniors need? A lot! Just because you’re an older adult doesn’t mean you can neglect your daily protein needs! You need protein now more than ever. Stellar Living hopes these tips help keep you healthy and happy for many years to come. If you’d like to take the guesswork out of eating nutritious meals, check out Stellar Living’s amazing Senior Living Communities today!