What are the protein requirements for aging athletes?

Why protein?

We know protein is a crucial macronutrient.

Whether you’re an endurance athlete, body builder, or just another human looking to live a healthy lifestyle, we emphasize the importance of protein as it plays a crucial role in various physiological functions to support our bodies. For instance, protein post workout helps support our muscles, promote muscle growth, and prevent upper respiratory infections [1]. 

To learn more about protein benefits for endurance athletes, check out our entire blog post dedicated to that topic HERE.

Protein Requirements

The current minimum daily protein requirement sits at ~0.8 g/kg [2]. However, this number does not accurately apply for all populations. 

For instance, endurance athletes and other individuals who put their bodies through vigorous exercise on a daily basis need a higher daily protein requirement. Numbers vary, however, some studies cite protein requirements of ~1.2 g/kg per day [2] and others recommend up to 1.83 g/kg per day [4]. Some even say up to 2.2 g/kg [5]. Learn more about these studies HERE.

Aging athletes also require higher daily protein consumption [2]. Why?

Aging

As we age, many factors cause our bodies to lose lean mass, strength, and speed. Although continued and consistent exercise helps to maintain our strength and muscle mass, it is inevitable that we lose some of that muscle mass due to our bodies’ natural physiological changes. This phenomenon is often termed as “anabolic resistance” [2]. 

What does this look like? 

Well, muscle protein synthesis (MPS) appears to slow down in older adults, and older adults actually require more protein consumption per meal to stimulate MPS [2]. 

For females, this loss of muscle protein synthesis is compounded by the fact that estrogen levels drop after menopause [3]. The loss of this anabolic hormone makes the need for higher protein consumption even more important.

So, what do protein requirements look like for aging athletes? 

The current literature shows that protein requirements for aging athletes may not be too different than what is recommended for younger athletes. Hitting around ~1.8 g/kg per day is ideal, however, it is also important to space these meals out throughout the day so that your body can actually digest and absorb all of the protein. So, for instance, try eating ~0.4 g/kg of protein per meal, spaced out over 4-5 meals throughout the day [2]. 

Struggling to find delicious high protein meals? We’ve got you covered! Download our FREE High Protein Recipe E-Book by clicking HERE!


References:

  1. Cintineo, H. P., Arent, M. A., Antonio, J., & Arent, S. M. (2018). Effects of Protein Supplementation on Performance and Recovery in Resistance and Endurance Training. Frontiers in nutrition5, 83. https://doi.org/10.3389/fnut.2018.00083
  2. Moore D. R. (2021). Protein Requirements for Master Athletes: Just Older Versions of Their Younger Selves. Sports medicine (Auckland, N.Z.)51(Suppl 1), 13–30. https://doi.org/10.1007/s40279-021-01510-0
  3. Silva, T. R., Oppermann, K., Reis, F. M., & Spritzer, P. M. (2021). Nutrition in Menopausal Women: A Narrative Review. Nutrients13(7), 2149. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu13072149
  4. Kato, H., Suzuki, K., Bannai, M., & Moore, D. R. (2016). Protein Requirements Are Elevated in Endurance Athletes after Exercise as Determined by the Indicator Amino Acid Oxidation Method. PloS one11(6), e0157406. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0157406
  5. Bandegan, A., Courtney-Martin, G., Rafii, M., Pencharz, P. B., & Lemon, P. (2019). Indicator amino acid oxidation protein requirement estimate in endurance-trained men 24 h postexercise exceeds both the EAR and current athlete guidelines. American journal of physiology. Endocrinology and metabolism316(5), E741–E748. https://doi.org/10.1152/ajpendo.00174.2018
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