Are proteins and strength training still effective in old age?

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After 30, we start losing muscle mass, which is at the rate of 3 to 8% per decade. After 60, the rate of reduction in muscle mass increases further.


It results in loss of strength and various body functions, leading to disabilities in elders. Another reason for Sarcopenia is inactivity and a sedentary lifestyle, which increase the risks of falls and injury and, consequently, dependence on others.

This regular decrease in muscle mass also leads to a simultaneous increase in fat mass and weight gain. Body composition starts changing, giving way to various chronic diseases. It leads to decreased activity level, bone density, and increased joint stiffness and conditions like Type 2 Diabetes, Obesity, Heart Disease, and Osteoporosis. 

As we grow older, our metabolism slows down for various reasons, like lower calorie intake, protein, sedentary lifestyle, and less quality sleep. Increased sugar intake and no exercise also cause the same. Slower metabolism again leads to accumulation of fat and increased weight, aggravating old age problems.

Along with old age and a sedentary lifestyle, our nutrition is the third most important reason for slow metabolism. Our overall diet and the amount of protein that we consume keep decreasing as we grow older. With reduced food intake, protein consumption also decreases. All these factors combined have a significant effect on our muscle mass. 

Elderly Mother Refuses to Eat

In such cases, you can not force-feed them, leading to further complications like diarrhea or constipation or various such issues. It can even result in vomiting and nausea or weaken the immune system or bacterial infections.

If the elders have decreased their calorie intake with an increase in age, it results in loss of body fat, weight loss, and loss of muscle. If they have reduced their food intake, it simply cannot increase as forcefully as it did when we were young. There are various reasons for elders to reduce food intake.

It can be due to changes in the digestive system, hormonal changes, disease, pain, sense of smell, taste, vision, and a decreased need for energy. It could also be due to emotional changes, like depression or a loss of a close relative. Changes in the digestive system can contribute to declining appetite. 

But fortunately, resistance exercise and endurance training are very effective in reversing the effects of Sarcopenia in adults and improving their health. Regular resistance & endurance training is a must to prevent muscle loss, and you cannot undermine the health benefits of both. These result in increased energy levels, and there are various other health & wellness benefits as well.

To correct the whole nutritional status, we have to shift to a high-protein diet. A healthy diet is a must for various protein sources, and recent studies suggest that older individuals’ protein requirement is more than youngsters. 

Proteins and Strength Training

We contacted several seniors to understand their viewpoints on their health & fitness, and they raised many questions on this topic. We will answer some of the common queries here.

The best diet for men over 50?

High protein foods for the elderly are a must. The daily protein requirement for adults should include 1 to 1.3 gm protein per kg of body weight against youngsters’ requirement of 0.8 gm. Similarly, over-50 females should also balance their best diet with high-quality protein intake. 

What is the best diet for seniors to lose weight?

A high protein, low-calorie diet is best for seniors to lose weight, and they should have a calorie deficit but with an increase in protein consumption. The best nutritional supplements for the elderly will be those with low calories and high proteins, and it will mean a diet with less fat and lesser carbs. In the long run, reducing primarily processed carbohydrates and substituting lean meats such as fish, chicken, eggs, and yogurt will be beneficial.

During old age, the craving for sugary products also increases. Due to its satiating properties, extra protein is more beneficial in curbing hunger and cravings for sugary foods. 

What is the healthiest diet for seniors?

The Mediterranean diet’s healthiest diet consists of more fruits & vegetables with moderate proteins and more fish but less red meat. They have various unique combinations in their diet. Their diet generally has fewer proteins, so elders will need to increase proteins in it. So the best diet for men over 50 is the one with an optimum level of macro-& micronutrients, keeping the calories in check.

What foods should you avoid after 50?

By this age, our metabolism starts decreasing. So, one must reduce processed food and drinks. Foods like cookies, chips, candies, etc., should be minimized. It will be even better to stop consuming these foods. These foods directly affect our heart and blood pressure, and eliminating them is a step in the right direction. 

What is the best protein drink for the elderly?

A high protein diet is essential for them to maintain muscle mass, if not grow it. A smoothie made with whey protein or casein is a perfect example of a nutritional drink for seniors. Other drinks like Ensure or Boost have various nutrients, but their protein content is only 8 to 12 percent. You can add multiple fruits like berries to have some variety, and these also provide natural sugar.

What is a good breakfast for seniors?

Keeping the protein needs of seniors in mind, they should have healthy tailor-made options for breakfast. Good breakfast with a heavy dose of proteins is vital, especially if they do their workout in the morning. It helps in repairing and rejuvenating the muscles and also keeps them satiated till lunchtime. So it can be eggs in any form, oatmeal with nuts, and multi-grain bread with peanut butter. You can have a fruit smoothie as well with a scoop of whey added to it. For a change, on some days you can have a banana or homemade potato wedges too.

What are good snacks for the elderly?

Whichever snacks are low in sugar and saturated fats are good nutrition for the elderly. So having potato chips is out of the question, and the best alternative is having fresh fruits, dry fruits, boiled vegetables, chicken or turkey slices, eggs, etc. 

Are bananas good for seniors?

Bananas are generally good food for the elderly. Seniors can act as mood boosters besides giving energy, and they relieve anxiety and depression, too, two of the main problems seniors face frequently.

What is the best diet for a 65-year-old woman?

Eat a wide variety of foods from the five food groups:

  • Plenty of colorful vegetables, legumes,/beans. 
  • Fruits of all seasons and types.
  • Grain (cereal) foods, mostly wholegrain and high-fiber varieties.
  • Lean meats and poultry, fish, eggs, tofu, nuts, and seeds
  • Milk, yogurt, cheese, or their alternatives, mainly reduced fat.

These can all be very healthy snacks for the elderly as well.

What are the three foods to never eat?

Avoid sweetened beverages, added sugar, and saturated fat. 

How do seniors maintain muscle mass?

How much is protein per day safe for seniors?

The average daily protein intake recommended for seniors is 1 gm per kg of body weight. So an older adult whose weight is 65 kg should have 65 gm protein every day spread over all the meals and snacks to avoid one heavy dose. The amount of protein consumed should also increase gradually with age, i.e., from 1 to 1.5. It is critical to growing protein intake progressively as we age to maintain a healthy weight and bone health.

How can an older woman lose belly fat?

Fighting belly fat is a lifelong battle for some. With problems like poor digestion, depression, low metabolism, less appetite, and decreased muscle strength, matters worsen. The biggest and boldest arsenal you can have against it is only a calorie deficit and regular exercise at whatever age. In old age, the battle becomes even fierce, or most give up against it. You will have to increase your protein, decrease sugar and saturated fats. The food should have more fruits, vegetables, and various grains.

How much protein does a 60-year-old woman need?

A 60-year-old woman needs to have 1 to 1.3 gm of protein for every kg of body weight and regularly do her strength training exercises.

Along with diet, strength & endurance exercise are equally important. On the one hand, we have a fit 80-year-old female weight lifter who is still breaking records; Ernestine Shepherd won her first weight lifting medal at the age of 71. She started weightlifting when she was 56. On the other hand, we have women much younger who give up. Where is the need to give up and suffer old age?

How can I boost my metabolism after 50?

Stop muscle loss through resistance training. Increasing muscle mass at any age can boost metabolism as more muscle mass burns more calories. So strength training to increase muscle mass is helpful. You can also increase metabolism by doing cardio regularly, like walking, running, cycling. Increasing water intake, too, helps in boosting it. There are various poses in yoga that help as well. These are Surya Namaskar, Locust Pose, Boat Pose, Bow Pose, Shoulder stand, Bridge Pose.