Should people over 50 eat more protein? And does this need to be timed with exercise?
Losing muscle mass is a significant problem with age. Combined with an increase in fat mass, this can lead to decreased ability to carry out daily tasks, increased prospects for dangerous weight gain and a greater potential for damaging falls. Weight training has been proposed as a possible way of at least maintaining, if not increasing muscle mass amongst those in the sixth decade of life and beyond. But studies examining this have had conflicting results, giving rise to the suggestion amongst some medical practitioners, that lean body mass loss is an inevitable function of ageing.
To test the effects of nutrition with weight training, scientists have compared the results of weight training in older men after eating a normal omnivorous diet or a lacto-vegetarian diet. They’ve found increases in strength in both groups, justifying resistance training as an effective technique for improving muscle function with age. But muscle mass usually increases in the meat-eating group whereas it decreases in the vegetarian group.This suggests that while vegetarian diets may be healthy in older age, they could have disadvantages in the limited amount of protein supplied, particularly if resistance muscle work is employed, as it should be for musculo-skeletal benefits in the aged.
In answer to the second part of the question: more recent research has shown that protein is best taken up in muscle if eaten within 1 hour before or 2 hours after resistance exercise.
Dr Garry Egger aka Prof Trim
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