The Importance of Protein in an Elderly Diet

Peanut butter

The mention of high protein diets for many might conjure up images of bodybuilders and bulging biceps – true, as they do need to consume high levels of protein in order to build muscle. However, protein is an important part of the diet for everyone, and especially for seniors. Without enough protein the body starts to break down muscle mass and bone strength so you become frail and weak – this could lead to falls or being more susceptible to injury or illness. Research has shown that the elderly are not able to process protein as easily and so the body will require more in order to meet its needs, and generate responses in elderly adults similar to the responses in younger adults.

Protein is an essential nutrient for the human body. Protein is made up of amino acids, and serves as a fuel source but more importantly it is the building block every cell in your body relies upon to function properly - including muscles, bones, organs, skin, hair and nails. It is crucial for healing and repairing cells and body tissues; and for helping you to recover from injury, surgery or illness.

A higher protein diet can help to prevent the loss of muscle mass, strength and function (known as sarcopenia) that progressively occurs during ageing. It is especially important as we look to maintain good health and an independent quality of life for as long as possible.

As you age muscle mass decreases approximately 3–8% per decade after the age of 30 and this rate of decline is even higher after the age of 60 [¹].

Experts in the field of protein and ageing recommend a protein intake between 1.2 - 2.0 g for every kg of body weight per day, or higher for elderly adults [²]. The RDA of 0.8 g/kg/day is well below these recommendations.

Typical advice includes eating meat and dairy (dairy in particular also contains high levels of calcium which is especially important for maintaining bone health). As well as this there are some other simple ways for the elderly to plan and increase the amount of protein in their daily diet. It is important to find some high protein foods that they enjoy eating. Aim to swap a carbohydrate for a higher protein food with every meal and snack. For example:

  • ♦ Top up breakfast cereal portion with a sprinkling of nuts or seeds for some extra protein-packed energy. 

  • ♦ Swap jam on a slice of toast for nut butters such as peanut or almond.

  • ♦ Hard boil some eggs and keep them in the fridge for a quick high protein snack during the day.

  • ♦ Add beans to stews or soups for additional plant-based protein Protein shakes can also make a quick and easy protein source, and a convenient way to increase daily intake.

Particularly as older people may survive on a reduced food intake due to living on a budget, or quite often may suffer through a lack of appetite. It is important to choose a high quality protein powder that is free from additional sugars, such as The Native Whey.

Easily digestible and containing a high proportion of essential amino acids; this Whey protein isolate is micro filtered from grass fed cattle and has added Biocore Edge digestive enzymes. Containing no hormones or antibodies; Native Whey uses only high quality fresh milk, and adopts unique and clean technology, making it the purest whey protein available, with a preserved protein structure and properties that optimise the level of protein per serving – an impressive 94% protein content!

Native Whey is naturally rich in essential amino acids that cannot be synthesised by the body, including 15% more leucine than in a traditional whey protein isolate. Leucine is a key BCAA (branched chain amino acids) in muscle protein synthesis. This degree of naturally present leucine along with its complete amino acid pool, gives a unique nutritional fingerprint to the native whey protein matrix, triggering muscle protein synthesis to build and repair lean muscle; utilising the key amino acids.

It is available Unflavoured/Natural with no additions, or we have delicious flavoured options that include Belgium Chocolate, Madagascan Vanilla or Pina Colada. You can find further product information or order by visiting the Hellenia website Native Whey