Normal metabolism entails muscle tissues being broken down and rebuilt constantly at all ages. But as we age, the rebuilding part of the process, known as anabolism, slows down significantly. Reduced muscle synthesis results in functional decline and potentially even reduced independence, as the body gets weaker and more prone to injury. Sarcopenia – muscle loss related to age, is seen as an unavoidable consequence of reaching senior years. However, health professionals understand muscle loss much better now and modern medicine has advanced, giving us new insights into avoiding sarcopenia and maintaining muscle mass.
Research indicates that a diet rich in quality protein, such as whey, can significantly help seniors reduce muscle wasting. A healthy diet paired with exercise is important, but it is difficult for many seniors to achieve, and sometimes simply not enough to drastically delay physiological decline. This especially stands for those that need to counter the activity and nutritional choices made earlier in life. That’s where nutritional supplementation is suggested.
When milk is acidified, some of the proteins clump into curds, and the leftover white liquid is whey. If you’ve seen liquid floating atop yogurt – that’s whey too. In the process of cheese-making, whey was once thrown away, until we learned about its highly nutritional value. It is packed with a wide range of high-quality proteins which are rich in essential amino acids, crucial to maintaining skeletal muscle. Whey protein is commonly available in powder form so people usually mix it into shakes to boost protein intake and thus stimulate muscle growth.
Seniors and whey protein supplementation
The muscle-building benefits of whey are largely attributed to its rich amino acid content. However, a study published in 2008 researching whey protein ingestion in elderly adults gives us very interesting insight. This study found that ingesting an equivalent amount of amino acid supplements proved to be less effective than whey protein. So, taking amino acids separately resulted in lower degree of muscle gain in seniors, suggesting that the benefits of whey protein for elders goes beyond the amino acid intake. This is most likely because whey stimulates blood insulin levels, helping to utilize glucose for muscle building more effectively.
A recent study published in 2017 also deals with seniors and whey protein supplementation. The participants were “healthy older man”, with an average age of 73. The conclusion of the study states that “twice daily consumption of a multi-ingredient nutritional supplement increased muscle strength and lean mass in older men. Increases in strength were enhanced further with exercise training.” This multi-ingredient supplement contained calcium, vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids along with creatine and a higher amount of whey protein.
So the general idea is that whey protein shakes definitely can help seniors delay sarcopenia. However, experts suggest that it is much more effective when taken after exercise, because that’s when muscle tissues are most ready to make use of the raised amino acid levels. Resistance training holds a key role in maintaining muscle mass; any form of exercise that you’re comfortable with will be of great benefit.
If you’re ready to give this a try as part of your effort to live a healthy life, be prepared with some basic knowledge prior to shopping. There are two main types of whey protein powder: isolate and wpc protein. The former contains 90% protein and smaller amounts of lactose and fat, and is therefore more expensive. Wpc, which is short for “whey protein concentrate” contains smaller amounts of protein (the ones with better quality contain 80%) but also does the job, and at a smaller price. Suggested protein intake for older adults is between 0.45 to 0.55 grams per pound of body weight daily. There are many different manufacturers so pay attention and compare to make sure you’re getting products of the highest quality.
For someone who is very weak or injured, the recommended dosage can be increased for more effective results. Either way, don’t do any shopping before consulting your physician about the appropriate requirements in regard to your physical condition. Cases vary and it’s always highly recommended to first discuss supplementation with your health care team; if you take any sort of medication, consulting your doctor first is an absolute must.
There are many delicious smoothie recipes that you can use in combination with whey protein powder – all you need is a blender. They make for a really great, nutritious snack after your workout. That’s right, a snack – don’t use them as replacement for dinner. Pack your diet with nutrients and if you have weakening bones or risk osteoporosis, include vitamin D and calcium supplements as well.
Aging comes with wonderful serenity, as your priorities get clearer with time and you care less what others think. The physiological changes that come along are the not-so-wonderful part of it, but with some nifty supplementation, a diverse diet and regular exercise, you can counter these changes and live your healthiest life.
This guest post was graciously provided by designed and blogger, Catherine Palmer.