Protein from food is used for many functions in the body, but one of its more known roles is maintaining muscle mass. It was once thought protein needs were more important for younger adults compared to older adults.
However, it is now recognized that protein requirements for older adults should not be overlooked. Getting enough protein in seniors can have important health benefits including counteracting age-related muscle loss (sarcopenia).
Wondering what the protein needs for seniors are and why it is so important? Read on for the ins and outs of senior protein needs and the best ways to get there.
Protein Requirements by Age
The minimum recommendation for protein for any age for a healthy adult is 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight according to the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA). So, if a person is 65 kilograms (weight in pounds divided by 2.2), their adequate protein amount per day according to the RDA would be 65 x 0.8 = 52 grams of daily protein.
Keep in mind the RDA amount is the bare amount required for optimal health, and most Americans currently consume about 1.5 times the RDA for protein. Specific protein needs can vary depending on fitness goals, medical conditions, or if women are pregnant or breastfeeding.
Protein Needs for Seniors
The RDA recommendation of 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight may still be found for older adults. However, research studies suggest that most people over the age of 65 years should take in about 1 g to 1.2 g of protein/kilogram of body weight per day to help both maintain and build muscle mass and function.
Put another way, seniors can (and should) get up to 35% of their daily calories from protein. An exception for this recommendation is any older adult who has any kidney dysfunction or other medical condition affecting the way the body handles protein.
Along with getting enough dietary protein, exercise for seniors should also be encouraged for optimal muscle mass and strength.
Why Meeting Protein Requirements for Older Adults is Vital
One of the major threats to living independently with older adults is the loss of muscle mass, strength, and function. Consequently, a loss of muscle mass can also increase the risk for mortality and/or developing secondary diseases such as cardiovascular disease.
Getting adequate protein can help offset muscle and unintentional weight loss with aging. Research studies have shown protein intake greater than the lowest recommended amounts will help improve muscle health, prevent sarcopenia, with weight management, and cardiovascular health.
Best Protein for Seniors
Seniors may have a harder time reaching protein and total calorie needs, as appetite often declines with age. Therefore, serving appetizing meals and snacks is important, including these protein-rich sources:
- Animal meats and seafood are high in protein and contain all essential amino acids. Chicken, eggs, salmon, sirloin, tuna, and turkey are all great sources of protein.
- Dairy products supply protein, calcium, and other nutrients that positively influence aging and health. Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, dairy milk, and cheese are
- Vegetarian-based foods such as soy, nuts/seeds, beans, peanut butter, and whole grains can also provide protein. As long as there is a variety of plant-based proteins in the diet and in high enough quantities, protein needs can be met this way if desired.
- Protein shakes and supplements, including whey protein and vegan options, can help seniors meet protein needs. However, emphasis on protein needs should be focused on coming from whole foods first and supplementing as needed. If seniors are drinking protein shakes in place of meals, total calorie levels can dip too low.
Besides total protein quantity, it is also important to consider the timing of protein intake. Ideally, equal amounts of 25 to 30 grams of protein per meal are recommended for optimal protein absorption and fueling healthy muscle maintenance.
However, eating smaller meals in addition to high-protein snacks may be more realistic for some seniors. It is also an easy way to bump up other nutrients in the diet such as fiber and antioxidants.
Silver Cuisine and Protein Needs for Seniors
Silver Cuisine is an a la carte meal delivery service that provides doctor-designed and chef-prepared meals delivered straight to doorsteps.
Founding physician Dr. Caroline Cederquist has devoted her life to helping her patients achieve maximum health and wellness. And using medically-based science, correct portion sizes, and, most of all, paying special attention to providing exceptional taste, Silver Cuisine is an easy solution for older adults looking for healthy, delicious, and easy meals.
And thanks to an easy ordering process, simply filter by special diets to meet dietary needs, including heart-healthy, gluten-free, diabetic, low-sodium, dairy-free, Mediterranean, and vegetarian options. You also have the freedom to order as many meals and snacks as desired, all without commitments or minimum orders.
So if you want to take the guesswork out of meal planning and preparation, Silver Cuisine has the ability to make it all delicious and nutritious for you!
Protein Requirements for Older Adults Recap
Getting optimal protein is vital for older adults to help maintain muscle strength and overall health. Research has shown getting the optimal amount of 1-1.2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight (or 30-35% of daily calories) can be key for seniors limiting the decline of muscle mass associated with aging along with the appropriate physical activity.
Ideally, protein intake should be spread out evenly throughout meals and snacks for optimal protein absorption. Silver Cuisine is one way to help make eating nourishing, higher protein meals and snacks for seniors easy with taking out the shopping, meal prep, cooking, and cleaning up.
Baum JI, Kim IY, Wolfe RR. Protein Consumption and the Elderly: What Is the Optimal Level of Intake?. Nutrients. 2016;8(6):359. Published 2016 Jun 8. doi:10.3390/nu8060359
Graham J. Why older adults should eat more protein (and not overdo protein shakes). Kaiser Health News. Published June 5, 2019. https://khn.org/news/why-older-adults-should-eat-more-protein-and-not-overdo-protein-shakes/.
Webb D. Protein for fitness: Age demands greater protein needs. Today’s Dietitian. Published April 2015. https://www.todaysdietitian.com/newarchives/040715p16.shtml.