The Importance of Protein for Seniors

As we age we lose muscle particularly when lacking protein and frequent exercise and also lacking vitamin D. But seniors eat less protein and are less efficient in digesting protein and breaking down and converting protein into muscle (sarcopenia). Hence seniors require more protein than in youth. This article describes ways to retain protein to help achieve long term goals and at the same time increase longevity.

Useful Facts:

1. Health authorities recommend an inactive adult should consume I gram of protein for every kg of weight. An active athlete should consume 1.2 to 1.3 grams per kg, but ideally paired also with resistive training twice per week. A serious weight trainer needs 1.5grams/kg.

2. Usually, the majority of protein consumption during the day is at dinner. Whereas, protein should ideally be consumed equally at each meal. For example, a 150 pound (70kg) athlete should consume about 90gr protein per day. Or about 30gr at each meal. For example, I am not doing this and am also a vegetarian, but do consume fish and chicken regularly. The section below titled, High Protein Foods, will assist balancing the protein at each meal.

3. After about age 50, the non-exercisers start to lose muscle significantly faster, or about 2% per year. But those active can lose as little as 0.2% per year up to about age 70. For example, I believe I did not lose significant muscle from age 60 to 69 as my race times in the 800m increased by only 3 seconds.

4. I have always believed intuitively muscle strength is a good indicator of longevity. As I suspected research confirms this, for example: “Grip strength is a good predictor of longevity as it indicates lower risk of life-threatening diseases and hence increased longevity”: a 2018 BMJ study of a half million people from age 40 to 69.

5. Be aware excess fat in the diet particularly above 35% of daily calories hampers protein conversion to muscle.

6. It is important to not lack protein in the diet for muscle growth, tissue repair, healthy enzymes, fewer health problems, even stronger bones and a robust immune system, longevity, etc. Also protein increases satiety the feeling of fullness.

7. It is important to have the major amino acid, Leucine, in the diet to preserve muscle mass, as it is an essential amino acid— meaning it must be obtained from the diet. Foods high in leucine from high to low are: soybeans, beef, chicken , pork, nuts and seeds, fish, tuna, beans, milk, cheese, squash, and eggs. Fortunately, Leucine is obtained from most foods such as meats ,fish, vegetables, lentils and dairy products.

8. Be also aware, excess protein causes excess body fat. And If protein is lacking in the diet it is taken from muscle: called muscle wasting.

High Proteins Foods:

– Whey powder isolate usually 30 grams with about 95% protein
– Beef, salmon, chicken, pork, from 27 to 22gram/3.5 oz.
– Plain Greek yogurt 2 %, 23 gr/cup
– Cottage cheese low fat, 15gr/1/2 cup
– Tofu 11gr/1/2cup
– Oats porridge 6 gr/cup
– Tofu: 8gr/3oz or 100gr
– Beans 8gr/1/2 cup
– Skim milk 8gr/cup
– Lentils 8gr/cup
– Cashews, almonds, pumpkin seeds 5gr/1/4 cup
– Peanut butter 4gr/1/4 cup
– 1 egg 6gr
– Avocado 4gr/avocado
– Quinoa 4g/1/2 cup
– Other good proteins: beans of all sorts, chick peas, and multi- grain bread.

Avoid refined sugar, baked goods, fruit drinks, and soda drinks


To achieve your long- term goals, reduce disease, and live longer: exercise daily or frequently, eat the required amount of protein, spread over 3 meals and add the daily vitamin D supplement. It is never too late to start.

The photo by Alex Rotas is my 800m world record race in age group 80-84 in 2011 at Budapast, Hungary Indoor Worlds— and also my world record in the 400m. It took me 2 hours to recover from the 400 in view of my limited speed training on a tight turn 180m indoor track and a bad fall on ice 3 weeks before the meet.


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