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Fighting sarcopenia by boosting protein intake.

Protein vs Sarcopenia

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Protein vs Sarcopenia

This is Dr. Gabrielle Lyon. A medical doctor, she’s board-certified in family medicine, and has also engaged in research and clinical practice in the fields of geriatrics and nutritional sciences.

A quick note…

We’re going to be talking a bit about protein metabolism today, and it’s worth noting that Dr. Lyon personally is vehemently against vegetarianism/veganism, and considers red meat to be healthy.

Scientific consensus on the other hand, holds that vegetarianism and veganism are fine for most people if pursued in an informed and mindful fashion, that white meat and fish are also fine for most people, and red meat is simply not.

If you’d like a recap on the science of any of that:

Nevertheless, if we look at the science that she provides, the advice is sound when applied to protein in general and without an undue focus on red meat.

How much protein is enough?

In our article linked above, we gave 1–2g/kg/day

Dr. Lyons gives the more specific 1.6g/kg/day for adults older than 40 (this is where sarcopenia often begins!) and laments that many sources offer 0.8g/kg.

To be clear, that “per kilogram” means per kilogram of your bodyweight. For Americans, this means dividing lbs by 2.2 to get the kg figure.

Why so much protein?

Protein is needed to rebuild not just our muscles, but also our bones, joint tissues, and various other parts of us:

We Are Such Stuff As Fish Are Made Of

Additionally, our muscles themselves are important for far more than just moving us (and other things) around.

As Dr. Lyon explains: sarcopenia, the (usually age-related) loss of muscle mass, does more than just make us frail; it also messes up our metabolism, which in turn messes up… Everything else, really. Because everything depends on that.

This is because our muscles themselves use a lot of our energy, and/but also store energy as glycogen, so having less of them means:

  • getting a slower metabolism
  • the energy that can’t be stored in muscle tissue gets stored somewhere else (like the liver, and/or visceral fat)

So, while for example the correlation between maintaining strong muscles and avoiding non-alcoholic fatty liver disease may not be immediately obvious, it is clear when one follows the metabolic trail to its inevitable conclusion.

Same goes for avoiding diabetes, heart disease, and suchlike, though those things are a little more intuitive.

How can we get so much protein?

It can seem daunting at first to get so much protein if you’re not used to it, especially as protein is an appetite suppressant, so you’ll feel full sooner.

It can especially seem daunting to get so much protein if you’re trying to avoid too many carbs, and here’s where Dr. Lyon’s anti-vegetarianism does have a point: it’s harder to get lean protein without meat/fish.

That said, “harder” does not mean “impossible” and even she acknowledges that lentils are great for this.

If you’re not vegetarian or vegan, collagen supplementation is a good way to make up any shortfall, by the way.

And for everyone, there are protein supplements available if we want them (usually based on whey protein or soy protein)

Anything else we need to do?

Yes! Eating protein means nothing if you don’t do any resistance work to build and maintain muscle. This can take various forms, and Dr. Lyon recommends lifting weights and/or doing bodyweight resistance training (calisthenics, Pilates, etc).

Here are some previous articles of ours, consistent with the above:

Take care!

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