Here’s an eye opener: A few years ago, a Stanford University study concluded that the single best predictor of ending up in a nursing home is leg strength. As we age, our muscles weaken and atrophy. How do we combat this? If you’re like me, a guy of a “certain age,” you find that your gym routine isn’t what it used to be. You’re doing fewer reps and getting by with lighter weights.

Increasing your protein intake can make a difference. In short, a comprehensive study conducted at McMaster University in Canada concluded that people over 40 who train with weights – men and women– should consume nearly ¾ gram of protein per pound of bodyweight everyday. For a 200-pound guy, that’s 150 grams of protein (equivalent to 25 eggs!) For a 120-pound woman, that’s 90 grams. If you’re not an avid body builder, I bet you’re not having that much.

Nutritional experts differ widely on the right amount of protein. Serious weightlifters say the number is one gram per pound of bodyweight. Current federal guidelines suggest a much lower amount: about 56 grams/day for men and 46 grams/day for women.

Researchers at McMaster used databases of past studies. They looked for trials that had lasted at least a month-and-a-half. They used a control group and carefully tracked both protein intake as well as changes to muscle size and strength. They wound up with 49 high-quality studies covering nearly 1900 individuals.

The answer to the basic question: “ Will more protein during weight training improve muscle size and strength?” was a resounding YES. Men and women who ate more protein while weight training gained an extra 25 percent in muscle mass and 10 percent in strength vs. the control.

Other takeaways:

• All protein sources are effective: not just protein supplements, beef, chicken, yogurt and even protein from peas or quinoa

• The right amount of protein intake, wound up being 1.6 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight daily. This translates to .73 grams per pound. More protein does not lead to significantly better results.

Caring Corner

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About the Author:

Lorenzo Mejia and his wife, Mary Lynn Ryerson, are the owners of Acorn, a caregiver registry located in Chapel Hill.

They founded Acorn based on their experiences caring for his mom, who suffered with Alzheimer’s Disease. In 2013, he became a Qualified Dementia Care Specialist. In 2014, the Alzheimer’s Foundation named him the Dementia Care Professional of the Year in the United States.
Lorenzo is the founder of Dementia Friendly Orange County an effort to make local businesses more accommodating to people with dementia.

Lorenzo speaks often on dementia and the challenges associated with caring for loved ones. He has been interviewed by ABC News and National Public Radio. He is an advisor to Orange County’s OC-CARES Dementia Capable Community Project.