Retain More Muscle With Eat More Protein

We continually hear that to lose weight and remain healthy, we should limit our meat consumption each meal to the size of a deck of cards. For beef, chicken, or fish, that size equates to about a four-ounce serving. Depending on the type of meat, that works out to 20 to 30 grams of protein. Protein consumption in this country is estimated to be five to six grams at breakfast, 10 to 12 grams at lunch, and around 60 grams at dinner. But research indicates that if you want to keep the muscle mass you currently have and stimulate new muscle growth to replace what has been lost—both of which are crucial to remaining strong and functional as you age—you have to consume more protein than that.

According to two dose-response studies, young men required 20 grams of quality protein (whey) per meal to stimulate muscle growth following exercise, but older men needed twice that amount—40 grams per meal—to achieve the same stimulation.

These studies used whey protein because it has a higher concentration of the branched-chain amino acids including leucine, which is the key to repairing and gaining muscle tissue with age.

Selecting Protein Sources

While fruits and vegetables are an important part of the overall diet, they don’t provide the amino acid profile needed to build or retain muscle. And while soy might be touted as a great protein, whey or even milk protein (which contains whey and casein) is far superior at putting on lean muscle tissue.

I’ve found that the most convenient way to ensure I’m getting enough high-quality protein every day is to make a shake with whey protein powder each morning. Right now, I use Bioplex 100% Whey Protein with skim milk and ice. The one downside of this product is that it’s sweetened with sucralose. The amount used is so low that I think the tradeoff in price, quality, and quantity is worth it for now, but I’m continually trying and testing different brands.

If you can’t afford a protein powder, researchers found that drinking skim milk after exercise can also boost lean muscle mass and strength, decrease body fat, and possibly reduce bone turnover in women after two weeks.