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January 19, 2023
Over 50? This Is How Much Protein You Need Each Day
Do you know if you’re getting enough protein for your age? Our guess: probably not.
This isn’t another article written for the bodybuilders or the superhumans out there. This article is written for those over 50 who are wondering if their protein intake should increase or decrease with age (cast your votes now before reading the next line!)…
The short and simple answer: As you get older, you actually need MORE protein.
As your body ages, protein is a key building block to staying healthy, strong, and independent. It’s what helps your body…
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Reduce unhealthy cravings
- Boost immunity
- Increase muscle mass
- Improve balance
- Strengthen bones
- Keeps joints strong
- Increase fat burn
- Boost metabolism
- Lower blood pressure
- Prevent sarcopenia (age-related loss of muscle mass and strength) (1)
And yet, it can be hard for older adults to get the amount of protein they need: Appetite often decreases, making it more difficult to consume enough food to get the recommended amount of protein. Metabolism slows down, making it harder to digest and absorb food (which can lead to malnutrition). And lastly, some older adults may not have the same access to healthy protein-rich foods due to mobility issues, difficulty getting to the grocery store and carrying bags of groceries, or they’re on a limited budget that makes it hard to afford higher-priced foods such as lean meats or seafood (2, 3).
In this article, we’ll cover exactly how much protein you need if you’re an adult over 50, along with simple tips on how to increase your daily protein intake.
Optimal Daily Protein Intake, by Age Range
While experts agree that protein is vital, many still disagree on exactly how much daily protein is enough (4). The recommendation range is large, with dietitians saying that you need anywhere from 10% and 35% of your daily caloric intake to come from protein (5, 6).
However, for the average sedentary adult UNDER the age of 50, the suggested protein intake is 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight, or 0.36 grams of protein per pound.
For example, someone who weighs 75 kilograms (or 165 pounds) should aim to eat 60 grams of protein each day. And if that person is more physically active, their daily protein requirements increase.
So, why do you need more protein as you age?
Well, just like your natural collagen begins to decrease in your 20s, your muscles begin to decrease in your late 30s or 40s—and continue declining each year, only to ramp up to an even greater annual loss around age 50 (7). This age-related loss of muscle mass and strength is called sarcopenia (8, 9).
To prevent this and to live an active life for longer, it’s recommended that older adults increase their protein intake as they age. Not all experts agree on which age should prompt a protein increase (as many factors can impact your individual protein goal) but many experts suggest increasing your intake in your 50s (10).
A variety of factors go into your daily protein needs. If you have unique circumstances, you can calculate your protein needs on a very specific level with the help of your doctor, or with this handy calculator.
Simple Tips to Increase Your Daily Protein Intake
If you’re not getting enough protein each day, there are five simple things you can do…
1. Eat Protein For Breakfast
Rather than loading up on the traditional carb-heavy breakfast (think: pancakes, cereal, or toast), opt for a protein-rich breakfast. Not only will you be doing good for your body, you’ll feel more energized throughout the day. (And if weight loss is one of your goals this year, this small habit will help!)
2. Add In More Protein-Rich Foods
The most direct (and obvious) way to increase your protein intake is to add more protein to your diet. You can increase your serving of foods like fish, eggs, lean meats, poultry, nuts, beans, lentils, and other legumes.
Need more protein ideas? Read this blog next: Which Types of Protein Should You Be Eating Each Day? Here Are 21 Healthy Ideas
3. Supplement With Collagen
Just one scoop of collagen peptides has 9 grams of protein, and we recommend that people take at least two scoops a day (that’s 18 grams of protein, with just collagen!).
Not only is collagen an essential protein for your body as you age—but it also contains 19 out of the 20 amino acids.
Amino acids are the literal building blocks for proteins and can help repair and build muscle, as well as provide energy and support the immune system. They also help regulate hormones, reduce inflammation, aid in digestion, and improve mood, focus, and memory.
NativeTip: To find out how much collagen you should take each day, read this article next: This Is How Much Collagen You Need Each Day to See and Feel Results
4. During Meals, Eat Your Protein First
One easy trick to get more protein is deceptively simple: eat the protein source on your plate before eating the other food in your meal—especially before starches. If you’re eating a dish that includes a piece of chicken and a roll, go for the chicken first. This way your body will have time to load up on protein before the roll makes you too full to eat anything else. Another great habit shift is to make sure you include at least one high-protein food with every meal you eat. If meat is a regular part of your diet, reach for leaner and somewhat larger cuts of meat.
5. Spread Your Protein Throughout the Day
Spreading out protein consumption throughout the day is important to ensure that your body has a steady supply of amino acids to build and repair muscle. It’s recommended to have around 20 to 30 grams of protein at each meal, and if needed, you can have smaller snacks in between meals to reach your daily protein goal.
- The older you get, the more important it is to get enough protein if you want to live an active, healthy, and independent life.
- As you age, you naturally lose muscle strength, and it gets harder to get the protein you need. Even though older adults need more daily protein than younger adults.
- Daily protein guidelines vary by age, lifestyle, and body, but the average adult under 50 should aim to get 0.8 g of protein per kg of body weight every day. The average adult over 50 should consume 1.1 to 1.5 g of protein per kg of body weight each day.
- You can increase your daily protein intake with protein-rich food, supplements like collagen, and small habit shifts like eating a high-protein breakfast and eating the protein on your plate first.
As a writer, editor, and wellness seeker, Claire has written for Self, Health, Prevention, CNN, Mic, Livestrong, and Greatist, just to name a few. When she's not writing, she specializes in traveling, getting lost in health-related research rabbit holes, and finding new ways to spoil her cat.
This content is for informational and educational purposes only. It is not intended to provide medical advice or to take the place of such advice or treatment from a personal physician. All readers/viewers of this content are advised to consult their doctors or qualified health professionals regarding specific health questions. Neither Dr. Chad Walding nor the publisher of this content takes responsibility for possible health consequences of any person or persons reading or following the information in this educational content. All viewers of this content, especially those taking prescription or over-the-counter medications, should consult their physicians before beginning any nutrition, supplement, or lifestyle program.