The Role of Protein in Maintaining Health and Function During Aging

Ageing is natural and inevitable, and it brings with it numerous changes to our bodies. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle and adequate nutrition plays a vital role in promoting overall well-being during the ageing process. One macronutrient that is of particular importance in this context is protein. This blog will explore the significance of protein in maintaining health and function as we age, with a focus on muscle mass, bone density, and other vital physiological functions that can decline with ageing. We’ll also tell you about why getting regular protein blood tests is important for the early detection and prevention of any associated diseases.

The Reason Protein Matters for Keeping Muscles Healthy

Did you know that beginning in our 40s, we start losing muscle mass at an average rate of between 3 – 8% every 10 years?! This condition, known as sarcopenia, can have far-reaching implications on not just how we look but also on how fit and active we are overall. You see, muscle is mostly protein, and hence ample consumption of this macronutrient can go a long way toward reducing any sarcopenia-related probabilities. 

As a result, we suggest that you get frequent protein blood tests and total protein tests. That’s because regular protein blood tests and total protein tests can help you detect any problems early. Moreover, getting total protein tests or protein blood tests can help you in modifying your lifestyle to prevent any further diseases.

Animal products such as meats and eggs are high-quality sources for keeping muscle mass high. However, plant-based proteins such as nuts, beans, grains, seeds, or even supplements derived from algae are also great choices! Eating a few servings of these each day can greatly benefit you.


Role of Protein in Maintaining Muscle Mass

Age-related muscle loss (sarcopenia)

Sarcopenia is the age-related loss of skeletal muscle mass and function, which can lead to a decline in strength, mobility, and overall quality of life. It is estimated that after the age of 50, we lose approximately 1-2% of our muscle mass per year. This gradual loss can ultimately result in frailty, increased risk of falls, and loss of independence.

Protein synthesis and muscle maintenance

Protein is essential for maintaining and repairing our muscles. Our bodies constantly break down and rebuild muscle tissue through a process called protein synthesis. The amino acids found in dietary protein are the building blocks required for this process. The quality of protein sources is determined by their amino acid profile, with some proteins containing all 9 essential amino acids in ample quantities, making them complete protein sources.

  1. Amino acid profile and quality of protein sources: The quality of protein sources varies, with animal-based proteins (e.g., meat, poultry, fish, dairy, and eggs) generally providing all essential amino acids and being more easily absorbed by the body. Plant-based proteins (e.g., legumes, nuts, seeds, and grains) are often lower in one or more essential amino acids but we can combine it to create complete protein sources.
  2. Protein intake recommendations for older adults: As we age, our bodies become less efficient at utilising protein, necessitating an increased intake to maintain muscle mass. The recommended daily protein intake for older adults is 1.0 to 1.2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight, which is higher than the 0.8 grams per kilogram recommended for younger adults.

Exercise and protein intake for muscle health

  1. Resistance training: Incorporating resistance training exercises, such as weight lifting, bodyweight exercises, and resistance bands, can help stimulate muscle protein synthesis and slow down the progression of sarcopenia. Regular resistance training, combined with adequate protein intake, can effectively maintain or even increase muscle mass in older adults.
  2. Protein supplementation and timing: Research suggests that consuming protein shortly after exercise may enhance the muscle-building effects of resistance training. Protein supplements, such as whey protein or plant-based protein powders, can be a great way to meet protein requirements, particularly when combined with a balanced diet.

Role of Protein in Maintaining Bone Density

Age-related bone loss (osteoporosis)

Osteoporosis is a condition where your bone density decreases, making bones more fragile and susceptible to fractures. Age-related bone loss occurs as the balance between bone resorption (breakdown) and formation shifts, leading to a net loss of bone mass over time. Hence, consider getting regular total protein tests or protein blood tests to keep this condition at bay.

Protein and bone remodelling process

  1. Protein’s role in collagen synthesis: Protein plays a crucial role in the bone remodelling process by contributing to the synthesis of collagen, a protein forming the structural framework for bones. Adequate protein intake is essential for maintaining bone strength and preventing osteoporosis.
  2. Calcium and protein balance: Calcium is another essential nutrient for maintaining bone health. Some studies have suggested that a high-protein diet may lead to an increased excretion of calcium through urine. However, recent research indicates that the positive effects of protein on bone health may outweigh any potential negative effects on calcium balance. In fact, a diet rich in protein, when combined with sufficient calcium and vitamin D intake, may promote bone health and reduce the risk of osteoporosis.


Dietary strategies to support bone health


Adequate protein intake: To maintain bone density, it is essential to consume sufficient amounts of protein, following the recommended daily intake guidelines mentioned earlier. It is also crucial to include both animal and plant-based protein sources in the diet to ensure a balanced consumption of essential amino acids.

Calcium-rich foods and vitamin D supplementation: In addition to protein, incorporating calcium-rich foods like dairy products, leafy greens, and fortified cereals is vital for bone health. Since vitamin D plays a critical role in calcium absorption, older adults may also benefit from vitamin D supplementation, particularly in regions with limited sunlight exposure.



In summary, protein plays a critical role in maintaining health and function during the ageing process. By supporting muscle mass, bone density, immune function, and cognitive health, protein is essential for promoting overall well-being in older adults. To optimise protein intake and support healthy ageing, it is crucial to incorporate a variety of high-quality protein sources from both animal and plant-based foods into your diet. Additionally, combining protein intake with regular exercise, particularly resistance training, can further enhance muscle health and slow the progression of age-related decline.

Think you might be suffering from low protein levels? Book a protein blood test or total protein test immediately!

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