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September 2015

Healthy Aging to Protect Against Muscle Loss

Adequate protein and daily physical activity can help to guard against muscle loss.  It is estimated that after age 50, there is a one to two percent loss of muscle each year.  This can lead to a decline in strength, increased risk of falls, and a decline in mobility and independence.  Since protein is the building block for muscle, protein is vital to maintaining muscle mass.

How Much Protein Do You Need?
U.S. protein guidelines are 46 grams for women and 56 grams for men over the age of 19.  However, your requirements may be different!  Protein needs actually depend on your body weight. Experts indicate that current protein recommendations may not be optimal for healthy adults age 65+.  They suggest increasing protein to combat muscle loss.

The rule of thumb is .8 grams of protein per 2.2 pounds.  If you weigh 150 pounds, your protein needs are 55 grams daily.
However, recommendations are 1.0-1.2 grams per 2.2 pounds each day.  If you weigh 150 pounds, you would need 68-82 grams of protein daily!  

The Right Protein Balance

  • It is best to have your protein throughout the day instead of at just one meal. This may maximize the body’s ability to build muscle.
  • Breakfast may be the most challenging meal!  Try plain non-fat Greek yogurt with berries instead of cereal and milk.  This will really boost your protein.
  • Dinner may also be a challenge if lunch is your main meal.  Be mindful of protein needs.  If you have soup be sure to get low sodium and add protein such as chicken.
  • You can boos protein with healthy snacks including low fat string cheese or yogurt and fresh fruit.
  • Choose high quality protein including fish, poultry, lean meat, eggs/egg whites, and low fat or nonfat dairy products.  If you are vegetarian, soy is considered a high quality or complete protein.

The Bottom Line
In addition to adequate protein, physical activity plays a key role in maintaining muscle mass. 

Keep as active as you can.  Try to engage in daily physical activity including resistance training and aerobic exercise.  Check with your physician, physical therapist or health professional to see what the best exercise is for you!

NOTE:  Your protein needs may differ if you have certain medical conditions such as kidney disease. Check with your physician before making dietary changes.


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