For most people muscles grow larger and stronger each year from birth, but by around age 40, you start to lose muscle mass and function. This aging phenomenon is called sarcopenia and everyone will face it. Those who do not get a lot of physical activity can lose up to 5% of their muscle mass every decade after turning 30!
So, what can you do to maintain muscle as you grow older? Remaining physically active will definitely help, but a recent study suggests that the timing of your daily protein intake could make a big difference also. For a long time, we have been taught that ensuring we get sufficient protein each day is key, but now there is new research to suggest that eating protein at breakfast, lunch, and dinner is just as important.
Researchers looked at a group of 1,741 healthy older men and women and followed them for three years. They assessed strength and mobility when the study began, and then tracked participants’ diets and measured their strength at the end of the study. Even though people ate approximately the same amount of overall protein, those who ate protein at all three meals throughout the day were stronger at the end of the study than those who consumed most of their protein at dinner.
Further research is needed to validate these findings. But for those concerned about losing muscle with age, making sure you consume enough high-quality protein at least three times throughout the day could prove very beneficial in the long run.
Source: The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, July 2017