Eating protein throughout the day could be the key to maintaining muscle strength in old age, new research suggests.
An even protein intake throughout the day is associated with greater muscle strength in both sexes as they grow older, a study found.
Yet, frequently eating protein is only linked to improved mobility in elderly men, the research adds.
Eating protein with every meal is thought to replace that which is constantly being broken down. This occurs at a faster rate in older people.
An egg or tablespoon of peanut butter with every meal should be sufficient to boost a person’s protein intake, according to experts.
How the study was carried out
Researchers from McGill University in Montreal analyzed 827 men and 914 women aged between 67 and 84 over three years.
The study’s participant’s muscle strength was assessed by measuring their hand grip, as well as their arm and leg strength.
Their mobility was determined by their ability to stand up from a seated position and their walking speed.
Protein intake was assessed by asking the participants what they ate over two 24-hour periods.
Even protein intake builds muscle
Results reveal that having an even protein intake is associated with greater muscle strength in both sexes.
Eating protein throughout the day is only linked to improved mobility in men.
Muscle strength declined more than mobility over the three-year study.
Study author Stephanie Chevalier said: ‘The important point is to create three meal occasions with sufficient protein to stimulate muscle building and greater strength, instead of just one.’
The findings were published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
Lona Sandon, assistant professor in clinical nutrition at the University of Texas Southwestern, who was not involved in the study, said: ‘Muscle protein is constantly being broken down and built back up.’
This occurs at a faster rate in older people.
Professor Sandon added: ‘Eating protein throughout the day seems to be a means to stay in a positive protein balance longer than just eating most of your protein for the day in the evening meal.’
How much protein does a person need?
Previous research reveals adults should consume a minimum of 0.003lb (1.2g) of protein per 2.2lb (1kg) of body weight a day.
For a 155lb (70kg) man, that is the equivalent of around 0.19lb (85g) of protein a day. Spread across breakfast, lunch and dinner, that would mean about 0.06lb (28g) of protein per meal.
A 130lb (59kg) woman requires just under 0.06lb of protein per meal.
Some 0.06lb of protein is around one egg or a tablespoon of peanut butter.