Dietitians Dish: Protein helps build muscle

By Elizabeth Sommerfeld
May 27, 2014 at 12:27 a.m.

Protein intake may be more important than we previously thought. Did you know that there is a 0.5 to 1 percent decrease in lean body mass every year after the age of 40?

This loss of lean body mass is called sarcopenia and affects close to 30 percent of those older than 60 and more than 50 percent of those older than 80. After the age of 30, we lose about 3 to 8 percent of our lean body mass every decade. So what can you do to help not become a statistic?

One important factor is resistance training. Resistance training can be considered using weights or your own body weight to help build muscle. Ideally, you would want to do full-bodied, multi-joint movements such as squats, wall sits and push-ups. However, resistance training is good at building muscles, but in order to gain muscle mass, we have to feed those muscles.

The amount of protein to consume varies from age to exercise level. For the general population, the recommended daily allowance is 0.8 gm/kg of body weight. However, new research is indicating that the recreational exerciser needs to consume 0.5 to 0.7 gm/pound of body weight, which is 1.5 to 2 times as much as the Recommended Dietary Allowances.

For endurance athletes, recommendations are 0.5 to 0.8 gm/pound, strength training people should take in 0.5 to 0.8 gm/pound and for those on calorie restricted diets, and intake should be even higher at 0.8 to 0.9 gm/pound.

Also, the timing of the protein consumption is important.

After any resistance training or exercise, it is recommended to consume the protein as soon as possible. For greatest turnover of protein intake into lean body mass, it's best to consume the protein within one to two hours of the exercise.

Research also shows that 20 to 30 grams of protein per meal is the best way to provide adequate protein to the body throughout the day.

Eating inadequate protein at breakfast and overeating protein at dinner will not have the same benefit to the body as eating the 20 to 30 grams at each of the meals.

Our bodies can only absorb 30 grams of protein at one time, so any meal or supplement above that level will not be utilized and the excess can be stored as excess calories or fat.

The type of protein consumption is important, too. Whey protein isolate is one of the best sources of protein to consume.

This can be taken in the form of powder or even as simple as milk.

The combination of the protein with carbohydrate has been proven to provide the best results when attempting to lose body fat and gain muscle mass.

So remember to do some resistance training, eat enough protein throughout the day and consume a carbohydrate/protein source (ideally with whey protein isolate) after a workout to help burn body fat and gain muscle mass.

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Elizabeth Sommerfeld is the bariatric coordinator for DeTar Healthcare System and the nutrition manager at Jackson County Hospital District. Send questions or comments to



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