We all know that protein is the building block of muscle and that muscle is good, whether you are wanting to be a bodybuilder a runner or just to stay fit and healthy so you can keep up with the kids without getting out of breath, additionally increased muscle mass no matter how small increases our BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate) and helps to keep us more trim.
There are many components and facets to this but I wanted to do a really deep dive into protein because largely the message is “more is better” without really explaining why, I want to look into and talk about the pre-cursors to protein and the effect age has on us being able to synthesise protein effectively and what steps we should be taking to make sure that as we age we adjust our intake accordingly to make sure that while we are all living longer we are also all living Better.
All Proteins are not created equal
Protein has a value attached to it called it’s BV or Biological Value, this is an index that rates how easy it is for the body to absorb and process the source of protein provided, as a general rule of thumb, animal protein has a higher BV due to the fact that it carries a full compliment of the essential Amino Acids to support the process, of course for a vegetarian and vegan diets there are ways of consuming these amino acids and these should be looked at and considered when your diet is either of these, Ok so to give you an idea of what the Biological value of some popular foods is I have created a table below.
And when you start to factor in the various other issues around protein consumption it is not difficult to see how this subject quickly becomes very complicated.
Protein is synthesised differently as we age and it is advisable to consider how much protein is taken in as you may need more to achieve the same effect, it could also be advisable to supplement with Amino acids, and foods with a high Leucine content to support protein synthesis as the mechanisms become blunted, there is no real advice that I have been able to find as to how much more to take in, but all studies agree that smaller amounts of protein taken over the course of a day, as opposed to large amounts of protein taken in the conventional three meals and snacks.
Night time protein
I personally had a couple of issues with the intake of any food stuff late at night but it would appear that science suggests otherwise, in a study comparing 40g of casein, 20g of casein + Leucine and a placebo it was found that protein synthesis was much greater in the subjects that took in the 40g gram of casein before sleep, furthermore there was no issue with the protein absorption with all the protein being absorbed when tested the next day, after looking around casein is marketed as the night time protein, and I will be adding casein to my diet once I have removed the fat that I have left, for no other reason than what I am doing currently is working and I do not want to change it up until I need to.
Protein Requirements over 40
I, like many others have turned forty years old, and while I suspected that my requirements for protein and other supplementation might change I wasn’t ready for the degree of changes that my research into the subject uncovered, there is increasing evidence that to build muscle when you are below 40 or 35 to account for differences inherent in human beings, you shuld consume around 1.4g of protein per Kg of bodyweight to support muscle growth, but after 35-ish this must increase to account for the decrease in protein sensitivity, you see the receptors and the other building blocks of protein synthesis just aren’t there in the quantities they once were and so you need to put more in to achieve the same result, the recommended amount is around 30 percent more protein than you would previously, so close to 2.4g per pound of bodyweight, this is quite an increase and one that is often missed because for most of us crossing that particular age milestone means that we are encouraged to take it easier.
To sum up the information I found is that while there is no definitive figure quoted the advice is to take in around 1.8g per Kg of bodyweight for people engaging in strength training and bodybuilding, and between 1.4g to 1.8g per Kg for endurance athletes, there is no guideline for how much you should increase as you advance in years, and it should also be noted that all the research I could find had been conducted on males, for some unfathomable reason I could not find even a comparison with female subjects ( go figure ), be wary of what type of protein you take in and plan to take smaller amounts in over the course of a day, also consider a good clean protein source pre-sleep as this would appear to have a lot of benefits, the loss of the ability to synthesise protein as we get older is responsible for the loss of skeletal muscle tissue and the loss of skeletal muscle tissue leads to a wide range of difficulties, bear in mind as well that we are not just talking about building muscle, all our cells are being constantly replaced by the body and this requires protein synthesis without it or a readily available source of dietary protein this is impaired with inevitable results.