Protein Requirements as You Age: Understanding the Right Amount

Protein is essential for various functions in the body, including muscle building, digestion, and fighting infections. While most people in the United States consume an adequate amount of protein, experts emphasize the importance of paying attention to protein intake throughout life. The amount of protein needed varies depending on age, body size, and other factors.

Protein Needs throughout Life

According to federal guidelines published in 2005, protein intake should be based on age and weight. However, recent research suggests that higher amounts may be necessary for optimal health. Protein requirements change as individuals move through different stages of life.

Childhood and Adolescence

Children and teenagers require more protein than adults due to their constant growth. Infants between 7 and 12 months old need 0.54 grams of protein per pound of body weight each day, while adults require 0.36 grams per pound. As children age, their protein needs decrease. For example, 4- to 8-year-olds need 0.43 grams per pound per day, and 14- to 18-year-olds need 0.39 grams per pound. Although most kids meet their protein needs through a balanced diet, studies show that 25 to 50 percent of adolescent girls fall short of protein recommendations.

Young and Middle Adulthood

Once individuals reach adulthood, their protein requirements stabilize at a maintenance level. The federal guideline for those aged 19 and older is 0.36 grams of protein per pound. However, certain groups may need more protein, such as those who engage in regular strength or endurance training, pregnant or breastfeeding women, and older adults. Less than 10 percent of men and 10 to 25 percent of women in the United States do not meet the recommended protein intake.

Older Adulthood

Protein recommendations for older adults are currently the same as those for younger adults. However, some evidence suggests that those aged 65 and older may benefit from consuming more protein. The higher recommendation is 0.45 to 0.54 grams per pound. Older adults may require more protein if they engage in vigorous activities or are recovering from an infection, hospitalization, surgery, or a period of bed rest. Muscle loss becomes a concern as individuals reach their 50s and beyond. Lack of physical activity and decreased efficiency of aging muscles in using protein to build new muscle fibers contribute to this muscle loss.

Meeting Protein Needs

To ensure adequate protein intake, individuals can incorporate protein-rich foods into their diets. Options like yogurt, eggs, cottage cheese, and lean meats are simple to prepare and consume. Paying attention to protein intake at breakfast is especially important, as people often skimp on protein during this meal. For individuals with chronic kidney disease or impaired kidney function, it is essential to work with healthcare providers to plan a balanced diet due to the increased workload on the kidneys when consuming protein.

In conclusion, protein is vital for various bodily functions, and the amount needed varies throughout life. By understanding protein requirements and incorporating protein-rich foods into their diets, individuals can maintain optimal health at every stage of life.

Original Story at – 2023-12-02 08:29:56

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