MoveWell Health and Fitness


Protein Needs After 50: Building and Maintaining Muscle with Age

It is an unavoidable fact of life that we start losing muscle mass as we age. Rates vary for several reasons, but most people typically lose 3-5% of their muscles every decade after age thirty. However, that’s not to say we must sit back and watch our gradual decline. We can do many things to mitigate this slide and increase our general fitness levels. This article examines how to maintain and even build muscle mass after fifty and the role of protein. 

The role of protein in our bodies

Proteins are constructed using chemicals called amino acids, which the body uses to repair and build new muscles. These acids also strengthen bones and produce hormones and essential enzymes. Additionally, the body can burn protein in times of low energy when carbohydrates are not available to produce glucose. This wondrous substance also makes immunoglobulins and antibodies that help fight infection and drive our metabolic reactions, delivering optimum energy. 

Foods containing protein

Protein is a crucial part of any healthy diet and can be found in various amounts in many foods. The most protein-rich foods available include:

  • Poultry—Chicken, turkey, duck, and others
  • Red meat— Lean beef, lamb
  • Fish and seafood— Prawns, crab, lobster, mussels, and oysters
  • Eggs
  • Dairy products—Milk, yoghurt, and cheese
  • Pulses—Beans, chickpeas, and lentils 
  • Nuts and seeds—Walnuts, pumpkin seeds
  • Vegetables— Peas, kale, spinach, broccoli

Increasing muscle mass with endurance exercises

Although most people do not associate endurance activities with muscle gain, they are excellent at building a specific type of muscle fibre known as ‘slow twitch’. These fibres work slowly and grow through low-impact repetition. Some activities that generate slow-twitch fibres include:

  • Swimming
  • Aerobics
  • Walking and distance-running
  • Cycling

These muscles are essential to maintain flexibility and endurance as we age and are arguably more important than others for our long-term health prognosis. However, focusing solely on building and maintaining endurance muscles will not add much muscle mass or short-burst strength. Marathon runners forego brute strength for extraordinary endurance, but this is not necessarily recommended for us all. As with almost anything in life, a balance is required for optimum effect, and the next section deals with other muscles that are essential to build and maintain.

Gaining muscle mass

As we age, those activities we were once able to perform easily suddenly become more challenging or even impossible. The inability to lift heavy objects or open tight jars creeps up on us as we age, and it is vital to perform regular exercise that promotes gaining muscle mass, namely:

Weight training—Lifting weights is one of the most effective ways of reversing muscle loss as we age, and it benefits men and women equally. As levels of our natural hormones (testosterone and oestrogen) lessen, the body no longer efficiently produces or holds onto muscle, and we must give it all the help we can. Lifting weights every other day will not only increase our strength but will also positively affect the following:

  • Flexibility‌
  • Elevated blood sugar that can lead to diabetes
  • Cardiovascular strength
  • Reduced chance of obesity‌
  • Back strength, relieving stress on your spine ‌as muscle takes some of the weight  

Body resistance training—If one does not have access to specific resistance training apparatus, the above benefits can also be somewhat achieved without weights. Many programs use simple resistance tools like endurance bands or the body’s ability to provide resistance to generate muscle growth. Any exercise that tears the muscles causes them to repair themselves and grow. This is where protein is essential. Those amino acids spring into action when the muscles are damaged and are typically done repairing them within 72 hours.

Healthy, pain-free joints

Many of those dreaded movements we have tried at the gym are fantastic at giving us greater strength in our joints as we age. Create a routine that includes the following exercises:

  • Squats
  • Hip hinges
  • Lunges
  • Pushups and lateral dips

All of these work larger groups of muscles while simultaneously engaging the joints. Using them with weights or resistance bands is an excellent way to move through the levels, as is increasing the time you perform each exercise.

Contact us

The Movewell Health & Fitness team is full of experienced, knowledgeable individuals who can offer all the advice and guidance you need when committing to a muscle-building regime. Please contact us today, and we can discuss your fitness levels and how you can make the best use of our wonderful facilities to give yourself greater muscle mass and a new lease on life.