Recent studies have been challenging the way we see aging

By Catherine Orda | Lead photo from Jenny Hill /Unsplash

We tend to not think about old age because it seems so far off. As Simone de Beauvoir wrote in 1970, “Old age is particularly difficult to assume because we have always regarded it as something alien, a foreign species.” But once people hit their 40s, things change.

It is at this point that signs of aging become vivid realities; it is when we start to realize our bodily limits. Recent studies, however, are suggesting otherwise: It’s not so much aging as it is inactivity that makes people frailer as they age. In other words, people who feel frail when they hit their 40s were likely inactive for most of their lives.

What these studies are proposing is the idea of battling signs of aging through exercising into old age. It’s inactivity—not aging—we’re supposed to be fighting. Aging is something we have to live with and there’s a proper way of doing so. We’ve previously talked about cycling as one way to do this. Here’s another:

Building lean muscle by upping your protein intake and by undergoing weight training. This is according to a study in the British Journal of Medicine, which gives very specific instructions regarding protein consumption and weight training.

The Study

After reviewing studies that included a total of 1,863 men and women of various ages and fitness levels, the researchers found it was the people who weight trained and ate the most protein that had the highest lean muscle mass (this was more evident as they grew). What’s more, participants who increased their protein intake were found to have increased strength by about 10 percent and increased muscle mass by 25 percent.

Optimal Protein Intake

So how much protein is ideal? The study makes the following prescription: 1.6 grams of protein per kilogram (or 2.2 pounds) of body weight. Anything above this prescription won’t gain you any muscles. So if you’re a woman who weighs 150 pounds, you should be eating 109 grams of protein. Though this is way above FDA’s prescription, one of the researchers claims it’s necessary for the middle-aged and the elderly to eat more protein, especially since they were found to be the ones who missed out on the most protein. “We think that, for the purposes of maximizing muscular strength and mass with resistance training, most people need more protein.”

Best Protein Source

Any source of protein—be it meat-based or plant-based—is effective in building lean muscle. However, we should be reminded that this is all according to the study in question. In the past, we talked about the negative effects of eating a lot of meat. Even if it’s a viable source of protein, meat is associated with a number of health problems including heart attack, so it would probably be better to balance it out with vegetables.

Timing Doesn’t Matter

Past studies have talked about the effectiveness of protein as post-workout food (especially if you’re trying to build muscle), but this study has found that timing doesn’t actually matter as consuming protein at any time of the day will produce similar gains as when consuming it right after a workout.