For accessibility related questions, please contact us or visit our Accessibility Statement.
Skip to content Skip to navigation
15% off your first order when you sign up to our newsletter
Free delivery for orders over $75

Understanding Protein Needs As We Age

This article is for educational purposes only. It does not reflect the opinion of Optimum Nutrition, nor is it intended for product marketing purposes.


Adequate dietary protein is important for maintaining muscle mass with age

Protein is one of the three essential macronutrients. Although carbohydrates and dietary fats are also important to maintain a well-balanced diet, protein has many functions throughout the body. In order to maintain normal protein functions, everyone needs to eat enough protein. Protein helps to build and repair muscle, help provide physical structure, fluid and pH balance, and transport nutrients.

Proteins are formed by building blocks known as amino acids. When amino acids link together, they create proteins. Although protein is needed by people of all ages and activity levels, with age, muscle quality and quantity may decline, and adequate protein becomes especially important to help maintain muscle mass and strength.


Importance of Leucine

Leucine is an essential amino acid. An essential amino acid is a building block that the body can’t make on its own and needs to be consumed through a well-balanced diet. Leucine helps to support muscle protein synthesis. Active aging adults may benefit from added leucine to help support the recovery of muscles post-workout. Along with adequate dietary protein, leucine may also help support muscle building when taken over time with regular resistance exercise.


Sources of protein and amounts

Aging adults should aim to eat 25-30 grams of high quality protein at each meal. The recommended amount of protein a healthy adult should consume daily is 0.8-2.0 grams of protein per kg or 0.4-0.91 g/lb. body weight. Adequate protein intake may help to support maintenance of muscle mass with age, when combined with a balanced diet and regular resistance exercise. Aging adults should make sure to incorporate a variety of protein sources.


85g (3/4 cup) Beef

28g of Protein

85g (3/4 cup) Chicken

26g of Protein

172g (1 cup) Soybeans

29g of Protein

50g (1 large egg) Boiled Egg

6g of Protein

245g (1 cup) Milk

8g of Protein

28g (1/8 cup) Cheddar Cheese

7g of Protein

30g (1/4 cup) Low Fat Cottage Cheese

3g of Protein

158g (1 cup) White Rice

4g of Protein

219 g (1 cup) Oat Bran

7g of Protein

28g (1 slice) Whole Wheat Bread

4g of Protein

180g (1 cup) Spinach

5g of Protein

118g (1 banana) Banana

1g of Protein


Protein throughout the Day

Eating enough protein throughout the day is key. Easy ways to incorporate protein into your diet include eating protein between meals, eating protein rich snacks, incorporating plant-based protein throughout the day, and eating lean meats and seafood. Using a protein supplement can be a convenient way to add more protein to smoothies, to a post workout routine, to baked goods or sauces, or other foods. For active adults, adequate protein helps support exercise recovery. As part of a balanced diet, protein plays an important role in helping to maintain muscle mass and strength, especially in combination with a workout regimen.