To maintain mobility, independence and quality of life as we age, adequate muscle mass and strength is of utmost importance. Strong muscles are also vital for disease prevention: lack of muscle mass may increase risk of type 2 diabetes which can lead to an increase in the risk of heart disease.
To build muscle, the fact that our bodies need dietary protein and physical activity that puts stress on muscles is nothing new. What is new is research that details how to maximize muscle-building and muscle maintenance:
• Age-related muscle loss (sarcopenia) begins after age 30 and accelerates with each decade. It’s estimated that sarcopenia affects 30% of people aged 60 and older and more than 50% of those over age 80.
• Intake of dietary protein that contains the amino acid leucine is particularly important because leucine may trigger the muscle-building process. Whey protein, legumes, beef, salmon, shrimp, chicken, eggs and nuts such as peanuts, almonds and walnuts contain leucine.
• An adequate amount of protein at each meal is critical. Research suggests that the body needs 25-30 grams of protein at one time in order to build muscle. Less than that doesn’t optimally stimulate muscle growth and more than that doesn’t provide extra benefit.
Experts recommend consuming 25-30 grams of protein (about 4 ounces of protein) at breakfast, lunch and dinner—except for people with compromised kidney function—to best benefit muscles. An added bonus is that protein helps you feel fuller longer.
Getting enough protein at lunch and dinner is fairly easy, however, getting 25-30 grams of protein at breakfast may require some forethought. My usual breakfast of oatmeal topped with walnuts and dried cherries with a splash of milk and three cups of coffee containing about a half cup of milk in all adds up to about 16 grams of protein—not enough for maximum muscle-building. This breakfast fills me up, so instead of adding high-protein foods that would make me feel too full, I designed a few well-balanced breakfast options that provide 25-30 grams of protein but won’t weigh me down. Enjoy!
Breakfast A (26 grams protein)
1 cup protein-fortified cereal such as Special K Protein Plus (13 grams protein)
½ cup strawberries, sliced (0.5 grams protein)
½ cup milk (4 grams protein)
½ English muffin, toasted (2.5 grams protein)
1 ½ TBS peanut butter (6 grams protein)
Breakfast B (27 grams protein)
Pomegranate Berry Blast Smoothie (27 grams protein)
Breakfast C (27.5 grams protein)
1 cup Greek yogurt (23 grams protein)
¼ cup granola (2 grams protein)
½ banana, sliced (0.5 grams protein)
1/8 cup walnuts (2 grams protein)
Breakfast D (31 grams protein)
2 eggs (14 grams protein)
1 oz. Cheddar cheese (7 grams protein)
1 slice oatmeal bread, toasted (2 grams protein)
1 cup milk (8 grams protein)