Protein shakes are usually the sort of supplement you imagine might be reserved for gym bunnies, bodybuilders and weight loss enthusiasts. There's no denying it's useful to all these people – after all, protein is the building block of muscle, and anyone doing resistance training should be increasing their intake to support muscle repair and growth. However, it turns out seniors might also benefit from an additional portion of protein in their diet.
It's time to crack out that shaker and browse our guide to the best protein powder for weight loss, as according to this recent study from the journal Experimental Gerontology (opens in new tab), whey protein supplements can be beneficial in old age. The researchers from Brazil identified whey protein supplements promotes "protein synthesis in the elderly".
Examining 35 different research papers targeting adults over 60 (which we wouldn't consider particularly elderly, but the line for the research papers had to be drawn somewhere), the researchers found protein supplements tended to improve muscle performance and aerobic capacity, protect against sarcopenia (rapid muscle and skeletal degeneration) and even reduce the risk of falls in later life.
It's no surprise protein is incredibly beneficial to seniors as well as younger fitness enthusiasts. As one of the building blocks of muscle, protein is vitally important to anyone looking to repair, maintain or build muscle. Seniors, whose muscle naturally wastes away at an accelerated rate, likely require an increased protein intake to keep themselves fit and healthy.
Protein is also associated with satiety, according to other studies (opens in new tab). This might be why protein indirectly has an effect on aerobic capacity: in addition to keeping the muscles healthy, an increased protein intake can also prevent overeating. If seniors are developing a more sedentary lifestyle, this sort of inactivity can quickly turn into excess weight gain, which obviously places stress on the heart.
The fall point is particularly important as well: the more muscles in your body, including your core, legs, and grip strength, the less likely someone is to fall and potentially injure themselves, especially as bones weaken with age. So protein shakes aren't just for people looking to get ripped abs and big arms: they're also for seniors looking to stay fit and healthy well into their twilight years.
However, for maximum effect, and to slow or reverse muscle decline, seniors should get themselves a set of the best resistance bands. An ideal solution for older exercisers, cheap, less dangerous or intimidating than weights, and ideal to use in the comfort of your own home.
Matt Evans is an experienced health and fitness journalist and News Editor at Fit&Well, covering all things exercise and nutrition on the Fit&Well website. Matt originally discovered exercise through martial arts: he holds a black belt in Karate and remains a keen runner, gym-goer, and infrequent yogi. His top fitness tip? Stretch.
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