Why You Need More Protein, the Older You Get

Three ways to keep muscles and bones strong, for long

Maria Cross
5 min readFeb 4, 2022



We all want to stay fit and healthy, well into old age. But that’s not going to happen by chance: to maintain physical strength, you need to up your game. That means eating more protein.

Protein builds muscle and bone. The reason why you need more, the older you get, is that your ability to digest and absorb amino acids — the “building blocks” of protein structures, reduces over time. You need more, just to stay at the same level.

There are two musculoskeletal conditions that can arise from insufficient protein: sarcopenia and osteoporosis. Sarcopenia is age-related muscle loss and function. Osteoporosis is loss of bone density.

They are both “closely related”. Weak muscles can lead to a fall, a fall can lead to a fracture.

Sarcopenia can begin as early as age 40, and over time result in 50% or more loss of muscle strength. The greatest loss of muscle mass occurs in elderly people who eat a low protein diet.

Bone, like muscle, is also protein dependent. Protein makes up about 50% of bone volume, and a third of bone mass. Low intake causes “marked” deterioration in bone mass and strength and is seen in hip fracture patients.

“Consequently, dietary proteins are as essential as calcium and vitamin D for bone health and osteoporosis prevention.”

To keep your musculoskeletal system in peak condition, there are three elements of your protein intake to consider: quantity, quality, and digestibility.

Quantity: how much is the right amount?

The current recommended daily amount (RDA) of protein for adults is 0.8g per kilogram of body weight a day. That advice has remained unchanged for years, and is in dire need of an update, in light of the data currently at our disposal. Many experts now recommend that protein intake should be at least 1.2 to 2.0g per kilogram, per day.

“.. literature suggests that consuming protein in amounts greater than the RDA can improve



Maria Cross

MSc. Registered nutritionist, specialising in gut and mental health. OUT NOW! My new book, How to Feed Your Brain. mariacrossnutrition @mariacross