As an Accredited Practising Dietician, I encourage all of my clients to establish a happy, healthy relationship with food. I believe that dieting is a short term solution, and instead we should be bringing balance back to our lifestyle by eating a wide variety of healthy foods and staying active.
The thing is, as we get older, we tend to eat less. We have less appetite, eat smaller meals and we don’t really feel like chewing through a lot of meat or fish. But this potential shortfall in protein intake can lead to reduced muscle mass, which in turn means that we're less able to do all the things we used to do.
That’s why it’s important to get the right amount of nutrition at each meal. Current research suggests that as we age, our bodies need more protein than has been recommended in the past – 90g per day for the average person - to maintain our lean body mass, and that we need to spread that protein over the day. The thing is that the typical Australian diet tends to be protein heavy in the evening (think steak or chicken or fish) and protein light in the morning (think toast or cereal). Eating to that kind of pattern doesn’t give your body the balanced nutrition it needs over the course of a day, and this may accelerate muscle loss and make it more difficult to stay active. It is really important to eat protein consistently throughout the day - this way your body has a constant supply at the ready to repair and build muscle more efficiently.
So what can you do about it?
First, eat enough protein. Look for a diet rich in high quality protein, ideally dairy protein (which is higher in the all-important amino acid leucine and is generally better utilised by the body).
Second, balance out that protein throughout the day, ideally three meals of 30g protein to get you to the 90g target.
Third, keep moving.
Enjoy life and stay active – just remember to refuel your body with the nutrients it needs to help you maintain muscle mass and strength. And make it a lifestyle, not a diet.
Dr Chloe Sacks APD AN