Friday, June 29, 2012

Protein Intake for Older Adults

Photo by Paula Steele aka pixieclipx
Older adults often struggle to maintain a proper dietProtein is one area that might suffer because of problems with transportation, finances, chewing/swallowing or mobility. 

Deficiencies in protein can affect energy levels and contribute to bone frailty and muscle wasting aka sarcopenia.  For these reasons and others, older adults should pay attention to dietary proteins

The RDA (recommended daily allowance) for adults is .8 grams of protein for each 1 kilogram of body weight.  However, some emerging studies suggest that older adults need 1 gram per kilogram or even 1.2 grams per kilograms.  

If a person is recovering from surgery, or if they are very active, they need to consume protein at a higher amount. If you have liver problems, you may need to consume less than the RDA amounts. Consult with your physician.

In order to calculate your need
  1.  Multiply your weight by 2.2 to get your weight in kilograms.
  2.  If you choose to follow the 1 gram per kilogram suggestion, you already have the number of grams
  3. Consume that amount of protein each day.
For example, a 150 pound person weighs 68 kilograms, so he or she would need 68 grams of protein a day.  

It’s wise to distribute protein intake evenly throughout the day rather than consuming more than 50% of one’s daily protein intake at dinner—as many people do.   If you would like, you can use an online calculator to convert your weight to kilograms. Or you can find an online calculator that will break down how many grams or calories you should consume of protein, fat and carbohydrates.

I am not a nutritionist, but I try to eat from a broad range of proteins, both plant and animal proteins: beef, pork, chicken, turkey, eggs, fish, soy, nuts, seeds, beans, legumes, dairy, etc.  I try to limit my intake of processed meats and/or organ meats such as sausage, bacon, liver, and ham to once a month.  A serving of protein might be 2-3 oz of meat, a half cup of beans/legumes, an egg, a handful of nuts, or a tablespoon of peanut butter.  Eat 3 or 4 servings a day (depending on the size of the serving, your weight, and your activity level).

Because I am hypoglycemic and a morning person, I eat 30 grams of protein for breakfast to fuel me during my most active part of the day.  I eat another 20-30 grams throughout the day. Because I attend the gym daily and lift weights, I choose to eat on the higher side of the RDA for my weight and age.   Consult with your physician to select the right amount and right kinds of protein for you.

If you have an older adult in your life -- especially someone 70 plus who lives alone--check to see if he or she is getting enough daily protein and if they need to find ways to adapt their diet to age-related changes to their bodies.


Nutrition for Our Age
Eat Your Vegetables
Calcium and Bone Health


  1. Thank you for this, Karen, and for stopping by the office not once, but twice to visit! I'll share this information with my sisters who live close by our Dad, and are worried about his feeding (or lack thereof).

    Hope it doesn't take you another 10 years to visit! Love to Dr. Mike as well--look forward to having him on campus for his visit in the fall.


  2. In order to calculate your need
    Multiply your weight by 2.2 to get your weight in kilograms.

    *Divide your weight by 2.2.