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, inhibit wound healing, and contribute to bone frailty. 

Protein deficiencies also accelerate 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. 

Note:  The purpose of this post is to raise awareness. If you have concerns about your protein needs, consult with a licensed medical professional such as a general practitioner or a nutritionist. 

Different sources declare different levels of protein needs in adults, but they hover between around 50 grams a day. 

Here is one way to calculate your protein needs
  1.  Divide your weight by 2.2 to get your weight in kilograms.  Conversion Tool Here.
  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.
Using a person as an example of the kilo-weight-to-gram-protein method, a 150 pound person weighs 68 kilograms, so he or she would need 68 grams of protein a day.  

This is a bit on the high side.  Again, ask a licensed professional to help you calculate daily needs to avoid going too low or too high.

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).

However, do not eat too much protein. That can lead to other problems with bones, kidneys, liver, and possibly lead to heart problems and some forms of cancer. 

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.


    1. Sorry for the delay, but your poetry book came today. Michael grabbed it first, but I'm stealing it off his nightstand at the first opportunity.

  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.

    1. Fixed--plus I added a link to a conversion tool. Thank you.