I wrote about calcium intake a few weeks ago, as I was concerned that I wasn’t getting the UK’s NRV (Nutrient Reference Value, ie the recommended daily intake) of 700mg of calcium a day to keep my bones strong and resilient. Since then, new research has been published by the University of Leeds focussing on protein and its relationship to bone strength. The paper, which looked at the medical records of more than 26,000 women aged 35-69, linked increased protein intake to lower risk of hip fracture.
Eating an extra 25g of protein each day (from animal or plant sources) correlated with a 14% reduced risk of hip fracture. Women who were underweight, and therefore more likely to have reduced bone mineral density and muscle mass, saw a greater risk reduction when they ate more protein – of up to 45%. The recommended protein intake in the UK is 0.8g per kilo of lean body weight (ie your weight if you were in the normal BMI range for your height) although, as the research team pointed out, some nutritional experts believe that is too low, particularly for people over 65.
When I get my clients to do the maths on their regular diet none of them, ever, is hitting 0.8g of protein per kg of body weight per day. Do the equation yourself and let us know in the comments if you’re hitting your target. And remember that protein-rich foods aren’t 100% protein. 100g of that Christmas turkey, for example, contains 29g of protein. There’s a list of the protein content of foods in metric here, and in American measurements here to help you.
A precise work out to target muscle loss
Protein helps us grow and maintain muscle – when we exercise it, of course. Muscle loss, known as sarcopenia, is a key factor in ageing and so closely linked to osteoporosis that researchers have coined the term osteosarcopenia. This double whammy of conditions greatly increases the risk of frailty and fractures as we age. New research from the University of Valencia shows that sarcopenia was reversed in women over 70 when they undertook a programme of resistance training. So far, so obvious – weight training builds muscle, we know that – but it’s worth breaking down the High Intensity Resistance Training programme they followed.
50 women had two 65-minute sessions a week for six months, with a minimum recovery time of 72 hours between each one. Each carefully-supervised session was broken into three parts:
- 10-minute warm up, including joint mobility and postural control exercises.
- 45-minute resistance circuit using fixed weighted machines in the gym, with six exercises to strengthen different muscle groups. Participants did three series of 10–15 repetitions until they couldn’t manage another rep.
- 10-minute stretch and self-massage for myofascial release (which must have felt lovely!)
A pretty intense regime, but only twice and week and the results showed that the participants had more muscle, less fat and more strength in their limbs. They also had better balance, crucial if we want to avoid falls and fractures.
MIDDLING ALONG PODCAST
If you’re after something to listen to while you’re working your muscles, doing the sprouts, or enjoying a wintery walk, I recently recorded a podcast with the lovely Emma from Middling Along. It’s a short one – less than half an hour – but we packed a lot in: when to start building a life that reduces dementia risk, post-menopausal health, a holistic approach to ageing well and a whole lot more! You can listen here
The Age-Well Project archive is full of gorgeous recipes for Christmas. Here’s a few of our favourites:
Griddled Brussel sprouts with parmesan
Spiced parsnip soup – warming and hearty
Vegetable tartlets for Christmas dinner
Beautiful-on-the-inside Christmas cake
Photo Tijana Drndarski for Unsplash
Hilary Defriez says
I find that protein-target terrifying. I was diagnosed with osteoporosis recently, after breaking my wrist for the second time in a fall. l know my BMI is too low, 16, but, I eat well (mostly vegetarian, with tinned fish, and eggs)and I eat as much as feels physically comfortable. I am 68, and feel quite panicky when told to ‘put on weight’. It’s not that easy! (I get little sympathy for this, as you might imagine). I walk at least 6 miles a day, but will try to build in some resistance-work as well.
I find your blogs immensely useful, and love the recipes, thank you for doing the work on behalf of the rest of us!
Susan Saunders says
Hi Hilary, thanks so much for your lovely comments. For obvious reasons, we have to keep our blogs very broad and not get into specifics. Please don’t be terrified of the protein target. It really is there for guidance only and if you have a low BMI (most of us don’t!) you’ll need to start by working out the protein target for your current weight and go from there. Resistance training is (almost) always a good idea – building muscle will help support your bones but please do make sure you have supervision and a talk to your doctor before you start a new exercise regime.
Sue M says
I would so love to know more about what was included in the two 65-minute sessions a week. Is there a link to what specific exercises they did? Even better is there a video? Thanks!
Susan Saunders says
I’d love to know that too, Sue! This is the research paper https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0378512222001967
And this is the description of the exercises in the paper –
‘This was followed by a 45-min HIRT circuit, with six exercises to strengthen different muscle groups (two on the upper extremities, two on the trunk and two on the lower extremities). The present study focused only on the two lower extremity exercises (leg press and knee extension). Participants did three series of 10–15 repetitions until momentary failure [, , ]. After a period of individualized progression in training, the load was set to at least 70 % of 1RM’
Participants were obviously ‘lifting heavy’ – they worked up to 70% of 1RM (1RM is the weight you can only lift once), so if they were at 70% of that, it’s pretty impressive!
Sue Methuen says
Thank you! This is helpful.