To ensure that your diet has good quality protein, it is recommended that your plate should include complete proteins or complementary foods that provide desired amino acids.
By Dr. Nandan Joshi
If you are in your fifties and have trouble getting up or taking stairs, you are suffering from the loss of muscle mass or muscle strength. However, the process of sudden loss of muscle mass starts from as early as the thirties. Physically inactive people can lose as much as 3% to 5% of their muscle mass with each decade after age 30. Muscle loss in elderly persons is a fact and a reality. Sarcopenia is a degenerative loss of muscle mass, quality and strength associated with ageing. This condition affects those nearing the age of fifty and are otherwise healthy. There is a gradual decline in muscle mass as you grow old and this condition becomes dire as you lose up to 50% of your muscle mass when you reach your eighties.
Lean muscle mass makes up for about 60% of our total body’s mass so these metabolic changes have a far deeper ramification on your health than we think.
There are three types of muscles – smooth, cardiac and skeletal. When we refer to muscles, we refer to skeletal muscles the ones which are responsible for maintaining the body posture and carrying out different movements of the body parts.
The balance between skeletal muscle mass and fat mass in the body dictates the long-term health of an individual. The problem of muscle loss starts as early as in the thirties, but it is not noticed since the loss is gradual and it doesn’t affect the day to day functioning of body.
The tangible symptoms associated with Sarcopenia is difficulty in walking, climbing stairs or any physical activity which requires movement of muscles.
The other symptoms associated with Sarcopenia include weakness and loss of stamina which impedes physical activity. A decline in physical activity accelerates further loss of muscle mass.
The problem intensifies with age, and this condition can become alarming as the person loses about 50% of the muscle mass as they approach their eighties. Muscles help you perform daily tasks and poor muscle health becomes a major roadblock in leading an active and independent life.
However, sarcopenia can be managed through a combination of diet and regular exercise. Choosing an age-appropriate exercise regime including strength-based training can help prevent muscle loss. The second part of muscle health management is a protein-rich diet.
Remember, muscles are primarily constituted of protein. A diet that contains protein in adequate proportions as per one’s weight and lifestyle, helps alleviate the condition.
There are a lot of misconceptions surrounding protein and people are unaware of the amount of protein to consume and its sources. The cardinal principle dictates that one must consume protein according to one’s weight activity, and the lifestyle. An average adult needs about 1gm of protein per kg of his body weight. So, an adult with a weight of 60 kgs, requires approx. 55 -60 gms of protein every day.
The efficacy of protein consumption encompasses its quality as well. Proteins are made up of amino acids and each protein contains a different combination of amino acids. The quality of protein is dependent on the amino acids present in it. Complete proteins have all the essential amino acids in desired quantities while in Incomplete proteins, some of the amino acids are absent or are present in lesser amount.
So, how to introduce proteins in your diet? It is a point worth remembering that not all sources of protein have all the essential amino acids. Plant-based sources of proteins like pulses, nuts, etc., have one or more amino acids absent or in lesser quantity compared to animal-based sources of protein like Milk, Sea-food, Poultry.
To ensure that your diet has good quality protein, it is recommended that your plate should include complete proteins or complementary foods that provide desired amino acids. Since protein is not stored in our body, it must be consumed with every meal.
The management of Sarcopenia is possible with these few lifestyle and diet changes, and it is best to start early in your thirties or forties to ensure active ageing.
(The author is Head, Nutrition Science and Medical Affairs at Danone India. Views expressed are personal.)