A busy, active retirement – whether yours involves chasing after grandkids, increasing your fitness or travelling the world – requires a body that can cope with all the thrills and spills this fun time of life offers.
That’s why ensuring your bones and muscles get all the support they need from your diet is so important.
Everyone gradually loses muscle and bone mass as they get older, and if not addressed, weaker muscles and bones can impact your strength and balance over time. At best this can compromise your ability to pursue your favourite activities, while at worst it can result in a fall that has life-changing implications.
One way of ensuring you maintain your muscle mass and that your bones stay strong is to meet your protein intake each day. Protein is the essential building block of muscles, and it also has an important role in building and repairing cartilage and ligaments, as well as maintaining strong bones.
Everyone has different protein requirements but a good guide is the recommended dietary intake (NHMRC RDI). A woman aged between 51-70 needs at least 46 grams of protein per day to maintain muscle health, while women aged 70-plus need 57 grams a day. Men aged 51-70, meanwhile, need 64 grams per day, and 81 grams daily once they’re 70-plus.
Most Australians get the recommended amount of protein each day by eating protein-heavy evening meal. But nutritionists say that it’s preferable to spread your protein intake evenly over the day to optimise how your body uses it.
Your body’s ability to use protein at any given time is limited, which means that when you eat a large amount of the nutrient in a single sitting, only some of the protein you’ve consumed is used to build muscle.
And unlike it does with fats and carbohydrates, your body can’t store the unused protein for use later, so it’s advisable to spread your protein intake across your daily meals to make sure your body has the best chance to make use of it.
Luckily, there are plenty of easy ways to include protein in every meal without going on a red-meat binge. Chicken and fish are both high in protein, while foods including dairy, eggs, nuts and even legumes are also sources of protein.
You could experiment by adding new, tasty protein-rich foods across your breakfast and lunch meals. For example, try a breakfast omelette made with an egg and a third of a cup of cheese, top some Greek yoghurt or cottage cheese with a handful of chopped almonds or dig in to some porridge made from oats and milk.
Follow up by lunching on a sandwich made with a slice of ham or roast beef or some tuna and another piece of cheese or some hard-boiled eggs.
Snacks during the day could vary from peanut butter spread on apple slices or just a handful of nuts to some beef jerky or lightly salted edamame, while dinner could be a steak, piece of fish or chicken. If you don’t feel like cooking a whole meal, some baked beans on toast is an easy source of protein.
If you’re not a meat-eater, tofu and tempeh are both protein providers because they’re made from the soybean legume, while lentils or chickpeas can be just as satisfying in a curry as meat. Even a pile of humble green peas on your plate will give you a dose of protein!
Boosting the protein you eat at breakfast and lunch doesn’t require drastic dietary changes, just some small additions to your favourite menus. For example, swap your honey on toast for an egg or two slices of ham, or add a glass of milk to your lunch instead of juice.
One of the best things about getting protein from a variety of sources is that you also benefit from the other important nutrients they deliver, such as iron and zinc from red meat, omega-3 fatty acids from fish, calcium from cheese and yoghurt and fibre from legumes.
If you do struggle to bolster your protein intake through food alone, nutritional supplements can be helpful. Sustagen® Hospital Formula Active, for example, is specially designed to deliver the essential nutrients for an active lifestyle, including plenty of protein to support healthy muscles and bones.
Banana or Strawberry-flavoured Sustagen® is perfect instead of a breakfast smoothie – simply mix 3 scoops with 200 millilitres of water for 13.8 grams of protein power – while the Neutral flavoured Sustagen® powder can be sprinkled into an omelette or scrambled eggs mix before cooking or added to soup or cereal.
With every scoop of Sustagen® providing 4.6 grams of protein, it’s one easy way to get closer to your daily protein consumption requirements without sacrificing time from whatever keeps you busy every day.
Nutritional supplements can only be of assistance where dietary intake is inadequate. Please seek advice on your individual dietary needs from an Accredited Practicing Dietitian or your healthcare professional. Sustagen® Hospital Formula is a formulated meal replacement and cannot be used as a total diet replacement. Consume as part of a varied and balanced diet and healthy lifestyle.