In order to reduce age-related muscle loss, older people should eat proteins fairly evenly throughout the day, says a study.
The results published in the journal Frontiers in Exercise and Sports Nutrition suggest that having more protein at breakfast or lunchtime could help older people maintain muscle mass with advancing age.
This is because older people tend to eat less protein at breakfast and lunchtime.
The body's mechanisms for producing new muscle require regular stimulation to function efficiently - this stimulation happens once we eat protein.
The mechanisms are less efficient in older people, in order to eliminate this, they should eat more protein to urge an equivalent response as younger people.
But just eating more protein isn't enough, though. Older people also have to spread that intake evenly across all their meals to make sure they maximise the advantages of protein for muscle mass.
"We know that older people show a blunted response to muscle building when consuming a certain amount of protein," said first author on the study Benoit Smeuninx from the University of Birmingham in Britain.
"Therefore, older individuals need to eat more protein to get the same muscle building response as younger and middle-aged people," Smeuninx said.
The researchers studied the dietary intake of young, middle-aged and old individuals with a specific specialise in the quantity, pattern and source of protein consumed.
Their results showed that while most of the people across all three groups met or exceeded current national guidelines (RDA) for protein intake, the protein intake and distribution across daily meals and snacks were very varied.
The study involved 120 participants divided into three age groups. within the first, participants had a mean age of 23; within the second a mean age of 51; and within the third a mean age of 77.
All participants were asked to finish a food diary over a three-day period, weighing out every single food item consumed.
Researchers searched for patterns within the dietary behaviour of participants. especially, they evaluated the protein intake across the various age groups and located 18 different patterns of protein intake throughout the day, showing a good sort of eating habits.
Most noticeably, the team found that old people, compared to young and middle-aged individuals, were more likely to eat a lower-quality protein source at lunchtime.