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Forever Strong

This is the name of an interesting recent book by Gabrielle Lyon, MD. about the important links between eating and exercising for muscle health, and overall health. Regular resistance exercise is important to keep our muscles strong and healthy. But we also require enough dietary protein. I agree with the importance of both of these principles.

Dr. Lyon’s prescription for protein is on the high side which may be controversial. I’ve talked about protein requirements here and agree that while Recommended Daily Allowances for protein my be adequate to prevent deficiency, they are likely too low to prevent muscle loss with aging (sarcopenia). Protein recommendations have been revised upwards to prevent sarcopenia in older adults as I discussed in that previous post, but even the increased recommendation is for about 0.5 grams of protein per pound of ideal body weight. Dr. Lyon’s recommends twice that, which is closer to the number cited by bodybuilders. She also emphasizes the importance of animal protein because it has a more complete profile of essential amino acids. But as I’ve also previously covered, a better amino acid profile can also be achieved from plant foods by properly combining them. Most high quality protein supplements made from plant sources have done this combining. There is the valid argument that protein from plant sources may be somewhat less bioavailable, so those relying solely on plants may need to increase their consumption to compensate.

Reading this book made me “audit” my own eating and I found I don’t always hit the 0.5 grams per pound suggestion. So even if I’m not sure Dr. Lyon’s upper number is necessary, I was inspired by her book to bump up my protein consumption. It will be interesting to see over the next month or so if this helps me get a bit stronger. I am pleased to have maintained my strength and muscle mass as I’ve entered my 70s, but it would be nice if it is still possible to improve rather than maintain.

Dr. Lyon’s proposed diet works out to be protein on the high side, moderately low fat, moderately low carb. I do agree that protein should not be specified as a percentage of total calories. Instead, it should be estimated based on so many grams per pound of ideal body weight as discussed above. The calories from protein (which is 4 calories per gram) is then subtracted from the total calorie target, and the remainder divided up between carbs and fat. I totally agree with her that “junk” carbs should be avoided as much as possible. For sedentary people she further suggests reducing consumption of starchy carbs, even healthier ones from whole foods, which may be a more controversial suggestion. This is based on her concern that blood glucose from a meal with excess carbs may not be cleared fast enough. She also would highly recommend that we not be sedentary!

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