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Live Retirement to the Fullest - Maintain Your Muscle

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Author: Dr. Lowell Greib ND, CISSN & Dr. Brock McGregor ND

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Live Retirement to the Fullest - Maintain Your Muscle

The golden years of retirement promise leisurely afternoons on the golf course, weekends entertaining the grandkids, and free time spent enjoying family and friends.  To spend retirement years the way we would like, it takes more than just strategic financial planning, it takes an investment in personal health.  In order to play 18-holes of golf or chase around the grandkids you need to stay lean and strong in retirement.   A common, important age-related change in our bodies is the loss of lean muscle mass known as sarcopenia.  Staving off sarcopenia, and keeping muscle not only helps to maintain muscle strength and thus the ability to continue with activities of daily living, but it also helps to increase metabolic rate and decrease the risk of diseases such as osteoporosis.  Lean protein, like that found in chicken breast, lean red meat, fish, and egg whites, is needed to maintain and form new muscle. One of the main challenges in maintaining muscle is an age-related change in the body’s ability to respond to the protein we eat.  As we age we are less able to digest and utilize protein to build and maintain lean muscle, making the amount and type of protein we consume very important. 

How much protein is enough?

Current daily recommendations for minimum protein intake suggest the average 165lb retiree ingests 60g of protein each day, which is roughly equivalent to three 3-ounce chicken breasts.  A recent study in the Journal of Clinical Nutrition suggests this minimum requirement is far too low, and that to stave off muscle loss, increase immune function, promote wound healing, and optimize bone health individuals should be consuming double the amount of protein previously recommended.  This increase means the 165lb retiree should be consuming the protein equivalent of six 3-ounce chicken breasts each day. 

What is the best protein source?

One of the simplest and most effective ways to increase protein intake is with a powdered protein supplement called whey isolate.   A recent study in the Journal of Clinical Nutrition investigated the effectiveness of different sources of protein in increasing protein synthesis in older subjects.  The study found that whey protein was most effective at raising the blood levels of the building blocks of proteins known as amino acid, suggesting whey isolate is the best protein source for building and maintaining muscle.  When compared to other sources of protein, such as casein (found in high levels in cottage cheese), whey has a higher amount of the amino acid leucine.  Whey’s increased ability to help build and maintain muscle can be in part attributed to its high leucine content. 

Where can I get leucine?

Adding whey protein to your daily routine is one of the simplest ways to increase protein intake, and as discussed studies have shown it is the most effective supplement at increasing protein synthesis in the elderly.  If you find it difficult to add whey protein to your daily routine, maximizing other protein sources high in leucine can be beneficial.  Dietary sources of protein high in leucine include soybeans, lentils, lean beef, ricotta cheese, and of course protein supplement smoothies. 

Proper nutrition is an important aspect of living well and aging better.  Ensuring proper protein intake in both quantity and quality is a crucial step in preventing muscle loss, optimizing immune function, and preventing chronic disease.  Increasing your dietary protein intake is a relatively easy and inexpensive way to take a proactive approach in your own health maintenance.

Here are two smoothie recipes to help to increase your daily protein consumption – each smoothie contains over 30g of protein!

Berry Good Retirement

1 cup frozen mixed berries

1 cup of milk (skim, almond, or soy)

½ cup of greek yogurt (optional)

1 scoop of whey isolate protein powder

Blend and Enjoy 

19th Hole Protein Smoothie

1 banana

1 scoop of whey-isolate protein powder (vanilla flavor works great)

1 cup of milk (skim, almond, or soy)

2 tbsp almond butter

1 tsp cinnamon

1-3 dates

½ cup ice

Blend and Enjoy


Dr. Brock McGregor, ND is practicing in Chatham ON.  For more information visit

Dr. Lowell Greib ND is head of TheSport Lab in Huntsville, ON.  For more information on Dr. Lowell Greib ND visit


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