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Sarcopenia and The Importance of Protein Intake

Sarcopenia, from the Greek word meaning “poverty of flesh,” is the degenerative loss of skeletal muscle mass and strength associated with aging. It is a component of the frailty syndrome and can be debilitating and even fatal for the elderly, especially in the face of other co-morbidities such as wounds. Age-related muscle atrophy begins in the third decade of life and accelerates with advancing age; it really speeds up after a person’s 75th birthday.

At the root of the problem with sarcopenia is the issue of body composition. For simplicity, lean body mass (LBM) is defined as “the mass of the body minus the fat.” LBM is crucial for wound healing, immunity, organ function, and muscle strength. Loss of LBM occurs with aging, immobilization, acute injury or surgery, poor diet, lack of activity, and chronic health conditions. If a person who already has a deficiency of muscle mass suffers an additional insult from trauma or a chronic disease process, recovery of normal independent function is very difficult if not unlikely but proper nutrition can help, particularly protein intake.

It is recommended that protein intake be spread evenly throughout the day as opposed to consuming most of the protein at a single meal. Simply put, a breakfast of tea and toast is not the ideal meal to maximize protein synthesis. Protein should be included at every meal. Patients should be encouraged to consume protein throughout the day as shown in the sample menu below. For patients who have a poor appetite or are not eating well for any reason, liquid protein supplements can help meet protein intake goals in a convenient way. For example, Medtrition’s ProSource Plus Liquid Protein provides 100 calories and 15 grams of protein in a small 30 mL dose. ProSource is available in a variety of formulations to meet a variety of patient needs including a no carb version, a variety of flavors, and even one complete with an ENFit® connector to facilitate administration in tube fed patients. Visit for more information and to request samples.

Sample Menu with Thirty Grams of Protein* at Each Meal
½ cup of cholesterol free egg product – 10 grams of protein
1 oz. of cheddar cheese – 7 grams of protein
2 slices of turkey bacon – 7 grams of protein
1 cup of milk – 8 grams of protein
2 slices of whole wheat bread – 7 grams of protein
3 oz. tuna, canned in water – 23 grams of protein
1 extra-large banana – 2 grams of protein
3 oz. boneless pork tenderloin, cooked – 20 grams of protein
1 medium baked potato with peel – 4 grams of protein
2 tablespoons reduced fat sour cream – 2 grams
½ cup cooked peas – 4 grams of protein

*Nutritional analysis performed using ESHA Food Processor.

Further reading:
Coelho-Junior HJ, Calvani R, Azzolino D, Picca A, Tosato M, Landi F, Cesari M, Marzetti E. Protein Intake and Sarcopenia in Older Adults: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. 2022; 19(14):8718.

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