How Much Protein Do You Need To Build Your Bones? (Plus The Best Ways To Get It)
There is an increasing body of scientific knowledge confirming that you can take nutritional steps to slow down the aging process while building your bones, including consuming enough quality protein in your diet.
Today, you’ll get the details and strategies to increase your protein intake while maintaining the pH-balanced dietary plan that Savers have come to know as the key to healthy and strong bones. We also bring you a delicious 100% alkalizing smoothie recipe to help you supplement your daily protein consumption.
Protein: An Essential Macronutrient
Proteins are chains of amino acids that are essential for many functions in the body and are a key component of healthy muscles, bones, and organs. Proteins are macronutrients, which means that your body needs them in relatively large amounts to function properly.
The first thing that often comes to mind when considering protein intake is muscle building since amino acids are the building blocks of muscles. Protein also plays other critical roles in the body. For example, the immune system relies heavily on proteins.1 At the first sign of a viral or bacterial infection, the immune system releases Y-shaped proteins called antibodies to neutralize pathogens.
Savers know that the Save Our Bones Program is centered around maintaining an alkaline pH. But did you know that protein plays a role in pH balance? Hemoglobin is a protein that helps to maintain the optimal pH balance. Adequate protein consumption ensures the proper functioning of these balancing systems.
Protein is vital for bone health for a variety of reasons. First and foremost, it makes up approximately 50% of bone volume, and about one-third of its mass.2 As protein provides the structural matrix of bone, a daily supply of protein is important to maintaining the continuous turnover and remodeling that occurs. A 2011 review study found that dietary protein works synergistically with calcium to improve calcium retention and bone metabolism.3
Bone health is not merely a skeletal issue; it is a muscular issue as well. Muscle weakness is a major predictor of falls and subsequent bone fractures. Savers are familiar with Wolff’s Law and why muscle strength is essential for bone health. Muscle contractions apply mechanical force on bone, stimulating bone turnover and increasing bone density and strength. In essence, strong muscles help to build stronger bones.
Protein Requirements And The Aging Process
As we age, protein is broken down and used up at a faster rate.4 As a result, we require increased protein intake to keep up with the accelerated loss. Further, our ability to process protein also declines with age, raising our subsequent needs even more.
Sarcopenia, a medical term used to describe progressive muscle loss and functionality, is common in inactive adults aged 50 and older. However, it is preventable and reversible with exercise and adequate nutrition.4
While a decrease in skeletal muscle is the most noticeable manifestation of inadequate protein consumption, there is also a decline of other physiological proteins such as organ tissue, blood, and immune system components. As a result, older adults tend to experience slower wound healing, loss of skin elasticity, and an impaired immune system.5
The good news is that muscle loss is preventable by including quality protein on a daily basis and staying physically active.
How Much Protein Do You Need?
The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) of protein for adults is 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight. However, many researchers believe that the RDA has not caught up with current scientific evidence on this matter.6 In fact, a study published in the Journal of Gerontology recommends a protein intake between 1.2 and 2.0 g/kg/day or higher for elderly adults.7
A 2014 randomized control trial examined this very issue. Researchers assigned participants to one of four groups. Two groups followed the RDA, while two other groups consumed double the RDA, at 1.5 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. After four days the researchers found that the more protein a participant consumed, the higher their rate of muscle protein synthesis.8
At the Save Institute, we do not believe it is necessary to count grams of protein. Rather, being cognizant of your protein intake and consuming wholesome foods rich in protein throughout the day is an effective approach. Studies have shown that when protein intake is spread throughout the day, as opposed to one protein-heavy meal, more of the protein is utilized for muscle synthesis and maintenance.
What Kind Of Protein Should I Consume?
The thought of protein often conjures up the idea of meat. While animal protein is an acceptable choice as part of an 80/20 diet, it is acidifying and should be consumed in moderation, balanced with alkalizing foods. Eggs, a Foundation Food listed in the Save Our Bones Program are also acidifying, and are an excellent source of protein.
The amino acid leucine is necessary for the proper synthesis of protein into muscle tissue. Leucine is found in higher amounts in animal and dairy products but can also be found in nuts, seeds, beans, and seafood.
There are numerous high protein choices, most of which are alkalizing, and all of them, except for one, are Foundation Foods in the Save Our Bones Program:
- Pumpkin Seeds *
- Plain Yogurt *
- Almonds *
- Spinach *
- Mustard greens *
- Asparagus *
- Crimini mushrooms *
- Collard greens *
- Cauliflower *
- Green peas *
- Kidney beans *
- Pinto beans *
- Garbanzo beans *
- Lentils *
- Black Beans *
Note: Garbanzo beans, black beans, pinto beans and lentils are acidifying
* Foundation Food
A Nutrient And Protein-Rich Delicious Way To Start The Day
Another excellent source of alkalizing protein is whey protein. Milk is composed of two proteins – whey and casein. Whey, the alkalizing watery substance that is left after the milk is curdled, is a complete protein containing all nine essential amino acids.
Whey has several health benefits, one of which is its ability to boost bone health since it contains lactoferrin and raises glutathione levels.
Our Berries and Beets Smoothie includes whey protein and can be enjoyed at any time to supplement your daily protein intake.
Berries And Beets Smoothie
- 1 cup frozen kale
- 1/2 medium beet, cooked
- 1 scoop vanilla whey protein powder
- 1/2 cup strawberries or raspberries
- 1 teaspoon fresh ground ginger
- 1 tablespoon ground flax seed
- 1 cup unsweetened almond milk (adjust to desired consistency)
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract (optional)
- Place all ingredients in a blender, and blend on high until smooth.
More Ways To Add Additional Protein To Your Diet
If you’re searching for additional ways to add more protein to your diet, look no further than Bone Appétit, the companion cookbook to the Save Our Bones Program. In addition to hundreds of recipes that build and nourish bones, there are plenty of bone-smart protein-rich food choices.
Eat Your Way to Stronger Bones!
Discover over 200 mouth-watering bone healthy recipes for breakfast, smoothies, appetizers, soups, salads, vegetarian dishes, fish, and plenty of main courses and even desserts!
When you order Bone Appétit, you will also receive Blender Magic, a compilation of delicious bone-renewing smoothie recipes. Whey protein is versatile and can easily be added to any of the smoothies, giving you a beneficial protein boost at any moment.
Till next time,
1 1 Daly JM, Reynolds J, Sigal RK, Shou J, Liberman. Effect of dietary protein and amino acids on immune function .Crit Care Med. 1990 Feb;18(2 Suppl):S86-93. Web: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2105184
2 Heaney RP. Effects of protein on the calcium economy. In: Burckhardt P, Heaney RP, Dawson-Hughes B, eds. Nutritional aspects of osteoporosis 2006, Lausanne, Switzerland. Amsterdam, Netherlands: Elsevier Inc, 2007:191–7.
3 Kerstetter JE, Kenny AM, Insogna KL. Dietary protein and skeletal health: a review of recent human research. Curr Opin Lipidol. 2011 Feb;22(1):16-20. Web: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21102327
4 Walston JD. “Sarcopenia in older adults.” Current Opinion in Rheumatology. 2012 Nov; 24(6): 623-627. doi: 10.1097/BOR.0b013e328358d59b Web: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4066461/
5 Chernoff R. Protein and Older Adults. J Am Coll Nutr. 2004 Dec;23(6 Suppl):627S-630S. Web: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15640517
6 Bonjour JP. Protein intake and bone health. Int J Vitam Nutr Res. 2011 Mar;81(2-3):134-42. Web: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22139564
7 Volpi E., Campbell W.W., Dwyer J.T., Johnson M.A., Jensen G.L., Morley J.E., Wolfe R.R. Is the optimal level of protein intake for older adults greater than the recommended dietary allowance? J. Gerontol. 2013;68:677–681.Web: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3660117/
8 Kim Y, et al. Quantity of dietary protein intake, but not pattern of intake, affects net protein balance primarily through differences in protein synthesis in older adults American Journal of Physiology – Endocrinology and Metabolism. January 2015 308(1) E21-E28 Web: http://ajpendo.physiology.org/content/308/1/E21