Weight Training and Protein: How Much Do You Need to Stay Strong?

We’ve previously discussed how lifting light weights at high repetitions can increase longevity by improving musculoskeletal health (muscle and bone health responsible for movement, structure, and form). We’ve also addressed the close relationship of muscle mass loss as people age with a lack of protein in the diet. Therefore, we know weight training is important for elderly people to maintain strength, and we know protein significantly augments weight training programs. So, how much protein should you eat?

New Evidence
Researchers at McMaster University performed a systematic review—an overall review of many compiled studies—on the relationship between muscle mass and strength from weight training and dietary protein. They looked at 1,863 participants from 49 good trials—studies that control for outside factors that could affects results. The researchers found that weight training increased the maximum weight people could lift by an average of 59.9 pounds! Additionally, they found that people who consumed 1.6 grams of protein per their weight in kilograms per day, as well as weight trained, added to this increase by an average of 5.5 more pounds. On top of these data, the researchers found that muscle fiber size increased 38% more with that same protein/weight training combination.

Therefore, in order to stay strong and healthy, you should engage in weight training for at least six weeks with a minimum of two exercise sessions per week, while eating the recommended amount of protein.

How Much Protein Is That?
To put this amount of protein in perspective, it’s about three chicken breasts per day for the average American! That may seem like a lot of chicken, but don’t worry, it turns out that any form of protein—from the powder form to quinoa, beans, eggs, nuts, fish, and a juicy chicken breast—is equally effective. So, we encourage you to eat your protein and do a weights workout twice a week to maximize your movement and stay strong. And if you’re interested in more information on how much and what kind of weight training to do, the American College of Sports Medicine has good recommendations here.

(Feature photo courtesy of pixabay.com)

Elizabeth Wilhoite

Elizabeth Wilhoite is an intern with the Healthy Aging Project, and a student in the Integrative Physiology Department at the University of Colorado Boulder.