Objectives: Sub-optimal dietary protein consumption may partially underlie the age-related loss of muscle mass and function (sarcopenia). Specifically, dose, timing, source and distribution of dietary protein across the day might influence muscle anabolism in individuals from across the lifespan.
Design: The present study aimed to assess daily and meal-specific protein intake, protein source and protein intake pattern in 40 young (23.8 ± 4.3 years), 40 middle-aged (51.6 ± 4.1 years), and 40 old (77.4 ± 7.4 years) individuals using 3-day weighed food diaries.
Results: Old individuals consumed on average 83.4 ± 24.6 g of daily protein, which was significantly lower compared with young but not middle-aged individuals who consumed, respectively, 105.1 ± 43.0 g and 97.0 ± 31.1 g of daily protein (P = 0.013). No significant difference in daily protein intake was found with middle-aged individuals. Dietary protein intake pattern was uneven across meals for all groups (P < 0.001 for all). Sources of protein consumption were similar between groups except at lunch where old individuals ingested lower quality proteins compared with middle aged and young individuals.
Conclusion: Although total daily protein intake was sufficient in the majority of participants, per-meal protein intake and protein distribution contend the current knowledge regarding optimal protein intakes. Increasing protein intake, especially at breakfast and lunch, could mitigate age-related muscle loss.