The need for older adults to increase their protein intake has been noted increasingly more regularly by experts. The composition of our bodies change as we age, resulting in:
- A loss of protein tissue from 30% as a young adult to 20% by the age of 70
- A reduction in organ tissue, blood components, immune bodies, total body potassium and water found in the body
- A decrease in skeletal muscle to approximately 27% of total body weight from 45% as a young adult
- Protein tissue accounts for 30% of whole-body protein turnover, but that rate declines to 20% or less by age 70. 1
Protein plays a vital role in helping older adults stay active and functional. Recent research suggests that older adults who consume more protein are less likely to lose “functioning,” the ability to dress, get out of bed, walk up a flight of stairs, etc.
In a 2018 study 2 that followed more than 2,900 seniors over 23 years, researchers found that those who ate the most protein were 30% less likely to become functionally impaired than those who ate the least amount.
New research in the Journal of Nutrition, Health & Aging reveals that older people in the United States do not consume enough protein. 3
What are the protein requirements for people over 65?
The Recommended Dietary Allowance for protein intake (0.8g protein/kg body weight/day) may not be adequate to support optimal health for older adults. 4
Physiologic changes and reduced lean body mass during aging lead to decreases in total body protein (functional muscle mass) and contribute to increased frailty, impaired wound healing, and decreased immune function.
Some experts suggest protein intake of 0.54 0.9 g protein per pound of body weight per day is better for older adults as studies have shown them to be less responsive to low doses of amino acid intake. This is much higher than the RDA for people below 65. 5
How can protein bars benefit seniors?
- A common problem for older adults is muscle wastage, leading to Sarcopenia (the loss of skeletal muscle mass and strength as a result of aging) 6. Increasing protein intake helps to increase muscle mass and prevents muscle wastage.
- Protein bars are a convenient snack that requires no preparation, cooking, weighing, or measuring.
- The protein RDA for those over 65 is much higher than for younger adults. With between 8g – 30g in each protein bar, they can go a long way towards meeting this increased goal.
- Protein can help to boost the immune system, which is crucial for seniors, especially those recovering from illness.
- As we age, our appetite tends to decrease. Meal replacement bars can provide additional vitamins and minerals, along with protein, carbs, and fats for those who struggle to eat a full meal.
The best protein bars for seniors
We round up some great protein bars for seniors that help increase protein intake and are gentle on stomachs.
220 calories, 10 g fat, 95 mg sodium, 25 g carbs (14 g fiber, 4 g sugar), 14 g protein
Aloha bars are packed with wholesome superfoods and protein. With 14g of protein, these bars are perfect as a light snack between meals or pre or post-exercise. They are suitable for vegetarians and are gluten and GMO-free. They are soft and chewy with a light crunch and come in a range of great flavors such as Chocolate Fudge Brownie, Vanilla Almond Crunch, Mint Chocolate, and Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip.
260 calories, 11 g fat, 35 mg sodium, 30 g carbs (1 g fiber, 10 g sugar), 11 g protein
These bars are vegan friendly, do not use any GMOs, and are made from all organic materials. The protein and whole ingredients combine to make this an immune-boosting bar that packs a punch! With 30g of carbs, these are excellent bars to eat after exercise to replenish your depleted glycogen levels. The bars come in 15 great flavors, including Cashew Caramel, Apple Cinnamon, Peanut Butter, and Dark Chocolate Almond.
HEALTH WARRIOR BARS
180 calories, 12 g fat, 40 mg sodium, 12 g carbs (2 g fiber, 7 g sugar), 8 g protein
There is nothing artificial about these bars. They are made mainly from chia seeds, a superfood that can boost your brainpower and keep you fuller longer. With 180 calories and 8g of protein, these are perfect for a light snack to keep you going between meals.
220 calories, 14 g fat, 115 mg sodium, 14 g carbs (5 g fiber, 2 g sugar), 12 g protein
Bulletproof Collagen Protein Bars have a rich flavor and an improved texture for maximum fuel on-the-go. The ingredients in these bars preserve their natural flavors and ensure you’re getting the maximum nutrients in every bite. They are gluten-free, non-GMO, and contain no dairy or grain.
260 calories, 13 g fat, 25 mg sodium, 23 g carbs (1 g fiber, 12 g sugar), 15 g protein
Rise protein bars are packed with protein, making them a perfect snack between meals, for exercise, and even for lifting weights. They are all-natural and come packed with wholesome whole ingredients such as almonds and dates. The healthy fats included are heart-healthy, and they are packed with nutrients and natural sugars to fuel you throughout the day.
210 calories, 8 g fat, 110 mg sodium, 21 g carbs (6 g fiber, 13 g sugar), 15 g protein
Naked bars are nut-based, gluten-free bars with added whey for additional protein. They currently come in two flavors: peanut butter and chocolate. Neither contains any additives, and both contain grass-fed whey from small family farms. These bars are dense and nutty with a hint of sweetness. With 15g of protein and 6g of fiber, these bars are sure to fill you between meals.
210 calories, 9 g fat, 240 mg sodium, 24 g carbs (5 g fiber, 13 g sugar), 12 g protein
These bars make the bold claim, “No BS,” and they’re not lying. Nothing is hiding in these nutritious protein bars, and snacking on one will be both satisfying and nutritious. The ingredients are listed in bold print on the front of the bar, consisting mainly of egg whites, dates, and nuts. Each bar provides an ample serving of protein and natural sugars for energy alongside healthy fats to balance out your snack.
1 Barwick, N. MS, RDN, CD. Protein Requirements In The Elderly. Association of Nutrition and Food Service Professionals. https://www.anfponline.org/docs/default-source/legacy-docs/ia/documents/protein-requirements-of-the-elderly.pdf
2 Adela Hruby, PhD, MPH, Shivani Sahni, PhD, Douglas Bolster, PhD, Paul F Jacques, DSc, Protein Intake and Functional Integrity in Aging: The Framingham Heart Study Offspring, The Journals of Gerontology: Series A, Volume 75, Issue 1, January 2020, Pages 123–130, https://doi.org/10.1093/gerona/gly201
3 Krok-Schoen JL, Archdeacon Price A, Luo M, Kelly OJ, Taylor CA. Low Dietary Protein Intakes and Associated Dietary Patterns and Functional Limitations in an Aging Population: A NHANES analysis. J Nutr Health Aging. 2019;23(4):338-347. doi:10.1007/s12603-019-1174-1
4 Bernstein, M. Munoz, N. Position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Food and Nutrition for Older Adults: Promoting Health and Wellness. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jand.2012.06.015
5 Baum JI, Kim IY, Wolfe RR. Protein Consumption and the Elderly: What Is the Optimal Level of Intake?. Nutrients. 2016;8(6):359. Published 2016 Jun 8. doi:10.3390/nu8060359
6 Walston JD. Sarcopenia in older adults. Curr Opin Rheumatol. 2012;24(6):623-627. doi:10.1097/BOR.0b013e328358d59b