By New York Times Bestselling Author and Founder of Clear Medicine Natasha Turner
You are what you eat, especially when it comes to how your body embraces protein. Proteins
are essential to every part of the human body. Our bones, muscles, skin, and nearly every vital
organ or tissue contain them. How much we consume, what type, and when we consume it have
all been shown to help to rouse our cells to build even more protein. There are, however, several
factors that can impair your protein status and therefore lead to a decline in the body’s musclebuilding efficiency. One of the biggest is simply aging, especially when combined with eating less protein. From the time you are born until around the time you turn 30, your muscles grow larger and stronger. But at some point in your late 30s, you start to lose muscle mass and function. The cause is age-related sarcopenia.
Physically inactive people can lose much more of their muscle mass each decade after they
reach their late 30s or early 40s. Even if you are active, you’ll still have some muscle loss.
Sarcopenia typically happens more quickly around age 75. But it may also speed up as early as
65 or as late as 80. It’s a factor in frailty and the likelihood of falls and fractures for all of us.
There are some tricks we can use to slow this “inevitable” process, which invariably is not
inescapable. I have seen it in my clinical practice and in my own personal experience. I have had
patients well into their 70s gain muscle and bone (proven by bone density scans), and even I have
more muscle and bone right now at 51 than I did 10 years ago. You can, too, with the tips and
tricks I have to share. Much of the essence of which are summed up nicely from a study titled
“Protein and Healthy Aging” from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (April 2015):
“Throughout adult life, consuming an adequate amount of high-quality protein at each meal, in
combination with physical activity, may delay the onset of sarcopenia, slow its progression,
and/or reduce the magnitude of its functional consequences.”
Are you hungry all the time?
Are you hungry an hour or so after eating?
Are you working out, but your belly fat and love handles won’t budge?
Are you constantly craving sugar and carbs?
Are you having difficulty sleeping?
Are you feeling bloating and puffy?
Are you tired all the time?
Are you moodier than usual?
Are you calling in sick more often?
Are you losing weight but clothes are still tight?
Do you have poor recovery from workouts or have more injuries?
These are possible telltale signs you are lacking in protein— right now. Time to up your intake.
According to a study published in the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences,
approximately one billion people worldwide have inadequate protein intake. This is largely due
to limited access to food in general.
Because protein sources are so widely available to us in developed countries, including
Canada and the United States, the Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine reports that
eating enough protein is hardly an issue for most of us, but deficiency caused by restrictive diets
(keto, intermittent fasting, low-calorie, plant-based, etc.) or medical conditions are more far
common. Despite the availability of protein sources, some research has found that approximately
one-third of adults over age 50 are failing to meet their RDA for protein intake—and as you have
just learned, the RDA alone is simply not enough. Let’s talk about why.
There are several reasons why we become protein-deficient, including dietary causes:
• not eating enough protein overall
• not consuming protein at the times or intervals that enable it to be best utilized by the
• not having enough income to buy food to consume enough calories from protein
• having an eating disorder, such as anorexia or bulimia
• being vegan or vegetarian and not consuming enough complete proteins or protein
• during pregnancy, needing much more than the normal RDA to promote the
development of a fetus—those who are unable to eat enough calories from sources of
protein due to extreme nausea and vomiting have a high risk of hypoproteinemia
• strength training
• endurance athletics
• surgery, illness, or an injury
At times, your body may be poor at absorbing protein from the foods you eat:
• autoimmune bowel diseases such as celiac or Crohn’s disease
• inflammatory bowel disease
• low stomach acid (hydrochloric acid)
• pancreatic insufficiency (low pancreatic enzymes, which will inhibit protein digestion)
• surgical causes, such as bariatric surgery or bowel resection
• parasitic or other infections
Finally, there may be organ issues, particularly with the liver and kidneys.
• Poor liver function interferes with the production of albumin, a protein accounts for 60
percent of all the protein in your bloodstream and helps to maintain fluid balance (by
preventing edema) and to support healthy immunity. This can occur in people with a
variety of liver disorders, including hepatitis, alcoholism or cirrhosis.
• Kidney damage will allow protein that normally would be filtered and kept in the blood
to leak through and be lost in the urine. This may occur in people who have high blood
pressure, diabetes or certain kidney diseases.
A blood test can reveal whether a person has enough protein in the body. Total protein,
albumin, blood urea nitrogen (BUN) and the albumin/globulin ratio (explained further in
appendix A) all can be used to identify a protein deficiency in the body. If albumin and globulin
are out of balance, it may signal a medical problem, such as a liver disorder, kidney disease, or
autoimmune condition. You can also test urea nitrogen in the urine. If it is elevated, it indicates
that you are in a negative nitrogen balance and losing protein and muscle.
Let me remind you of what I said at the beginning of this blog, even I have more muscle and bone right now at 51 than I did 10 years ago! If you are interested in discovering what I have done for my strength, immunity, and wellness then come see us at Clear Medicine. Our Naturopaths will evaluate your protein intake and make a personalized protein plan to ensure that you are indeed reaching daily targets.