Sarcopenia – the condition your muscles want you to know about now!



If you haven’t heard of sarcopenia, you’re not alone. Few Canadians are aware of this condition, even though it’s very common—and it can have a devastating effect on our health and quality of life.

What is sarcopenia?

Sarcopenia is the progressive loss of muscle mass, strength and function as we age. It starts earlier than you might think: after age 30, healthy adults lose 3% to 8% of muscle mass per decade, and the decline is even faster after age 60.1 The causes of this condition aren’t well understood, but it’s believed that physical inactivity, nutritional deficiencies and age-related hormonal changes play a role. Other health conditions, including obesity and chronic diseases, may also be risk factors.2

Symptoms of sarcopenia3 can include:

    • Muscle weakness
    • Reduced stamina
    • Difficulty doing daily activities
    • Walking slowly
    • Poor balance
    • Falls
    • Difficulty climbing stairs

While we can’t stop sarcopenia entirely, we can slow it down with regular strength exercises and a protein-rich diet.

How much protein is the right amount?

To slow down age-related muscle loss, healthy adults should aim for 1.2 to 1.6 grams per kilogram of body weight per day.4 For someone who’s 150 pounds (68 kilograms), that works out to 82 to 109 grams daily.

In addition, researchers recommend we spread our protein intake throughout the day5, to maximize our body’s ability to use the protein we consume. As a rule of thumb, aim to consume around 25 to 30 grams of high-quality protein per meal.6 Consider these meal examples, which all contain at least 25 grams of protein—proof that you can get enough protein from food:

  • Breakfast: ¾ cup cooked oatmeal (5 g) + 1 hard-cooked egg (6 g) + smoothie with ¼ cup silken tofu (3 g) + ½ cup blueberries (1 g) and 1 cup milk (9 g) + 1 tbsp almond butter (3 g)
  • Lunch: 100 g grilled beef strips (35 g) + 1 cup stir-fry veggies (3 g) + ½ cup cooked brown rice (3 g)
  • Dinner: 100 g baked trout (27 g) + 1 cup roasted mixed veggies (3 g) + ½ cup cooked quinoa (4 g) + ¼ cup cooked lentils (4 g)

Not all protein sources are equal

While we can get protein from a variety of animal and plant foods, animal proteins, meats in particular, offer the highest concentration—and for a modest amount of calories. For example, a 100-gram serving of cooked beef provides 35 grams of protein and contains 245 calories.7 To get the same amount of protein from peanut butter, you would need to eat 10 tablespoons, which contain 845 calories.7 To get the same amount from eggs, you would have to eat almost six eggs, which contain 432 calories.7 (That’s a lot of eggs!)

Animal-sourced protein is generally considered complete (higher-quality) than plant-sourced proteins (except soy). That’s because foods like meat, fish, dairy and eggs contain all of the essential amino acids in amounts that closely match human needs. In contrast, most plant foods do not. They are incomplete proteins and must be combined with other foods (beans and rice, for example) to provide all the amino acids we need.

But for overall health, it’s best to consume protein from a variety of sources. Meat, fish, legumes, poultry, nuts and seeds all come with a unique package of beneficial nutrients. For optimal nutrition, include them all on your plate, or even mix and match protein sources. Try bean-and-beef burritos or a salmon-lentil power bowl, for example—delicious!

Find out more about protein:

Protein and Healthy Aging

A Food-First Approach to Protein

Protein – so trendy and so surprisingly misunderstood!

Protein: More is Better

Find out more about physical activity:

24-Hour Movement Guidelines


  1. Volpi E, Nazemi R, Fujita S. Muscle tissue changes with aging. Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. 2004 Jul;7(4):405-10. doi: 10.1097/01.mco.0000134362.76653.b2. PMID: 15192443; PMCID: PMC2804956.
  2. Cleveland Clinic. Sarcopenia. 2022.
  3. Cleveland Clinic. Sarcopenia. 2022.
  4. Phillips SM, Chevalier S and Leidy HJ. 2016. Protein “requirements” beyond the RDA: implications for optimizing health. Appl. Physiol. Nutr. Metab. 41(5): 565–72. doi: 10.1139/apnm-2015-0550. Epub 2016 Feb 9. Erratum in: Appl Physiol Nutr Metab. 2022 May;47(5):615. PMID: 26960445.
  5. Mamerow MM, Mettler JA, English KL et al. Dietary protein distribution positively influences 24-h muscle protein synthesis in healthy adults. J Nutr. 2014 Jun;144(6):876–80. doi: 10.3945/jn.113.185280. Epub 2014 Jan 29. PMID: 24477298; PMCID: PMC4018950.
  6. Lonnie M, Hooker E, Brunstrom JM, et al. Protein for Life: Review of Optimal Protein Intake, Sustainable Dietary Sources and the Effect on Appetite in Ageing Adults. Nutrients. 2018 Mar 16;10(3):360. doi: 10.3390/nu10030360. PMID: 29547523; PMCID: PMC5872778.
  7. Health Canada. Canadian Nutrient File, 2015. Food Codes Beef 6172, Peanut Butter 6289, Egg 132.
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