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Strong Women Finish the Race

Strong Women Finish the Race
Strong Women Finish the Race
Sherri Stastny, Ph.D., R.D., L.R.D., C.S.S.D., Associate Professor Department of Health, Nutrition and Exercise Sciences, NDSU

Some people say that in the Midwest, “the women are strong.” However, women tend to wear multiple hats: chauffeur, personal shopper, cook, housekeeper, yard keeper, coach, nurse, etc., and we neglect to take care of ourselves.

By 2020, an estimated 55 million Americans will be over 65 years of age. As we age, we are at increased risk for sarcopenia, the steady loss of lean muscle mass and, along with that loss, loss in strength. Sarcopenia is not an inevitable part of aging, but the risk for sarcopenia increases with sedentary behavior and a low-protein diet.

Because women tend to outlive men and, in reality, have less strength on average, they are at greater risk. A national survey showed that older women generally do not meet the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for protein (0.8 gram protein per kilogram of body weight).

Living with sarcopenia means limitations in the ability to walk (less stamina), and get up and down from chairs and ladders. Sarcopenia also can increase the risk of falls and result in loss of independence. This article is not so much about finishing a road race, but more about finishing the “race” of life: being able to take care of the family today and also later in life

At what age do we start to lose muscle?

If you are a female of any age, keep reading. According to recent studies, we start to lose muscle in our 40s, and lifestyle habits established in our 20s and 30s contribute to how early this loss can begin. So, if you want to be a strong contender throughout life, ask yourself two questions:

  1. Are you getting daily physical activity, including types that leave you “short of breath” and break a little sweat?
  2. Are you getting enough daily protein in your diet?

One way to answer these questions is to log your activities and diet for your average day, assess your status, and then set goals to make small changes for your future.

Let’s get started.

Your protein needs are unique and are based on your weight and how active you are.

What is your weight in pounds? _______

Divide this number by 2.2 _______= weight in kilogram (kg)

Your weight (kg) _______multiply by 0.8 ______gram = _______= gram protein

* Your kg weight x 0.8 = the number of grams of protein you need in your diet every day. If you are not very active (do very little physical activity) your math is done.

However, if you are starting a new exercise program, or are an active person in general on an almost daily basis, you probably need more protein, depending on your level of activity. A registered dietitian can fine-tune this for you, but the following formula can give you a good idea of where to start.

Take your weight in kg times 1 _______gram = _______gram protein

Moderate activityVigorous activity
Walking to class, work or the store Jogging or running
Walking for pleasure Wheeling your wheelchair
Walking the dog Walking and climbing briskly up a hill
Walking as a break from work Backpacking
Walking downstairs or downhill Mountain climbing, biking
Racewalking - less than 5 mph
Using crutches

The following is in accordance with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) guidelines.

For a comprehensive list of other activities, see

Enjoy different kinds of protein throughout the day

  • Eggs (6 grams protein / large egg)
  • Meat, poultry and fish (about 21 grams protein / 3-ounce piece – about the size of a deck of cards)
  • Milk and milk products (8 grams protein /1 cup milk)
  • Nuts and seeds (about 5 grams protein /1 ounce raw nuts – a small handful)
  • Tofu (13 grams protein / ½ cup tofu)
  •  Legumes, dry beans and peas (8 grams protein / ½ cup beans)
  • Add 1 to 2 grams for each serving of bread, pasta, rice or other starchy foods

If you are fairly active, you need about 1 gram of protein for each kg of your weight. Starting in the morning, jot down any protein food consumed. Estimate grams of protein consumed at the end of the day. Did you meet your needs?

Are we taking full advantage of the protein we consume?

Now that you’ve figured out how many grams of protein you consumed in a day, did you find you ran short or had extra? Running short can mean losing strength with aging; having extra may mean packing on extra pounds due to extra calories. Mindful eating is key. For example, did you know that many of us have a “protein extravaganza” at dinner (the evening meal) while falling short at breakfast and lunch? New data from the lab of Dr. Douglas Paddon-Jones shows that consuming protein more evenly throughout the day and ensuring that we have more at breakfast and lunch than we currently consume may better maintain healthy muscles and prevent muscle loss as we get older.

Don’t have time to cook a “protein” breakfast?

Try making a shake. If you have a blender and whey protein powder on hand, plus a few other ingredients, it’s easy to do. Just add a scoop of whey protein, some low-fat milk, flavored yogurt, ice cubes and fruit. Protein shakes work great for all busy family members on the go.

Strawberry Protein shake
1 c. 1 percent milk
6-oz. container of low-fat strawberry yogurt
3 Tbsp. whey protein powder
½ c. frozen strawberries

Put all ingredients in a blender and blend. Pour in glass and enjoy.

Makes one serving, with 400 calories, 26 grams (g) protein, 5 g fat, 65 g carbohydrate and 390 milligrams sodium.

Sunrise Shake
1 c. orange juice
2/3 c. 1 percent milk
3 Tbsp. whey protein powder
4 ice cubes

Put all ingredients in a blender and blend. Pour in glass and enjoy.

Makes one serving, with 300 calories, 17 grams (g) protein, 2.5 g fat, 52 g carbohydrate and 250 milligrams sodium.

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