How Much Protein? Gabrielle Lyon Weighs In

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by Nils Osmar. January 13, 2022

Dr, Gabrielle Lyon makes some interesting, if controversial, points in this interview, and wades into the debate about protein, mTOR and longevity.

Her point of view is very different from that of researchers like David Sinclair and Valter Longo, because her focus is on building and maintaining muscle to stave of the most deleterious effects of aging.

Her perspective comes from decades of caring for elderly patients and seeing the effects of loss of muscle, partly due to the aging process, but partly due to people consuming too little high quality protein, not only in their later years but throughout their lives.

From her perspective, while people can get their protein from either plant or animal sources, animal-based protein is superior for muscle building. But whether you get your protein from plant or animal sources (in her opinion) you probably need far more than you think.

According to Lyon:

“No geriatrician says, hey, you need to reduce your dietary protein. Skeletal muscle is the organ of longevity… it protects against morbidity… if you care about root causes, you have to care about skeletal muscle.

“I’ve taken care of people, more than I can count, at end of life. But that last six months is brutal. It’s about the quality of life…. toward the end of life you want to be mobile, you don’t want to have a broken hip or spend your time in an Alzheimer’s ward… these things are related to muscle (and protein)…. it really is about quality of life.

“Let’s start with resistance training. You have to train hard. The body thrives under stress. Your body requires physical stress. You need to strength train and you need to do aerobic training… “

My Thoughts (and What I’m Doing)

  • I think Lyon is right that protein is essential, as is building and maintaining muscle.
  • I agree with her completely, and I think most people would, that there’s little point in living to be 100, 120, 150 or older if we end up crippled and decrepit, living out our lives in nursing homes, flirting with dementia for our last two or three decades.
  • Having adequate protein is essential for preventing that scenario.
  • I also think that David Sinclair’s POV that activating AMPK promotes health and longevity has some validity to it. But it’s not the whole story. In my opinion, we can and should do both.
  • We should (in my opinion and experience) activate mTOR by eating high quality protein that’s rich in leucine and isoleucine on our workout days, but also have days when we eat lower protein or even fast in order to activate autophagy and AMPK.
  • Sinclair would agree with Lyon, I believe, whens she maintains that we should focus on building and maintaining muscle as the years go by, and consume enough protein to make that possible. His sense of how much protein is needed is where he would likely have some differences (though he’s never said exactly how much protein he recommends).
  • On workout days, I try to eat one gram of protein per centimeter of height, or 182 grams in my case, which is close to her recommendations and much more than Sinclair or Longo recommend (though Longo concedes that after we pass the age of 65, we need to significantly increase our protein intake, and may benefit from switching to animal sources).
  • My protein on my workout days is primarily from animal sources. I then go lower protein and more plant based on non-exercise days. This has allowed me to build muscle while simultaneously losing body fat. I have the same energy and mental clarity (so far) that I had when I was in my thirties, at the age of 69.

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