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Whey Protein Helps To Delay The Age Related Decline in Muscle Mass

Posted on Monday, 10 October, 2011 by anthony

Whey Protein Delays the Age Related Decline in Muscle Mass

It is well known that aging is associated with a gradual decline in muscle size and mass. This gradual loss of muscle size/mass, known as sarcopenia, is accompanied with a gradual loss in muscular strength. It is this loss in muscle strength that often makes everyday tasks more difficult for the elderly and can eventually lead to increased mobility problems and may eventually lead to disabilities.

In order to prevent or slow this gradual loss of muscle mass and strength, exercise and dietary interventions are often employed. A recent review of current dietary and exercise interventions has highlighted that the elderly may have a blunted response to lower doses of protein and appear to benefit from dietary plans including at least 20g of high quality protein per meal, and may even require as much as 30g of high quality protein per meal (Breen & Philips, 2011). The researchers suggested that high quality protein, in particular whey protein, is likely to be of particularly importance when attempting to maintain muscle mass in the elderly. The researchers highlighted that the high quality protein should provide sufficient essential amino acids (~10g), and in particular leucine (~2g).

The researchers also advise the use of resistance exercise programs for the elderly in order increase their muscle mass. This should be carefully monitored to ensure they are working within safe limits. The researchers stated that: “In older adults who are not restricted by physical disability, frequent high intensity weight lifting will increase lean muscle mass. Alternatively, low-intensity high volume weight lifting may also promote an adaptive response in the elderly”. The high intensity weight lifting would typically involve 2-3 repeated sets of around 12 repetitions per muscle group – the weight should be sufficient that they struggle to complete the final set of 12. A low intensity high volume approach would typically involve 2-3 repeated sets of around 20-25 repetitions per muscle group – again the weight should be sufficient that they struggle to complete the final set.

The researchers found the optimal response to resistance training in the elderly appears to occur when resistance training is combined with protein ingestion. When protein is consumed post exercise (ideally within 2 hours of exercise completion) it appears that the elderly may require more protein (~40g) than younger individuals (~20g). It is not clear at this point whether it is the extra quantity of protein or the higher levels of EAA’s and Leucine that are the reason why the elderly appear to benefit from the increased protein intake.

Summary of The Benefits of Whey Protein For Seniors:

  • Increased consumption of high quality protein appears to help to delay the age-related decline in muscle mass
  • The elderly should consume around 20-30g of high quality protein per meal
  • Whey protein appears to be the best source of protein for the elderly, it should be high in EAAs and Leucine in particular
  • Carefully monitored resistance training will also be of benefit to the elderly and should help to increase muscle mass
  • Optimal results are obtained when resistance training is combined with protein consumption
  • The elderly may require up to 40g of protein post exercise compared with 20g for younger individuals


Breen L, and Phillips, S. M. (2011). Skeletal muscle protein metabolism in the elderly: Interventions to counteract the 'anabolic resistance' of ageing. Nutrition & Metabolism. 8:68

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