Here’s a cool article I summarized from Jerry Brainum.

Many supplements can become particularly useful as you age.  A condition called sarcopenia become more prevalent past the age of 50.  Sarcopenia is the loss of muscle with age and is more prevalent in those who do not exercise on a regular basis.  Some estimates state that up to 90% of those in nursing homes are there because they cannot take care of themselves due to frailty.  Many people can lose as much as 3% of their muscle mass a year once sarcopenia begins!

Regular exercise and proper nutrition can help to prevent this.  Unfortunately, a lot of older people cannot digest large amounts of protein and other nutrients due to loss of stomach acid (hydrochloric acid) secretion.  Anabolic resistance is another impediment to maintaining adequate muscle size strength and function.  Anabolic resistance refers to difficulty in the uptake and absorption of amino acids into the muscle.  This lowers the rate of muscle protein synthesis, which of course makes it difficult to produce any gains in size and strength

Regular resistance training and increased protein or amino acid intake are the main ways to avoid all of this.   In terms of nutrition, a goal to shoot for is to consume around 20 to 30 g of protein per meal but those over age 40 may need 40 g or more including 3-5 grams of BCAA’s. 

Some studies have looked at how individual nutrients affect the muscle building process in older men and women; let’s take a look:

One study looked at a combination of 30 g of whey protein, 2.5 g of creatine, 500 units of vitamin D. 400 mg of calcium and 1500 mg of fish oil (providing 700 mg of EPA and 445 mg as DHA).  This group of older men (average age of 73) were randomized to this combination versus a placebo group for 20 weeks.

Creatine of course has an extensive record of research backing its use and benefits.  It appears to promote the intramuscular release of insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1).  This release favors the activity of muscle stem cells called satellite cells.  Satellite cells are heavily involved in the repair of damaged muscle following exercise, and also play an important role in the muscular hypertrophy process.  As humans age, the factors that promote satellite cell activity tend to wane.  This, in turn, causes a gradual loss of muscle and failure to recover from workouts.  The fact that creatine favorably affects the activity of satellite cells suggests that it’s particularly appropriate for those who are over 40.

Vitamin D also affects lean mass retention with age.  One reason for this is that muscles, along with many other tissues in the body, contain vitamin D receptors.  Studies of older people show that if they are deficient in vitamin D and are supplemented to attain ideal levels of active vitamin D in the blood, they always gain muscle mass.  Other studies suggest that vitamin D affects testosterone levels in the body.  This last aspect of D is controversial, with some studies showing that D does affect testosterone

synthesis, while others show it has little or no effect.  What seems to determine the difference is the D status of the person; that is, D works best in this regard if a person is deficient as shown by blood tests of vitamin D.

Omega-3 fatty acids are also beneficial for maintaining and improving muscle mass.  There are several studies that discuss why this may be; one of which may be that it lowers the systemic inflammation Systemic inflammation in older people, often called “Inflammaging,” is a known cause of widespread muscle catabolism or breakdown.  The cause for this is the higher release of inflammatory chemicals called cytokines that promote catabolic effects in muscle.  By tempering this release of cytokines, omega-3 fatty acids can help to preserve muscle.  

Please see my other blog on fish oil to discuss other rationales for the muscle growth potential of omega-3’s!

Whey protein supplementation of course makes it easier to ingest adequate amounts of highly bio-available protein.

Calcium may make sense for a number of reasons because it affects bone mass, which goes hand in hand with weight training to improve bone density which of course is affects muscle growth.

After the first six weeks the study subjects begin an exercise program for 12 weeks.  It showed that those on this supplement combination had significant gains in muscular strength and lean mass.  The gains would be equal to offsetting a full year of age related decline in muscle mass and functioning according to the authors!  This is quite impressive especially when you consider that the average age of the study subjects was 72!  Most resources state that it is difficult to add muscle past age of 60 and that by age 70 most people have lost up to 40% of their prior muscle mass.

Here’s the original article:   http://jn.nutrition.org/content/early/2017/08/23/jn.117.252510.abstract

Live Great,
Dr. Eric