The study I am citing today hails from the McMaster Institute for Research on Aging, at McMaster University in Hamilton Ontario. It was published on July 18, 2017, in The Public Library of Science One Open Access Journal. This human study of men 70 plus years old showed the value of using a whey protein shake mix, combined with a few other key nutrients, on reversing age-related muscle loss that accompanies the normal aging process.
How Aging process lead to loss of muscle mass?
As we get older the body secretes lower amounts of natural anabolic hormones, such as testosterone and growth hormone. For example, after age 40 the blood level of testosterone declines 1% each year in men, on average. So, from age 40 to 70 most men typically see their testosterone decline by 30%. That’s a lot.
For growth hormones, the decline is even greater. These hormonal changes typically result in a breakdown of muscle mass, whereby the body breaks down muscle protein (structure) and burns it as a fuel.
As this process proceeds one month after the next and one year after the next, individuals become weaker, have less muscle tissue and often slowly lose the ability to perform normal daily living activities like rising from a chair or ascending a flight of stairs.
They are also more prone to falls and related fractures and may eventually require assisted living.
Can this process be prevented and/or reversed to a significant degree?
Studies continue to show us that the answer is yes and we don’t need hormone injections to accomplish it. Nutrition and lifestyle can do it.
The McMaster study showed that this type of age-related muscle wasting, known as sarcopenia, and related muscle weakness, could be reversed in older subjects who simply ingested a whey protein shake mix each day (30 gm, twice daily), along with several other key nutrients shown to support muscle and bone strength and structure. These nutrients included:
- Creatine: 5 gm per day
- Calcium: 800 mg
- Vitamin D: 1,000 IU
- Omega-3 Fats (Fish Oil): EPA–1400 mg/DHA- 890 mg
Compared to the group given the placebo, this group of men, aged 70 years old and older, showed an increased gain in muscle lean mass of 700 gms, in just the first 6 weeks.
That is the amount of muscle tissue most older people lose in one year. Then in the next 6-weeks, they combined the protein-nutrient supplement protocol with a simple fitness and strength training program that participants did twice per week, and with that, they saw a significant improvement in strength gains compared to the group not using the whey protein shake and additional supplements.
Does high protein supplements lead to muscle growth?
Researcher Kristen Bell, who worked on the study stated “Clearly, exercise is a key part of the greatly improved health profile of our subjects, but we are very excited by the enhancements the supplement alone and in combination with exercise was able to give to our participants.”
A number of previous studies have shown that whey protein is the best protein source to help build muscle tissue. Many athletes and bodybuilders use whey protein shakes to enhance the results of their workouts. The same is true for creatine supplements that help increase strength.
But, increasingly we are seeing that the use of whey protein and creatine are also valuable nutritional ingredients to help prevent, slow or reverse age-related muscle loss and weakness.
With our aging population, I really feel that individuals over 50 years old and certainly over 60 years old, should consider using a whey protein shake, as well as creatine, to help preserve and reverse muscle loss.
Reversing muscle loss speeds up metabolism helps to prevent fat gain, and helps preserve our ability to perform normal daily tasks as we get older enabling people to be stronger, more independent and functional with a higher quality of life. Of course, nutrients such as calcium, Vitamin D, and Omega-3 fats are also beneficial on many levels.
I’ve included a link to the research study in the text below
In the meantime, keep your workouts going and think about using whey protein and possibly other nutrients cited here to boost your strength, muscle tone, definition, lean mass, and metabolism.
Eat Smart, Live Well, Look Great!
Dr. James Meschino