Supplement Formula Builds Muscle in Seniors
Whey protein supplement drinks aren’t just for gym buffs according to new research.
When taken on a regular basis, a combination of these and other ingredients in a ready-to-drink formula have been found to greatly improve the physical strength of a growing demographic: senior citizens.
I’ll give you the important details of the study, and show you how you can duplicate the supplement formula for yourself.
Aging and Muscle Deterioration
The deterioration of muscle mass and strength that is a normal part of aging (known as sarcopenia) can increase the risk for falls, metabolic disorders and the need for assisted living, say researchers.
“Older people who do little to prevent the progression of sarcopenia drift toward a state where they find activities of daily living, like rising from a chair or ascending stairs very difficult or maybe impossible,” says lead scientist Stuart Phillips, professor in the Department of Kinesiology and member of McMaster’s Institute for Research on Aging.
Can Supplements Really Make a Difference?
While a number of isolated nutritional ingredients have been shown to fight sarcopenia, this is the first time such ingredients — which include whey protein, creatine, vitamin D, calcium and fish oil — have been combined and tested for this purpose.
For the study, which was published in the journal PLOS ONE, the research team recruited two groups of men aged 70 and older.
One group took a protein-based, multi-ingredient nutritional supplement for six weeks without an exercise regimen, while the other group took a placebo.
The objective was to evaluate whether daily consumption would result in gains in strength and lean body mass.
Supplement Vs Placebo
Following those six weeks, subjects continued to take the supplement (and placebo) while also undertaking a 12-week progressive exercise training program consisting of resistance exercises and high-intensity interval training (alternating between low and high-intensity exercise).
“We chose that combination of exercises to get a maximal benefit in terms of fitness and muscle strength” said Gianni Parise, scientific co-lead on the study. “I know many think older persons can’t do that type of exercise, but that’s simply untrue.”
The study evaluated the efficacy of twice daily consumption of a protein-based, multi-ingredient nutritional supplement.
The experimental supplement was composed of whey protein, creatine, calcium, vitamin D, and n-3 PUFA.
Subjects prepared the beverages at home by mixing the contents of 1 sachet with 425 mL water and consumed two drinks daily: 1 h after breakfast, and again 1h prior to retiring to bed.
Subjects measured out and consumed 10 mL of oil once per day (the SUPP oil contained 3000 mg n-3 PUFA with 1400 mg eicosapentanoic acid [EPA] and 890 mg docosahexaenoic acid [DHA]; CON (placebo group) was given safflower oil) with their morning study beverage.
The powder and oil provided to the CON (placebo) group were matched in flavor and odor to the active forms.
“The results were more impressive than we expected,” says Kirsten Bell, a PhD student who worked on the study.
Most notable, the findings showed improvements in deteriorating muscle health and overall strength for participants both before and after the exercise regimen.
In the first six weeks, the supplement resulted in 700 grams of gains in lean body mass — the same amount of muscle these men would normally have lost in a year.
And when combined with exercise twice weekly, participants noticed greater strength gains, especially when compared with their placebo taking counterparts.
The study reported that twice daily consumption of a whey protein-based, multi-ingredient supplement resulted in significant gains in muscle strength and lean mass.
In addition, muscle strength, physical function, aerobic capacity and metabolic health were further improved in response to a 12 week combined exercise training program.
“Clearly, exercise is a key part of the greatly improved health profile of our subjects,” says Bell, “but we are very excited by the enhancements the supplement alone and in combination with exercise was able to give to our participants.”
This study demonstrated that twice daily consumption of a whey protein-based supplement containing creatine, vitamin D, calcium, and n-3 PUFA was effective in stimulating strength and lean body mass gains in the absence of exercise in a group of healthy older men.
The research, which was supported by the Labarge Optimal Aging Initiative within the McMaster Institute for Research on Aging, comes at a time when demographic trends lean toward older citizens as the largest percentage of our population.
The authors hope that continued work will include older women and different populations that can benefit from a supplement aimed at improving muscle health.
The study authors concluded by stating “Future trials with a larger sample size, and including older women, for a greater duration would confirm if this supplement represents a viable anti-sarcopenic strategy with the potential for broader use.”
The Study Formula: DIY
It’s not difficult to re-create the combination of protein and nutrients used in the study yourself.
Here’s what you need:
Whey Protein and Creatine
Start with one of the many high quality whey protein powders available. Look for one which includes creatine.
You can also use ready-to-drink protein shake, but they are generally more costly per serving, and are bulkier to store.
For a protein powder, I recommend Body Fortress Super Advanced Whey Protein.
A (2-scoop) serving size contains 60g of protein, so you can take 1 scoop twice daily to duplicate the study.
- 60g of protein delivering 12g of BCAAs per two scoops
- Creatine, Glutamine, and Taurine to aid in muscle recovery
- No gluten and no aspartame
- Delivers a blend of important electrolytes
- Variety of great tasting flavors
Calcium and Vitamin D
Next, you’ll need a good dose of calcium and vitamin D (400 mg of calcium, and 500 IU), taken twice per day.
They’re usually sold in combination formulas, andt it’s difficult to find the exact 400 mg/500 IU ratio.
The closest I can find (without making things complicated by cutting pills or chewing on kids’ gummies) is is Amazon Elements’ Calcium and Vitamin D.
Each tablet contains 500 mg of calcium and 600 IU of vitamin D. This is a little over on both, which is harmless.
Take one tablet twice daily to duplicate the study formula.
Omega-3 Fish Oil Supplements (EPA and DHA)
The final addition to the study’s formula is an oil supplement containing EPA AND DHA (1400 mg EPA and 890 DPA, twice per day).
Again, exact ratios of 1400/890 are impossible to find, but to simplify things, you can take 3 Caraway Omega 3 Fish Oil capsules twice daily.
Each capsule of the Caraway brand Fish Oil contains 450 mg of EPA and 300 mg of DHA, so 3 softgels twice daily would virtually duplicate the study, at 1350 mg of EPA and 900 mg of DHA. Very close.
Final Thoughts on The Study
The study demonstrates that a multi-ingredient supplement may be particularly beneficial in patients who are unable to participate in structured exercise, or who are undergoing periods of muscle disuse.
This is especially important, since the relatively slow and steady decline in strength and muscle mass with age is often punctuated by brief periods of muscle disuse (such as during hospitalization) where muscle losses are accelerated.
Resistance Training For Seniors
Of course, if you are able to combine the supplement formula with strength-building exercise, you’ll build more muscle, and gain other health and psychological benefits from the exercise.
In other words, if you can, you should.
If you are new to muscle-building exercise, or haven’t exercised in a long while, I recommend resistance bands as an excellent way begin.
An exercise band routine is a simple, safe and inexpensive method of toning and building up muscles.
This set includes everything take you from absolute beginner, all the way to body builder:
- 5 Anti-Snap Bands (Yellow: 3 lbs, Green: 5 lbs, Red: 8 lbs, Blue: 13 lbs, Black: 19 lbs)
- 2 Handles
- Door Anchor
- Carrying Bag
- Detailed User Book
You can use the Bodylastics set to create lifts from 3 to 90 lbs (just like a stackable plate loaded machine, only much cheaper!).
This is really an excellent way for men and women to get started (or back into) all-important muscle-building.
Please share your thoughts on muscle-building in seniors!
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