Protein supplements are not just for muscle heads, no pun intended. Neither are the for the young and restless. Whey protein supplements are often stereotyped as fuel for young bodybuilders. But older adults should drink protein shakes too, as they may help improve their physical strength.
Muscle mass and strength decrease as we age, and this continues through the years. This natural loss of muscle tissue with age is known as sarcopenia. The condition can contribute to metabolic disorders such as type 2 diabetes, functional decline and progression to frailty.
Loss of lean muscle tissue does not begin in “golden years”, however. It may start during as early as in the 30s, physically inactive people can lose as much as 3-5 percent of their muscle mass a decade after the age of 30. After age 50, we may lose 1-2 percent of our muscle mass per year.
Less muscle mass leads to slower metabolism which in turn leads to weight gain. This puts us at risk of other diseases and conditions such as heart disease and diabetes.
Also, strong muscles help prevent injury and improve mobility, which fosters independence. Therefore, the importance of strong muscles during our older years cannot be gainsaid. This is best started early in life, but it’s never too late to start as this 80-year-old female bodybuilder will prove to you.
According to a new research from McMaster University, regularly drinking consuming whey protein – a staple supplement among bodybuilders – can significantly improve physical strength especially for men over 70. The study is published in the journal PLOS ONE.
Two groups of men aged 70 and over participated in the study. One group took whey protein shake (with creatine, vitamin D, and calcium) and the other a placebo, for a period of six weeks. After six weeks, the participants continued with the protein shakes or placebo but added exercise to their routine for an additional six weeks.
Exercise consisted progressive resistance and high intensity interval training (HIIT). Contrary to popular opinion, senior citizens are capable of doing HIIT. This combination was chosen to get maximal benefits in terms of both fitness and muscle strength.
Participants taking the supplement gained 1.5 pounds of lean mass (muscle) in the first six weeks. This is significant because exercise had not been introduced at this stage of the study. This is typically the amount of weight they would lose in a year due to sarcopenia.
After adding exercise to the mix, the researchers noticed greater strength gains, particularly when compared to the placebo group. After 12 weeks, those who took the supplement and exercised showed the greatest mass growth.
Drinking protein shakes offered benefits even without exercise. All the same, exercise led to greater gains.
One of the researchers asserted that she would “certainly recommend the (protein) drinks to most older adults” especially where they were not able to exercise. This includes when injured or recovering from illness or surgery.
Whey protein supplements are not created equal, and some of them are not worth the container they come in. See tips to find the right natural protein powder.
You can read a detailed report on the study at Healthline website.