Four Nutrients That Fight Sarcopenia
If you’re deficient in calories, protein or certain vitamins and minerals, you may be at higher risk of muscle loss.
However, even if you aren’t deficient, getting higher doses of some key nutrients can promote muscle growth or enhance the benefits of exercise.
Getting protein in your diet directly signals your muscle tissue to build and strengthen.
As people age, their muscles become more resistant to this signal, so they need to consume more protein to increase muscle growth (29).
One study found that when 33 men over age 70 consumed a meal containing at least 35 grams of protein, their muscle growth increased (30).
Another study found that a group of younger men only required 20 grams of protein per meal to stimulate growth (31).
A third study got seven men over the age of 65 to take daily 15-gram supplements of essential amino acids, the smaller building blocks of protein, which resulted in muscle growth (32).
The amino acid leucine is particularly important for regulating muscle growth. Rich sources of leucine include whey protein, meat, fish and eggs, as well as soy protein isolate (29).
2. Vitamin D
Vitamin D deficiency is related to sarcopenia, although the reasons why are not entirely understood (33).
Taking vitamin D supplements can increase muscle strength and reduce the risk of falling. These benefits have not been seen in all studies, possibly because some research volunteers may have already been getting enough vitamin D (33).
The best dose of vitamin D for preventing sarcopenia is currently unclear.
3. Omega-3 Fatty Acids
A study of 45 women found that a daily 2-gram fish oil supplement combined with resistance training increased muscle strength more than resistance training without fish oil (36).
Part of this benefit may be due to the anti-inflammatory benefits of omega-3 fatty acids. However, research has suggested that omega-3s might also signal muscle growth directly (29).
Creatine is a small protein normally made in the liver. Although your body makes enough to prevent you from becoming deficient, creatine in the diet from meat or as a supplement may benefit your muscle growth.
A group of several studies investigated how taking a daily 5-gram creatine supplement affected 357 adults with an average age of 64.
When participants took the creatine, they got more benefits from resistance training compared to when they performed resistance training with no creatine (37).
Creatine is probably not beneficial for sarcopenia if used alone, without exercise.
SUMMARY:Protein, vitamin D, creatine and omega-3 fatty acids can all improve muscle growth in response to exercise.
The Bottom Line
Sarcopenia, the loss of muscle mass and strength, becomes more common with age and can decrease lifespan and quality of life.
Eating enough calories and high-quality protein can slow down the rate of muscle loss. Omega-3 and creatine supplements may also help fight sarcopenia.
Nevertheless, exercising is the most effective way to prevent and reverse sarcopenia.
Resistance exercises appear to be particularly effective, including using resistance bands, lifting weights or doing calisthenics like squats, push-ups and sit-ups.
However, even simple exercises like walking can slow your rate of muscle loss. At the end of the day, the most important thing is to get active.