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The important role of protein in preserving ageing muscle mass

by Tanya Kwiez |

Age-related muscle loss (called sarcopenia), is a normal part of the aging process. There is a natural decline in testosterone as we age and this hormone is important as it stimulates both the production of protein and the growth of muscles. It can be thought of as the ‘fuel’ that lights the muscle building fire. Research shows that after the age of 30, muscle mass declines at a rate of 0.3 to 0.8% per year (4). Research further shows us that men in particular will lose almost 30% of their muscle mass during their lifetimes (1).

When muscle mass is weakened, this can severely impact a person’s balance, energy, mobility, and overall health. Preserving as well as building new muscle mass is integral to healthy ageing and living a more active life.


Muscle mass effects on mobility

When a person has less muscle mass this will lead to greater weakness and less mobility, both of which may increase the risk of falls and bone fractures. In 2015 a report from the American Society for Bone and Mineral Research showed that people with sarcopenia had 2.3 times the risk of suffering a low-trauma fracture from a fall, such as a broken hip, leg, collarbone, arm, or wrist (1).


The power of protein

Research shows that higher dietary protein of up to 1.2 g/kg of bodyweight/per day may help in the prevention of sarcopenia and also maintain musculoskeletal health in older individuals. It can be challenging to achieve higher daily dietary protein levels, particularly for older individuals who may have a reduced appetite and underlying health conditions. Studies have shown that consumption of high-quality protein foods and/or supplementation can help to avoid the negative effects these aspects can have on ageing muscle (4).


How we can use dietary protein to optimise muscle mass

The diet clearly plays a crucial role in building and preserving muscle mass. Dietary protein is essential for skeletal muscle function so protein really is the king of muscle food. The human body breaks it down into amino acids, which it then can use to build muscle. However, it is common for older adults to experience a phenomenon called anabolic resistance, which reduces the bodies' ability to break down and make new protein. This means that the recommended daily amount of protein is higher for older people (1, 2.)

It is interesting to note that although the cause of anabolic resistance is not clearly understood, the bacteria that lives in the gastrointestinal tract (microbiome) is believed to also play a role as the microbiome changes with age and is influenced by dietary proteins. Studies also show that the gut microbiome may also play a role in the function of our skeletal muscles (2). 

A two-year study completed in 2019 examined associations between protein intake per day and declines in skeletal muscle mass in older men and women who were aged between 60–87 years. This research found that daily, high total protein intake, particularly at lunchtime, is associated with preservation of skeletal muscle mass in men (3). 

Nutrition research shows that it is vital to reach optimal daily protein levels in order to prevent age-associated losses in muscle mass and strength throughout the lifespan.

Scientifically formulated protein powders such as specialised pea and brown rice formulas can be an efficient way to boost daily protein levels. They can be easily added to a range of meals or beverages like oatmeal, shakes, and yogurt.


Product Highlights: Fill Up™ - To Support and Nourish

Activated Nutrients Fill Up™ was formulated by leading nutritional science experts to help meet the body's needs for protein, energy and key vitamins and minerals when these needs are not being met through diet alone.

Activated Nutrients Fill Up™ contains sprouted and fermented pea protein and brown rice protein to provide 23g of highly bioavailable protein with a complete amino acid profile per serve. It also provides, 1100kJ, 7g of dietary fibre, and at least 25% of the recommended intake of essential vitamins and minerals per serve.


1. Harvard Health Publishing, (2016). Preserve your muscle mass, accessed 26/10/2021.

2. Ni Lochlainn M, Bowyer RCE, Steves CJ, (2018). Dietary Protein and Muscle in Aging People: The Potential Role of the Gut Microbiome. Nutrients, 2018;10(7):929. 

3. Ostuka R et al, (2020). Protein intake per day and at each daily meal and skeletal muscle mass declines among older community dwellers in Japan, Public Health Nutrition, 23;6;1090- 1097.

4. Putra C, (2021). Protein Source and Muscle Health in Older Adults: A Literature Review, Nutrients; 13; 743.