Posted on Jul 24, 2017, 8 a.m.
Participants showed notable improvement in muscle health and overall strength both before and after the addition of an exercise regimen.
Whey protein supplements are typically stereotyped as bodybuilding fuel exclusively used by gym rats. However, McMaster University researchers have determined that those who take whey protein supplements on a regular basis in combination with other ingredients in the form of a drinkable formula significantly improve their physical strength. This is particularly true for elderly individuals. The study results were recently published in PLOS ONE.
Why the Findings Matter
The findings described above are especially important as senior citizens represent one of the fastest growing groups. Muscle mass and strength decrease throughout the aging process. This process is referred to as sarcopenia. It heightens the risks for falls along with metabolic disorders that spur the need for help from assisted living specialists and centers. Elderly individuals who are not proactive in the mission to slow the progression of sarcopenia have the potential to deteriorate to the point that they find it difficult to complete regular daily activities like moving up and down stairs or rising out of a chair.
The Fight Against Sarcopenia
Several nutritional ingredients are known to be effective in reducing or limiting the onset of sarcopenia. However, the McMaster University research team's finding is the first to show that a specific combination of ingredients is helpful to combat sarcopenia. The ingredient combination is as follows: whey protein, fish oil, calcium, vitamin D and creatine.
The study involved two groups of men. Each participant was at least 70 years old. One group took the nutritional supplement comprised of the ingredients listed above across six weeks without engaging in any sort of exercise regimen. The other group consumed a placebo. The goal of the study was to determine if the consumption of the supplement could spur gains in lean body mass and strength.
After the six week study period, subjects continued taking the nutritional supplement as well as the placebo while passing through an exercise training program that lasted 12 weeks. This regimen consisted of high-intensity interval training and resistance training. Contrary to popular opinion, most senior citizens are capable of performing such exercises.
“We chose that combination of exercises to get a maximal benefit in terms of fitness and muscle strength,” said Gianni Parise, co-lead on the study. “I know many think older persons can’t do that type of exercise, but that’s simply untrue.”
The researchers found improvements in overall strength as well as deteriorating muscle health for subjects both prior to the exercise regimen and following the regimen. Consuming the supplement in the first six weeks caused a 700-gram lean body mass gain. This is equal to the muscle amount such men would typically lose in a year's time. When the subjects engaged in exercise two times per week, they exhibited significant strength gains, especially when contrasted to those who took the placebo.
The study's results show that the whey protein-based supplement clearly does provide significant enhancements to senior adults' muscle mass and strength. These benefits were bolstered when they engaged in the specific exercises outlined above.
“Clearly, exercise is a key part of the greatly improved health profile of our subjects,” said Kirsten Bell, a PhD student who worked on the study, “but we are very excited by the enhancements the supplement alone and in combination with exercise was able to give to our participants.”
Kirsten E. Bell, Tim Snijders, Michael Zulyniak, Dinesh Kumbhare, Gianni Parise, Adrian Chabowski, Stuart M. Phillips. A whey protein-based multi-ingredient nutritional supplement stimulates gains in lean body mass and strength in healthy older men: A randomized controlled trial. PLOSONE, 2017; 12 (7): e0181387 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0181387