Fat Loss Biology
Muscle Building Supplements for Senior Fitness

Muscle building supplements are often useless for senior fitness. Research is either absent or shows weak results for seniors. One exception is a mixture of three commonly available supplements.

Good Muscle Building Supplements Hard to Find for Senior Fitness

Muscle mass drops quickly after about age 50. Muscle loss becomes a health concern starting after age 60. Unfortunately, the vast majority of supplements for enhancing lean body mass are directed at younger people. Research studies on their use for seniors is either absent or shows weak results.

Typical examples include growth hormone (hGH) secretagogues, supplements that increase hGH release from the pituituary gland. HGH spikes are very valuable for counteracting muscle loss. The most commonly researched supplement for this purpose is L-arginine. The bad news that I discovered for my age group (mid-60s), though, is that it fails for us seniors (see When Arginine Fails As A Growth Hormone Releaser).

The best that commercial industry has to offer is a product called Ensure Muscle Health. I wouldn’t put that crap in my body on a dare. Just take a look at the ingredients below, followed by my comments. If you are really interested, you can see all of the details about this and other Ensure products here: Ensure.com. Just don’t buy them. There are much better muscle building supplements for senior fitness, which I discovered in the medical research literature and will tell you about later in this post.

Muscle Building Supplements - Ensure for Senior Fitness

Taking a quick look at the Nutrition Facts shows that this is mostly sugar water – the first two ingredients are water and sugar – with a few grams of protein, mostly from casein, the cheapest protein on the market. To be at least a little positive, you get 13 grams of protein to go with your 22 grams of sugar (part of 32 grams of carbohydrate overall).

That is way too much sugar! For comparison, one small, 8 oz bottle provides almost 2.5 times the amount of sugar as a 12 oz can of Coca Cola. Wow!

If anything, the best ingredient in this product for building or retaining muscle mass is hidden in the ingredients list: beta-hydroxy-beta-methylbutyrate (aka, HMB). You know what that is, right? Right…it’s a common supplement that everyone knows about – NOT. This is actually a fantastic ingredient for muscle building supplements, especially for senior fitness, which I have written about in an earlier post here: HMB Best Of Muscle Building Supplements For Senior Fitness.

The good news about HMB is twofold: 1) It is available in products other than Ensure Muscle Health; and, 2) It can be combined with two common amino acids, in reasonable doses, that have been shown to provide significant benefits in as few as 12 weeks. And it works in some the weakest seniors in our ‘mature’ population: elderly women. Take a look at the research on this below…it is phenomenal.

Great News for Senior Men and Women

My view is that, if something works well in elderly women, even in the absence of an exercise program, then it certainly will help me. Here are the details – i.e., the full reference citation and the published abstract from a study that blew me away (in a positive sense).

Muscle Building Supplements - HMB, Arginine, Lysine Research

The nice thing about research studies like this is that, even if the scientific jargon is a little complicated, the conclusions are very clear. Let me also point out that the daily dosages used in this study correspond to reasonable amounts of these supplements: 2 grams of HMB, 5 grams of arginine, and 1.5 grams of lysine. In fact, supplements are now widely available that provide the right amount of HMB, and supplements have been widely available for a long time that provide the right amounts of arginine and lysine.

It may seem as though the benefits are a little understated here. As a career-long research scientist, I will just say that I’m not really into marketing hype. I think the research speaks for itself. A more telling comment is this: I am sufficiently impressed by this study that I have added these ingredients to my own daily supplement regimen. I recommend them for everyone, especially for us ‘mature’ folks who want (and expect) to stay fit for many years to come.

Updating muscle building supplements for senior fitness,

(Mature) FitScientist

10 Comments so far »

  1. by Jane


    Which is better to build/maintain muscle in seniors…CLA or HMB or a combination of the two? I considered Ensure with HMB but I too backed away when I read the sugar content! I read where CLA helps reduce abdomenal fat does HMB do the same? I guess what I’m asking which would have the best benefits HMB or CLA?

  2. by FitScientist


    Hi, Jane: The evidence for CLA to help build lean body mass is not available for seniors, and it is weak in the studies that do exist. Furthermore, it is difficult to determine which chemical isomers of CLA occur in the commonly available supplements (mostly Tonalin). Naturally occurring CLA does not occur in plants, although all the derivatives on the shelf are plant-derived. On the other hand, HMB has solid research backing behind it all the way to age 70 or so. I take 4000 mg of CLA just to hedge my bets, although the HMB mix (with L-arginine, L-lysine, creatine, and glucose) is more reliable for increasing muscle mass at my ‘maturity’ level (i.e., age 64). Also take a look at: Mix Your Own Bodybuilding Supplements Formula.

    All the best,

  3. by David


    This was very interesting I had no idea that it started that soon, my husband and I are 43 and 44, I had no idea we were so close to the mark on this. If you continue to work out two to three times a week lifting weight then your muscle shouldn’t deplete like that though right? I have been lifting weights to strengthen my bones and muscle so I hope not.

  4. by Arthur


    This is great information but I think it started before age fifty, can I take these supplements even though I’m only 43? I want to be the best fit I can be when I hit my senior years because I refuse to just give up and set down somewhere. I’m hoping to one day get to do the things I never got to because I was working all the time and it will take muscle.

  5. by John


    Thank you so much for posting this I was hoping for more information about senior women as well but I think I can modify this to work for me. I am in my forties and I want to make sure that I know how to stay fit for when I am a senior that way I don’t look or act like one. Thank you for the heads start on my research I appreciate it.

  6. by Doug


    What is your recommended replacement for Pure Encapsulations HMB Plus since it seems to have been discontinued?

  7. by FitScientist


    Hi, Doug:

    Yes, that was a disappointing development by Pure Encapsulations. HMB products at body-building sites are way overloaded with extraneous ingredients (and overpriced, of course). The product that I will be switching to is a complex of HMB and other amino acids, creatively called HMB Complex. It is available at this link on our store site:
    Be sure to use code ‘dnc42′ to get access to it at that link. I will also send you a direct email with this note.

    All the best,

  8. by Geo


    Hey Doc,

    I’m a 60 year old male who wants to start bodybuilding. Due mainly to sarcopenia. Please please please I need your input on matters of diet and supplementation. I will be more than happy to compensate you for your assistance. Thanks in advance!

  9. by FitScientist


    Hi, Geo…

    There are many things you can do to counteract muscle loss, or at least slow it down. Regarding muscle fitness, the best place to start for exercise is the Body by Science book, which I specifically address here (watch the videos linked there):


    The best muscle-building supplement that I have found, irrespective of age, is HMB. E.g., in HMB Plus, at my online store here (be sure to use login code ‘dnc42′ is you want to order it there):


    Research results are based on 1.5 grams a day.

    The best eating style is what I wrote about in my Fat Loss Biology book, here:


    Although the book addresses fat metabolism, it is generally a healthy approach for everyone.

    Finally, dig into this article that I wrote recently:


    The information therein is a gold mine for good health and fitness, especially for those of us who are heading into our ‘mature’ years.

    I realize that I have not addressed your request about bodybuilding. All by itself, bodybuilding is a severely damaging approach to exercise. I am more concerned with health and fitness, which includes muscles and everything else that works for true health.

    I don’t know your overall health status. However, these few directions are a good start for everyone. Let me know if you have any other questions.

    Oh, by the way, in my opinion you should not have to pay anyone to help you figure out how to be fit and healthy.

    All the best,

  10. by Geo


    Thanks Doc!

Comment RSS · TrackBack URI

Leave a comment

Name: (Required)

eMail: (Required)



Powered by WP Robot