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.
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).
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,