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

16 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 Melissa


    What do you do if as you age you start developing arthritis and things so it makes it more difficult to work out like you should in order to keep fit and keep from losing your muscle mass? I have noticed that is one thing to go first is the muscle density on older people. Is that simply from not moving around so much or is that a vitamins thing?

  7. by Gary


    I’m wanting to get my mom to the gym with me but she’s already really far gone as far as muscle atrophy and I was wondering if it’s to late to start or if we can start slow and make her better? She is 70 years old this year and I really want her to see 80 so I’m willing to work with her if it will work and not waste both our times.

  8. by Amelia


    I have noticed that it is hard to find good supplements for almost anyone especially looking to build muscle but you are right the seniors are definitely lacking in this department. You have done a great job with this article and it look great too. Keep up the good work and I will continue to frequent your blogs as much as I can, I have learned so much.

  9. by Irene


    I think this is great, elderly people lose so much of their nutrients and muscle mass because of the fact that they are aging. The fact that there is a supplement out there now that can help them keep their muscle and continue to help them improve with age is great. Thank you for posting this, my dad goes to the gym all the time so I will show him this article.

  10. by Jim


    It seems to me that fitness at any age for some people is a struggle while others seem to breeze their way to a healthier body. Trust me; these people don’t actually just breeze through it. Everyone from teens to seniors need to think about it and take action in order to get fit and stay fit. But as we age there are more hurdles for us to jump over in order to get fit.

  11. by Shelba


    It once was that personal fitness trainers were exclusively for the super rich, sighted by us normal folks only in paparazzi photographs of a celebrity’s entourage. But as fitness centers have spread throughout the country and the number of personal fitness trainers has increased, getting your own has become a real possibility for the average person. Nor are personal fitness trainers just for the buff, spandex-sporting crowd,

  12. by Jerry Betancur


    hello, I have searched for the last thirty years for a supplement that would help me in my mass gaining workout schedule. at fifty seven I have yet to find anything on the market that doesn’t just empty my pocketbook with little or no results. I spend every morning in the gym lifting heavy weights and working out with men ten to fifteen years younger than me and force myself to make them chase the old man at my routines.210lbs,5’6″ I have a considerable build and enjoy the daily burn. forget the magic pill in the bottle, just get to the gym and push yourself at the basic exercises and the results you want will come. the results will come if you apply yourself and eat right. just think in terms of years for results and enjoy the challenge.

  13. by Marguerite Holmes


    Thanks. Dennis. I also read about this in your Fat Loss book. I stay fit, but at 80 years old, I need something to help me build muscle mass. Or I may never be able to do a full body push up, although I keep trying.
    Do you know anybody who combines these in a single supplement? Or do you have suggestions as to particular brands that can assure that the product is really what it says it is and in the proper amounts? Suggestions would be appreciated.

    greta holmes

  14. by FitScientist


    Hi, Greta:

    Great questions. In my search for something that would work for us ‘mature’ folks, HMB turned out to be the shining star. Many products fit the bill. The key is just to make sure that you get 1500 mg of HMB per day, since that reflects the dosage in all the studies on human subjects. A lot of the body builder-type products add in a lot of junk that is unnecessary, so get something that has the fewest extra ingredients. The brand that I use is by Pure Encapsulations, mainly because I can get it from my own online store. The link is: http://doctorsnutritioncenter.com/shop/hmb-plus-pure-encapsulations/.

    All the best,

  15. by Sherri


    I found your site on search for “L-Glutamine for elderly. I recently read this amino acid helps with mental stability, staying calm and alert brain function. I’m 77 and although young looking for my years, am weak physically. My diagnosis is arthritis and fibromyalgia. Doctor recommended knee surgery but I see too many who aren’t helped a great deal with that. I really didn’t want to exercise (or even move) because of pain. In my search for help I started using Cissus which helped a great deal(got me exercising again) , then added HA which helped more,tried HA with MSM which helped a little more and now taking HA with Chondroitin Sulfate. I’m able to walk almost pain free and exercise (gently) regularly. I have read L-Glutamine is used by body builders. Is there a reason you didn’t mention it as useful for seniors?

  16. by FitScientist


    Hi, Sherri:

    You are inspirational! What a great (and successful) approach you have. In answer to your question, I hold back on so many things just to keep from overwhelming anyone. Yes, glutamine helpful. HMB seems to be the best, as far as we know, because research on older age groups shows it to be. Keep up the good work!

    All the best,

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