Sarcopenia (skeletal muscle wasting with aging) is thought to underlie a number of serious age-related health issues. While it may be seen as inevitable, decreasing this gradual loss of muscle is vital for healthy aging. Thus, it is imperative to investigate exercise and nutrition-based strategies designed to build a reservoir of muscle mass as early as possible.
Elderly individuals are still able to respond to both resistance training and the anabolic signals provided by protein ingestion, provided specific amino acids, such as leucine, are present. Whey proteins are a rich source of these essential amino acids and rapidly elevate plasma amino acids, thus providing the foundations for preservation of muscle mass. Several studies involving supplementation with whey protein have been shown to be effective in augmenting the effects of resistance exercise, particularly when supplementation occurs in the hours surrounding the exercise training.
While further work is required, particularly in elderly people, simple dietary and exercise strategies that may improve the maintenance of skeletal muscle mass will likely result in a decrease in the overall burden of a number of diseases and improve the quality of life as we age.
Exercise Metabolism Unit, Center for Aging, Rehabilitation, Exercise and Sport (CARES) and School of Biomedical Sciences, Victoria University. Victoria, Australia
Correspondence to Dr Alan Hayes, Exercise Metabolism Unit, School of Biomedical Sciences, Victoria University, PO Box 14428, MCMC, Melbourne, Victoria 8001, Australia Tel: +61 3 9919 4658; fax: +61 3 9919 2465; e-mail: Alan.Hayes@vu.edu.au