Dietary protein and resistance training effects on muscle and body composition in older persons

J Am Coll Nutr. 2007 Dec;26(6):696S-703S. doi: 10.1080/07315724.2007.10719650.


The regular performance of resistance exercises and the habitual ingestion of adequate amounts of dietary protein from high-quality sources are two important ways for older persons to slow the progression of and treat sarcopenia, the age-related loss of skeletal muscle mass and function. Resistance training can help older people gain muscle strength, hypertrophy muscle, and increase whole body fat-free mass. It can also help frail elderly people improve balance and physical functioning capabilities. Inadequate protein intake will cause adverse metabolic and physiological accommodation responses that include the loss of fat-free mass and muscle strength and size. Findings from controlled feeding studies show that older persons retain the capacity to metabolically adjust to lower protein intakes by increasing the efficiency of nitrogen retention and amino acid utilization. However, they also suggest that the recommended dietary allowance of 0.8 g protein x kg(-1) x d(-1) might not be sufficient to prevent subtle accommodations and blunt desired changes in body composition and muscle size with resistance training. Most of the limited research suggests that resistance training-induced improvements in body composition, muscle strength and size, and physical functioning are not enhanced when older people who habitually consume adequate protein (modestly above the RDA) increase their protein intake by either increasing the ingestion of higher-protein foods or consuming protein-enriched nutritional supplements.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aging / physiology
  • Body Composition / physiology*
  • Diet
  • Dietary Proteins / administration & dosage*
  • Dietary Supplements
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Muscle, Skeletal / drug effects
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology*
  • Muscular Atrophy / prevention & control*
  • Nutrition Policy
  • Weight Lifting*


  • Dietary Proteins