Protecting muscle mass and function in older adults during bed rest

Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. 2010 Jan;13(1):34-9. doi: 10.1097/MCO.0b013e328333aa66.


Purpose of review: To highlight the losses in muscle mass, strength, power, and functional capacity incurred in older adults during bed rest-mediated inactivity and to provide practical recommendations for both the prevention and rehabilitation of these losses.

Recent findings: In addition to sarcopenic muscle loss, older adults lose lean tissue more rapidly than the young during prolonged periods of physical inactivity. Amino acid or protein supplementation has the potential to maintain muscle protein synthesis and may reduce inactivity-induced muscle loss, but should ideally be part of an integrated countermeasure regimen consisting of nutrition, exercise, and, when appropriate, pharmacologic interventions.

Summary: In accordance with recent mechanistic advances, we recommend an applied, broad-based two-phase approach to limit inactivity-mediated losses of muscle mass and function in older adults: (i) Lifestyle: consume a moderate amount (25-30 g) of high-quality protein with each meal and incorporate habitual exercise in close temporal proximity to protein-containing meals; (ii) Crises: react aggressively to combat the accelerated loss of muscle mass and function during acute catabolic crises and periods of reduced physical activity. As a base strategy, this should include nutritional support such as targeted protein or amino acid supplementation and integrated physical therapy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aging / physiology
  • Amino Acids / metabolism
  • Amino Acids / therapeutic use
  • Bed Rest / adverse effects*
  • Diet*
  • Dietary Proteins / metabolism
  • Dietary Proteins / therapeutic use*
  • Dietary Supplements
  • Exercise
  • Humans
  • Muscle Strength / physiology
  • Muscle, Skeletal* / metabolism
  • Muscle, Skeletal* / pathology
  • Proteins / metabolism
  • Proteins / therapeutic use
  • Sarcopenia / diet therapy*
  • Sarcopenia / metabolism


  • Amino Acids
  • Dietary Proteins
  • Proteins