Nutritional strategies for maintaining muscle mass and strength from middle age to later life: A narrative review

Maturitas. 2020 Feb:132:57-64. doi: 10.1016/j.maturitas.2019.11.007. Epub 2019 Nov 27.


Progressive age-related reductions in muscle mass and strength (sarcopenia) can cause substantial morbidity. This narrative review summarizes evidence of nutritional interventions for maintaining muscle mass and strength from midlife through old age. PubMed and Cochrane databases were searched to identify studies of dietary intake and nutritional interventions for sustaining muscle mass and strength. The benefits of progressive resistance training with and without dietary interventions are well documented. Protein and amino acid (particularly leucine) intake should be considered, and supplementation may be warranted for those not meeting recommended intakes. Vitamin D receptors are expressed in muscle tissue; meta-analyses have shown that vitamin D benefits muscle strength. Data suggest that milk and other dairy products containing different bioactive compounds (i.e. protein, leucine) can enhance muscle protein synthesis, particularly when combined with resistance exercise. Omega-3 s can improve muscle mass and strength by mediating cell signaling and inflammation-related oxidative damage; no studies were specifically conducted in sarcopenia. Low-dose antioxidants (e.g. vitamins C and E) can protect muscle tissue from oxidative damage, but relevant studies are limited. Magnesium is involved with muscle contraction processes, and data have shown benefits to muscle strength. Acidogenic diets increase muscle protein breakdown, which is exacerbated by aging. Alkalizing compounds (e.g. bicarbonates) can promote muscle strength. Small studies of probiotics and plant extracts have generated interest, but few large studies have been conducted. Based on available data, dietary and supplemental interventions may add to the benefits of exercise on muscle mass and strength; effects independent of exercise have not been consistently shown.

Keywords: Dietary supplement; Healthy aging; Muscle; Nutritional support; Physiology; Skeletal.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Amino Acids / administration & dosage
  • Antioxidants / administration & dosage
  • Diet*
  • Dietary Proteins / administration & dosage*
  • Dietary Supplements
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3 / administration & dosage
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Muscle Proteins / biosynthesis
  • Muscle Strength*
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology*
  • Phytochemicals / administration & dosage
  • Probiotics / administration & dosage
  • Sarcopenia / prevention & control*
  • Vitamin D / administration & dosage


  • Amino Acids
  • Antioxidants
  • Dietary Proteins
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3
  • Muscle Proteins
  • Phytochemicals
  • Vitamin D