Effects of Exercise Alone or in Combination with High-Protein Diet on Muscle Function, Aerobic Capacity, and Physical Function in Middle-Aged Obese Adults: A Randomized Controlled Trial

J Nutr Health Aging. 2021;25(6):727-734. doi: 10.1007/s12603-021-1599-1.


Background: Obesity accelerates and exacerbates the age-related changes on muscle function and exercise capacity. In addition, the middle-aged population is often overlooked when talking about the prevention of sarcopenia. This study investigated the effects of exercise alone or in combination with a high-protein diet on muscle function and physical fitness in middle-aged obese adults.

Materials and methods: Sixty-nine middle-aged (50-64 years old) obese adults were randomly assigned to one of the following groups: control group (C; n=23), exercise group (E; n=23) or exercise plus high-protein group (EP; n=23). Individuals within the E and EP groups received 12 weeks of exercise training; whereas, the individuals in the EP group also received a high-protein diet intervention (1.6g/kg/day). Individuals within the C group were asked to maintain their lifestyle for 12 weeks. Participants were evaluated before and after the intervention. Outcome measures included maximal exercise capacity, muscle function and functional physical performance. Analysis of covariance was used to determine the effects of the intervention.

Results: After the intervention, the E and EP groups had greater maximal work rate, peak oxygen consumption, and muscle power during muscle contractions at 180°/sec than that in the C group (P<0.05). The EP group, but not the E group, showed significant improvement in the sit-to-stand test and climbing stairs test than the C group after the intervention (P<0.05). Within group comparisons showed that the anaerobic threshold only increased in the EP group (+12% from pre-test).

Conclusions: For middle-aged obese adults, exercise with a high-protein diet not only improved muscle power and exercise capacity but also enhanced their functional physical performance.

Keywords: High intensity interval training; anaerobic threshold; muscle power.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Diet, High-Protein*
  • Exercise
  • Exercise Tolerance*
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Muscle, Skeletal
  • Obesity* / diet therapy