Category Archives: sarcopenia

Masters Nutrition: Protein Intake for Bone Health

Current recommended protein intake for people over the age of 19 is 0.8 g/kg/day. A lot of strength trainers and CrossFit trainers will recommend a lot more.  CrossFit Masters may need more protein than younger athletes.  Masters CrossFit and older people may need more protein whether they are working out or not.   The muscles of Masters Athletes are less responsive to strength training. We can define Masters as over 35, 40 or 50.  But at what age, physiologically, does a need for greater protein intake occur?  Some sources state loss of muscle mass begins around age 25. While others say it begins much later.

Masters CrossFit.  How much Protein?

Some researchers believe that increasing protein intake may help older athletes.  As well as older people in general.   Spreading intake out over the course of the day may also help anabolic response to training.  Increasing protein intake may help with other things too.  Increasing protein intake increases calcium absorption.  So increasing protein intake may help with bone health.  We have probably all heard that calcium is needed to prevent osteoporosis.  And that strength training also prevents osteoporosis.  Some researchers are proposing that the recommended daily allowance (RDA) for Masters be increased from 0.8 g/kg/day to 1.0 to 1.2 g/kg/day.   For better calcium and nitrogen balance. This is still under what is recommended by many for strength training.  Sports nutritionists recommend 1.2 to 1.7 g/kg/day for athletes.

Strength training and increased protein to prevent muscle loss.

CrossFit Masters Shoulder Blues Mug.

Loss of muscle mass begins around age 25.  But exercise is protective.  For Masters and for young athletes.  The question is open over whether or not Masters athletes need more protein than other athletes.  Sarcopenia (loss of muscle mass) is thought to affect about 1/3rd of people over age 60.   It is a problem affecting many people.  So far the best treatment is strength training and exercise.

How to track protein intake.

Try SuperTracker and keep track of what you eat over a week.  It is a USDA government website that will tell you how much protein (more or less) you are getting from a wide range of foods.  It will also give you a detailed report of many different nutrients and tell you where you are deficient.  You may be surprised at where your weaknesses are.


Gaffney-Stomberg E, Insogna KL, Rodriguez NR, & Kerstetter JE (2009). Increasing dietary protein requirements in elderly people for optimal muscle and bone health. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, 57 (6), 1073-9 PMID: 19460090

Sumukadas, D. (2010). Optimal management of sarcopenia Clinical Interventions in Aging DOI: 10.2147/CIA.S11473 Sayer AA, Robinson SM, Patel HP, Shavlakadze T, Cooper C, & Grounds MD (2013). New horizons in the pathogenesis, diagnosis and management of sarcopenia. Age and ageing, 42 (2), 145-50 PMID: 23315797

Masters Athletes respond to protein intake and resistance exercise as well as young athletes.

CrossFit Masters Athletes and Protein Intake

This is an interesting bit of research.  It was published a year ago but doesn’t seem to have been picked up by news sources.  Here it is: Masters muscles respond to protein intake and resistance exercise by making more muscle as well as young adults.  The study (Patton-Jones et al. 2011) looked at 7 young adults and 7 adults with an average age of 67.  They did multiple reps of knee extensions and ate a meal of lean ground beef.  Its a small number of people, which limits its power, but its hard to recruit people for this kind of thing.  And . . . it required a muscle biopsy.  That might have hurt.  The authors didn’t mention if it did or not.  Thank you study people for doing this for us.

Crossfit Master Amy Kramer of Crossfit Seven,
 Competes in a Reebok CrossFit Fundraiser
at Luke’s Locker, Fort Worth, TX.

Do Masters Athletes need more protein?

This doesn’t mean that there aren’t important differences between people in their 60s and people in their 20s.  See this earlier post.  What the research tells us though is that the rate at which muscle proteins are synthesized following protein intake and resistance training does not appear to change with age.  At least not through our 60s.  The results are important because we all want to stay strong, and most of us would like to get stronger.  That, along with a desire for fun and camaraderie is why we do Crossfit.

Protein Intake and Sarcopenia

It seems like there are a lot of messages out there telling us we won’t be able to.  Stuff it.  Another reason why these results are important is because people tend to lose muscle mass as they age.  This is what sarcopenia is.  It can be a real problem for the elderly, and can severely limit their ability to get around and take care of the business of life.  The question of how much of sarcopenia is inevitable, and how much is due to inactivity hasn’t been completely answered.  But this study points to lack of resistance exercise as a possible major factor.

Symons TB, Sheffield-Moore M, Mamerow MM, Wolfe RR, & Paddon-Jones D (2011). The anabolic response to resistance exercise and a protein-rich meal is not diminished by age. The journal of nutrition, health & aging, 15 (5), 376-81 PMID: 21528164