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Active Voice: Resistance Training in Healthy Older Adults — Do We Need to Supplement Dietary Protein?

from By Lex B. Verdijk, Ph.D. and Luc J.C. van Loon, Ph.D.

Viewpoints presented in SMB commentaries reflect opinions of the authors and do not necessarily reflect positions or policies of ACSM.

Dr. Verdijk is a researcher and Assistant Professor at the Department of Human Movement Sciences at Maastricht University Medical Centre+, the Netherlands. His research focuses on the role of exercise and nutrition in the regulation of skeletal muscle mass and function, with special interest in the aging human.

Dr. van Loon is a Professor of Physiology of Exercise at the Department of Human Movement Sciences, Maastricht University Medical Centre+, the Netherlands. An ACSM member, Dr. van Loon leads the M3 Research Unit at Maastricht University. The main fields of investigation in his research unit include human skeletal muscle metabolism, exercise metabolism, sports nutrition, adaptation to endurance and resistance type exercise training, and the use of combined physical activity and/or dietary (lifestyle) interventions to improve health and/or functional performance in chronic metabolic disease (obesity and type 2 diabetes) and aging.

This commentary presents Dr. Verdijk’s and Dr. van Loon’s views on the topic of a research article which they and their colleagues published in the March 2013 issue of Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise®, "Protein supplementation during resistance-type exercise training in the elderly."


Muscle mass, strength, and function progressively decline with increasing age. This process has been termed "sarcopenia", and ultimately results in physical disability, loss of independence, and reduced quality of life. Since both decreased physical activity and inadequate food intake play a key role in the development of sarcopenia, exercise and/or nutritional interventions are considered important tools in its treatment. Resistance type exercise training is currently regarded as the most effective intervention strategy to counteract loss of muscle mass and function with aging. Although several studies have suggested that protein supplementation may be of additional benefit, there is no clear evidence that elderly should combine resistance training with protein supplementation to optimize the effects of exercise. Inconclusive findings are likely caused by differences in the populations studied, the amount, type, and timing of supplements, and duration of the intervention programs. more


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