How to eat for maximum muscle growth at any age

With age, the body’s need for proteins, fats and carbohydrates gradually changes quantitatively, which makes it difficult to build and maintain muscle mass.

To date, there is a wealth of researches on how athletes of different ages respond to the intake of different levels and proportions of macronutrients. In this article, you can find some helpful advice on how to properly shape your diet for a longer stay in great physical shape.

Protein. Get enough at any age

You probably know that protein in the diet is essential for promoting muscle growth (through muscle protein synthesis) and optimal post-workout recovery.

Research shows that young people are very sensitive to the anabolic effects of amino acids. At the same time, comparatively large doses of amino acids are required for maximum anabolic response in the elderly.


Why is that so? The weakening of the reaction is explained by a decrease in the activity of the signaling pathway of the mTOR protein and the p70S6K enzyme, both of which are involved in the initiation of protein synthesis. In addition, the decrease in the anabolic response in the elderly appears to be at least in part due to the natural increase in oxidative stress that accompanies the aging process. Oxidative stress, in fact, is a type of cell damage that results in massive free radical formation and a decrease in antioxidant levels. In contrast, as the number of molecules known as “reactive oxygen species” increases in the body, the level of protein synthesis decreases.

However, including enough protein in your diet – specifically the amino acid leucine – can help prevent the decline in muscle protein synthesis that occurs with aging.

Protein recommendations for optimal muscle building at different ages:

<18 years old: 1.3-1.7 grams per pound of body weight;

19-40 years: 1.7-2.4 grams per pound of body weight;

41-65 years: 2.4-2.8 grams per pound of body weight;

> 65 years: 2.8-3.3 grams per pound of body weight.

It is recommended to include in the diet a sufficient amount of meat, vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds.

Carbohydrates. Consume less

As with protein, optimal carbohydrate intake can have a positive effect on the rate of muscle protein synthesis. However, compared to younger people, older people need fewer carbohydrates to stimulate muscle growth.

Basically, carbohydrates affect muscle growth by increasing insulin secretion. Insulin promotes the entry of amino acids into cells, which stimulates muscle growth and accelerates recovery. In this sense, sufficient carbohydrates are still needed even in old age, as it helps to maintain and build muscle.

For adult athletes, consuming carbohydrates along with protein has been shown to have a greater anabolic effect than just consuming protein. In addition, insulin effectively inhibits protein breakdown, thus promoting muscle retention. In addition, it has been found that carbohydrate intake can prolong muscle building through amino acid intake.

Overall, as you get older, you can still benefit from your carb intake. But since physical activity and metabolic rate tend to decrease with age, you obviously won’t need as many of them. As protein intake rises, carbohydrate intake should be comparatively lower with age.

Carbohydrate recommendations for optimal muscle building at different ages:

<20 years: 3.7-5.3 grams per pound of body weight;

21-40 years: 3.2-4.7 grams per pound of body weight;

41-65 years: 2.5-4.1 grams per pound of body weight;

> 65 years: 1.7-3.5 grams per pound of body weight.

Fats. Increase its intake as your carbohydrate intake decreases

The classic way of forming a diet plan for athletes involves, first of all, meeting the need for protein, and then determining the individual optimal balance between carbohydrates and fats. Your protein intake is most often the same, whether your primary goal is to build muscle or burn fat.

This approach is the smartest because it prioritizes protein, a nutrient that most people don’t consume enough, and offers endless possibilities for balancing the other two macronutrients individually. Therefore, as you get older, your fat intake should be largely determined by your carbohydrate intake.

In other words, while younger athletes who are more sensitive to the anabolic effect of carbohydrate intake are advised to consume less fat (but not less than 0.5 g per pound of body weight) and more carbohydrates, older people need to get fewer calories from carbohydrates and give preference to proteins and fats.

Recommendations for fat intake for optimal muscle building at different ages:

<20 years: 0.5-0.9 grams per pound of body weight;

21-40 years: 0.7-1.1 grams per pound of body weight;

41-65 years: 0.9-1.3 grams per pound of body weight;

> 65 years: 0.1-1.5 grams per pound of body weight.

Don’t stop building muscle

With age, many people, especially middle-aged and older, begin to follow a rather unwise approach to diet. If they want to lose weight, they do not make adjustments to their diet, but simply cut back on the serving size. If they are looking to build muscle, they again follow their usual diet, just slightly increase their protein intake by consuming protein supplements.

In order to achieve a suitable diet at any age, you just need to maintain a balance of the most important components of any diet: proteins, fats and carbohydrates.


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