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Nutrition for the Masters Athlete

If you’re a masters athlete you may have to make some changes to your diet.

Did you know that once you get to 50 you're likely to start losing around 0.5-1% of muscle per year (Phillips 2015). How depressing! Luckily, I’ve got a little while yet :)

But why is this? Why as we get older our bodies make it more difficult to keep our biceps?!

Usually it’s our fault, this drop in muscle mass with age (sarcopenia) is more a result of disuse rather than simply diminishing on its own according. Likewise, a less than optimal diet we often see in older populations contributes to this problem (Deutz 2014).

There’s more. As you start going grey and hairs appear where you don't want them to, anabolic resistance seems to affect older populations ability to increase muscle mass through muscle protein synthesis and nutrition (Churchward-Venna, Breen and Phillips, 2013). So essentially it becomes harder to get jacked/lean/have abs as you get old.

But saying that......

Ok, so what can you do?

Net protein balance is the difference between MPS and muscle protein breakdown (MPB) where if MPB exceeds MPS you will have a negative protein balance leading to a likely drop in muscle (Atherton and Smith 2012).

To improve this net protein balance, a combination of enough protein with resistance exercise is necessary.

Ok but how much?

It’s considered that 20g of protein maximizes protein synthesis after resistance training in young adults (Moore at al. 2009). This breakpoint of around 0.25per kg per meal is where adding any extra protein won’t provide any additional benefit.

However in older men, this plateau increases to 40g (Young et al., 2012) where a dosing of 0.40g is recommended (Yang, Breen et al., 2012). So it seems the current recommendations of 0.8g per kg per day isn’t enough.

So basically eat more protein!

Does the type matter?

It seems so yes. Whey protein produces greater MPS rates than casein or soy in older adults compared to younger populations (Phillips and Breen 2013). Adding the BCAA leucine could also be a feasible strategy to help increase MPS throughout the day but overall protein quantity is still more important (see how often should you really be eating).

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Anything else?

1. Don’t forget hitting the gym! The most effective method to increase MPS is still by weight training (Fiatarone et al., 1990), where even gentle exercise can help anabolic sensitivity. But if you throw in enough protein too then the effects are even greater (Cermak et al. 2012).

2. A current study (Phillips, Bell, Snidjers and Parise) is also looking at how other supplements that have shown to help muscle growth; whey protein, creatine, calcium and vitamin D could also be beneficial. It will be interesting to see these results!


In a nutshell - Protein recommendations for the masters athlete

  • 4 equally spaced protein meals per day 0.4g/kg per meal

  • Pre sleep meal twice as big to give an overnight stimulation – 0.8g per kg

  • Timing and meal spacing are important – 30-40g every 3hrs

  • Any form of exercise can improve the sensitivity of the muscle and help MPS, however HIT and hypertrophic are likely to be more effective

  • Other supplements to aid hypertrophy (whey protein, creatine, vitamin D3 and calcium)

Is there someone you know who might benefit from this? Then it would mean lot to me if you shared it.

Thanks in advance!


Need more help with your diet? Then sign up to our free 5 day online nutrition course:

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Anon, (2017). [online] Available at: [Accessed 14 Mar. 2017].

  1. Atherton, P. and Smith, K. (2012). Muscle protein synthesis in response to nutrition and exercise. The Journal of Physiology, 590(5), pp.1049-1057.

  2. Cermak, N., Res, P., de Groot, L., Saris, W. and van Loon, L. (2012). Protein supplementation augments the adaptive response of skeletal muscle to resistance-type exercise training: a meta-analysis. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 96(6), pp.1454-1464.

  3. Churchward-Venne, T., Breen, L. and Phillips, S. (2013). Alterations in human muscle protein metabolism with aging: Protein and exercise as countermeasures to offset sarcopenia. BioFactors, 40(2), pp.199-205.

  4. Deutz, N., Bauer, J., Barazzoni, R., Biolo, G., Boirie, Y., Bosy-Westphal, A., Cederholm, T., Cruz-Jentoft, A., Krznariç, Z., Nair, K., Singer, P., Teta, D., Tipton, K. and Calder, P. (2014). Protein intake and exercise for optimal muscle function with aging: Recommendations from the ESPEN Expert Group. Clinical Nutrition, 33(6), pp.929-936.

  5. Fiatarone, M. (1990). High-Intensity Strength Training in Nonagenarians. JAMA, 263(22), p.3029.

  6. Moore, D., Robinson, M., Fry, J., Tang, J., Glover, E., Wilkinson, S., Prior, T., Tarnopolsky, M. and Phillips, S. (2008). Ingested protein dose response of muscle and albumin protein synthesis after resistance exercise in young men. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 89(1), pp.161-168.

  7. Phillips, S. (2015). Nutritional Supplements in Support of Resistance Exercise to Counter Age-Related Sarcopenia. Advances in Nutrition: An International Review Journal, 6(4), pp.452-460.

  8. Yang, Y., Breen, L., Burd, N., Hector, A., Churchward-Venne, T., Josse, A., Tarnopolsky, M. and Phillips, S. (2012). Resistance exercise enhances myofibrillar protein synthesis with graded intakes of whey protein in older men. British Journal of Nutrition, 108(10), pp.1780-1788.

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