Protein Requirements for Master Athletes: Just Older Versions of Their Younger Selves


September 2021


It is established that protein requirements are elevated in athletes to support their training and post-exercise recovery and adaptation, especially within skeletal muscle. However, research on the requirements for this macronutrient has been performed almost exclusively in younger athletes, which may complicate their translation to the growing population of Master athletes (i.e. > 35 years old). In contrast to older (> 65 years) untrained adults who typically demonstrate anabolic resistance to dietary protein as a primary mediator of the ‘normal’ age-related loss of muscle mass and strength, Master athletes are generally considered successful models of aging as evidenced by possessing similar body composition, muscle mass, and aerobic fitness as untrained adults more than half their age. The primary physiology changes considered to underpin the anabolic resistance of aging are precipitated or exacerbated by physical inactivity, which has led to higher protein recommendations to stimulate muscle protein synthesis in older untrained compared to younger untrained adults. This review puts forth the argument that Master athletes have similar muscle characteristics, physiological responses to exercise, and protein metabolism as young athletes and, therefore, are unlikely to have protein requirements that are different from their young contemporaries. Recommendations for protein amount, type, and pattern will be discussed for Master athletes to enhance their recovery from and adaptation to resistance and endurance training.

Sports Med (2021)