8 Vitamins That Stop Age-Related Muscle Loss, According to a Dietitian

Medically Reviewed by Felicia Newell, M.S., RDN

January 16, 2024

Strong, healthy muscles aren’t just helpful on the pickleball court, they’re vital to preventing risky falls. In fact, about 36 million falls are reported among older adults in the U.S. each year—making falls the leading cause of injury and injury death in this age group (1). That’s about one in four people!

Age-related muscle loss, called sarcopenia, is a natural part of aging, but that doesn’t mean you’re helpless to stop it. As a registered dietitian, I have seen several clients successfully increase their muscle mass. Doing so usually comes down to simple lifestyle changes, dietary adjustments, and supplement additions. And the best part? These changes aren’t overwhelming to adopt.

In this blog, we’ll look at the supplement portion of age-related muscle loss (there are eight, in particular). But first, let’s define sarcopenia and how to know whether or not you have it.

Table Of Contents

What Is Sarcopenia?

Sarcopenia, quite literally meaning "lack of flesh," is a condition where muscle degeneration sets in as we age. This condition typically begins around the age of 30 and accelerates after 60, leading to a progressive decrease in muscle mass, function, and strength. Most adults lose around 3% of their muscle strength each year. (2, 3, 4).

Factors contributing to sarcopenia include hormonal changes, reduced physical activity, and insufficient protein intake.

Unfortunately, sarcopenia also reduces life expectancy in those it affects, as opposed to individuals with normal muscle strength (5). It’s  associated with inflammation, insulin resistance, a drop in testosterone and estrogen levels, and chronic diseases, such as diabetes, heart disease, and pulmonary disease (6).

How to Tell If You Have Sarcopenia

The signs of sarcopenia are the result of diminished muscle strength. Early signs of sarcopenia include (7): 

  • Frequent falls
  • Muscle weakness
  • Slow walking speed
  • Muscle wasting
  • Losing weight without trying 
  • Difficulty performing normal daily activities

However, these signs can also occur in other medical conditions. If you experience one or more of these and can’t explain why, talk to your healthcare provider.

Assessing for sarcopenia can be achieved through a hand grip strength test, a method proven to provide valuable insights into muscle health (8). This test specifically measures the strength of your hand muscles, offering a tangible gauge of your upper body strength. By undergoing this assessment, you not only gain an indication of sarcopenia but also obtain a broader understanding of your overall muscular well-being and functional capacity.

Which Vitamins & Supplements Should I Take for Muscle Loss?

Preventing sarcopenia begins with maintaining a balanced diet and consistent exercise, especially resistance training. And when it comes to supplements, you've got plenty of options to choose from. Here are eight, in particular, that I highly recommend if you want to give your muscle health an extra boost as you age.

1. Collagen

Collagen, a vital protein in the human body, has also been linked to the prevention of sarcopenia. This protein is crucial for maintaining the health and strength of various bodily tissues, including muscles and skin. Emerging research suggests that collagen supplements, particularly those rich in type 1 collagen, may help stimulate muscle growth and enhance muscle function. 

In one study, researchers examined the effect of post-exercise collagen peptides on muscle mass and function during a 3-month resistance training program (9). After 12 weeks, the collagen group showed a substantial improvement in both muscle mass and function compared to the placebo group.

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2. Creatine

Creatine, a naturally occurring compound, plays a pivotal role in energy production—especially during high-intensity workouts. Scientific research reveals that when combined with resistance training, creatine supplementation has the potential to elevate muscle strength and overall physical performance in older adults. This positions creatine as a promising ally in the battle against sarcopenia (10).

3. Protein Powder

Thanks to their richness in amino acids—particularly essential amino acids—protein powders are another supplement to consider in the battle against sarcopenia. Amino acids are known as the “building blocks” of muscle tissue…helping to repair and regenerate muscle, promote muscle growth, and keep the body in a muscle-building state (11).

One amino acid—leucine—acts as a signaling molecule that activates key pathways involved in muscle growth.

So, how much protein do you need to experience these benefits?

Medical experts like Dr. Peter Attia recommend getting “2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight (or about 1 gram per pound)” per day (12). So, if you weigh 150 pounds, you would need a daily protein intake of ~150 grams to maintain muscle health. Achieving this intake can be tough, which is why a high-quality protein powder can be especially helpful.

4. BCAAs

Branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) are comprised of three essential amino acids: leucine, isoleucine, and valine. They account for 35% of the essential amino acids found in muscle proteins and help trigger muscle protein synthesis, which is critical in maintaining and building muscle mass (13). 

Some research suggests that BCAA supplementation, particularly when combined with resistance training, could enhance muscle strength and functionality in older adults (14).

In one study, people who took 5.6 grams of BCAAs after their resistance workout had a 22% greater increase in muscle growth compared to those who took a placebo (15).

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5. Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 fatty acids, commonly found in krill oil supplements, have also shown promise in reducing sarcopenia or age-related muscle loss. This nutrient is vital for muscle health and function and has been shown to stimulate muscle protein synthesis while reducing inflammation.

Research suggests that a diet supplemented with omega-3 fatty acids can improve muscle mass and function in older adults, potentially offsetting the effects of age-related muscle loss (16).

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6. Vitamin D

Vitamin D has also been associated with muscle function and strength. A deficiency in vitamin D is prevalent among older adults and has been linked to decreased muscle mass and function—two side effects of sarcopenia. Research shows that vitamin D supplementation can improve muscle strength, especially in those deficient in vitamin D (17).

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7. Vitamin E

Antioxidants play a critical role in maintaining muscle health. And since the body’s natural antioxidant defenses decline with age, it’s all the more important to supplement with a potent antioxidant like Vitamin E.

One way vitamin E maintains muscle health is by mitigating oxidative stress—a process that occurs when there's an imbalance of free radicals and antioxidants in the body. (Note: Free radicals are highly reactive molecules that, when unstable, cause cellular damage. And one of the places they can cause cellular damage is in the muscle tissue.)

When there’s an excess of oxidative stress in the body, it can impair muscle performance, hinder muscle growth and repair, and lead to a decline in muscle mass, strength, and function. All characteristics of sarcopenia, and all things we want to avoid—especially as we age.

That said, supplementing with a powerful antioxidant like vitamin E gives your body what it needs to counteract the damaging effects of cell-damaging free radicals. This, in turn, can help preserve muscle function and potentially slow the progression of age-related muscle decline (18).

8. Vitamin C

Vitamin C is primarily known for its immune-boosting properties, but it may also be a key player in the fight against sarcopenia. This essential nutrient is crucial for collagen production, a factor integral to the maintenance of muscle mass and strength.

Recent studies suggest sufficient vitamin C intake could help prevent the loss of muscle mass and functionality associated with sarcopenia (19). It's worth noting that while citrus fruits are a commonly recognized source, vitamin C can also be found in foods such as bell peppers, strawberries, and broccoli.

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Lauren Manaker
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Lauren Manaker

Lauren Manaker is an award-winning registered dietitian (RDN), certified lactation educator (CLE), author, and speaker with over 20 years of experience. She earned her BS in Food Science and Human Nutrition from the University of Florida (go Gators!) and an MS in Clinical Nutrition from Rush University in Chicago.

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    Medical Disclaimer

    This content is for informational and educational purposes only. It is not intended to provide medical advice or to take the place of such advice or treatment from a personal physician. All readers/viewers of this content are advised to consult their doctors or qualified health professionals regarding specific health questions. Neither Dr. Chad Walding nor the publisher of this content takes responsibility for possible health consequences of any person or persons reading or following the information in this educational content. All viewers of this content, especially those taking prescription or over-the-counter medications, should consult their physicians before beginning any nutrition, supplement, or lifestyle program.

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