Skip to main content

6 Eating Habits To Regain Muscle Mass as You Age

Have you flexed a biceps muscle in the mirror lately? Well, there are more important reasons to hold on to your muscle as you age that extend beyond looking good in a T-shirt and avoiding "bat wings." Studies show that loss of this metabolically active muscle tissue over the decades is associated with chronic health conditions, including insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome, in addition to frailty, fatigue, and falls. The scientific term for age-related skeletal muscle and strength loss is sarcopenia, and it usually begins in one's 40s. With this in mind, what are some eating habits you can adopt to regain muscle as you age?

Before we get into helpful diet habits, let's take a deeper look at sarcopenia. This condition can be prevented, and even reversed, in the elderly, as well as in middle-aged people who are just starting to notice a loss of muscle mass. Strength training obviously is a big part of the solution, but pumping iron won't build muscle without the right fuel. Adopting certain key eating habits will fuel your workouts and help your resistance training build new muscle as you age.

According to certified strength and conditioning specialist and sports chiropractor Dr. Matt Tanneberg, CSCS, regaining muscle with exercise requires three main habits: consuming enough calories, consuming enough quality protein, and getting those nutrients throughout your day— and especially before and after workouts.

"Muscle growth is directly linked to nutrition and is impacted negatively when your nutrition isn't supplementing your body properly," Tanneberg tells Eat This, Not That!

To effectively rebuild muscle, try incorporating the following eating habits into your routine in conjunction with a quality strength-training routine.

RELATED: The Most Crucial Eating Habits for Strong Bones


Get enough of your vitamins.

vitamin d foods and supplements

When it comes to building and regaining muscle as you age, it's important to make sure you're eating foods that provide you with adequate amounts of vitamins. And if you're unable to get these vitamins through your daily meals, you may want to talk with your doctor about supplementation.

According to an article published in Nutrients, vitamins D and omega-3 fatty acids are helpful in fighting sarcopenia when coupled with resistance training. This report also states that vitamin D is essential to skeletal muscular health and that deficiency in this nutrient can lead to an increased progression of sarcopenia, and may even lead to more falls and bone fractures. Additionally, it notes that omega-3s contain anti-inflammatory properties, and therefore may improve the health of bodily tissue and muscle.

You can get vitamin D through fatty fish, eggs, many dairy products, and fortified orange juice and cereals. For omega-3s, you can eat fatty fish, nuts, seeds, or plant oils.

RELATED: Vitamin D Deficiency May Lead to Loss of Muscle as You Age, Study Says


Get enough macronutrients.

People trying to shape up often restrict the number of calories they eat in a day. However, this can backfire if you're looking to add muscle, because you need fuel to power resistance exercise and spur muscle growth. So, don't starve or short-change yourself on any of the three macronutrients.

"It's important to have adequate calories in your diet and actually a caloric surplus, if you're looking to gain muscle weight," says Amy Goodson, MS, RD, CSSD, a member of our Medical Expert Board who also served as a sports dietitian for the Dallas Cowboys.

While many may be under the impression that protein alone is the key to building muscle, experts say that eating a well-balanced meal and diversifying your food is one of the most important eating habits to regain muscle as you age. "While protein is the fuel for muscles, you still need to eat a balanced diet with enough carbohydrates and fats to optimize your nutrition for muscle growth," says Tanneberg.


Eat some protein at every meal.

man cooking bacon and eggs

"Most people eat the bulk of their protein at dinner, but research suggests that it's easier to build muscle tissue when protein intake is spread out throughout the day," says Elizabeth Ward, MS, RDN, an award-winning nutrition communicator, recipe developer, writer, and co-author of The Menopause Diet Plan, A Natural Guide to Hormones, Health and Happiness.

Ward recommends shooting for between 1.2–1.6 grams of protein per kilogram of your body weight every day. So, for a person who weighs 160 pounds, this would amount to approximately 88–117 grams of protein. Looking for some ideas on how to incorporate this nutrient into your favorite meals? Try one of these High-Protein Recipes for a Faster Metabolism.


Choose complete proteins.

mature older man eating salad

Speaking of getting enough protein, experts recommend focusing on complete protein sources.

"This means they contain all of the amino acids that the body needs to build muscle," Ward says. "Lean animal foods, such as eggs, lean beef, poultry, and seafood, as well as low-fat dairy foods such as cottage cheese, milk, and Greek yogurt, are excellent sources of complete protein. In addition, animal foods are rich in the amino acid leucine, which triggers muscle cell production."

Plants also contain protein used to make muscle. Soy foods—such as tofu, edamame, and unsweetened soy milk—are foods that, like animal foods, supply complete proteins. Examples of healthy plant foods that are incomplete proteins chickpeas, black beans, quinoa, lentils, peanuts, almonds, pistachios, and walnuts.

RELATED: The Best High-Protein Foods to Eat After 50


Consume high-quality carbs, too.

happy sandwich

Carbohydrates, such as whole grains and legumes, as well as some dairy, fruits, and vegetables, are important for regaining muscle growth. As the body's preferred source of energy, carbs provide an array of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber. What's more, carbs reprieve protein.

"When you restrict carbs from your diet, you deplete the glycogen or stored sugars in your body to get energy," explains Johna Burdeos, RD. "Carb restriction will cause muscle loss, and no carbohydrates means your body has to start breaking down its own muscle for energy."

RELATED: Best Proteins To Eat for Stronger Muscles, Say Sports Dietitians


Prep your body for growth.

pre workout snack

When it comes to eating habits to regain muscle, nutrient timing plays an important role in optimizing your efforts. "You should always eat a pre-workout snack or meal about one hour before you start resistance training. It should include sufficient amounts of carbohydrates, your body's main source of energy," says Tanneberg. "Post-workout is when you should go more protein-heavy to replenish the muscles that are in the healing phase."

"Ideally, you have a whey protein shake or equivalent source of protein within 15–30 minutes after your workout," Tanneberg continues. "Chocolate milk is great post-workout because it has a perfect balance of carbs, fats, and proteins for muscle recovery."

A previous version of this story was published on October 20, 2022. It has been updated to include additional copy and proofreading revisions, additional research, and updated contextual links.

The post 6 Eating Habits To Regain Muscle Mass as You Age appeared first on Eat This Not That.

Eat This Not That

Popular posts from this blog

These 5 Grocery Items Are Cheaper Than Ever Right Now

The grocery industry has been facing major disruptions. The combined effects of the pandemic, climate change, and economic uncertainty over the past couple of years have culminated in a series of supply chain breakdowns. For the consumer, this means supply shortages , shipping delays , and temporary store closures are becoming more commonplace – and all of the added production cost to suppliers is driving up food prices . The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics' Consumer Price Index report for January 2022 was released on Feb. 9, and it tells the story of cost trends for every spending category over the past year. Now the numbers are in, and since January 2021, "food at home" spending has increased 7.4%. Consumers should use this number as a benchmark, Phil Lempert, the consumer behavior analyst and founder behind Supermarket Guru , told Eat This, Not That! "Anything that's substantially less [than the 7.4% increase] is a deal," said Lempert. "When you

When Should I Take Creatine?

Creatine is probably the most well-researched supplement on the market today. Numerous studies have found positive adaptations in strength, power and muscle mass thanks to creatine supplementation—especially when it's combined with resistance training. Although the benefits of creatine are well-known to lifters, the best time to take it isn't common knowledge. Which leads us to some important questions:     Does an optimal time for consuming creatine exist?     If it does, should you take it before or after your workout? According to a new study published in the Journal of Exercise and Nutrition, the timing of creatine ingestion does indeed play a role in getting bigger and stronger. Creatine supplementation before resistance training increases muscular strength and lean muscle mass. Interestingly, taking creatine immediately after lifting weights results in greater muscle growth than taking it immediately before. However, in terms of strength gains, no difference betw

One Major Side Effect of Taking Viagra, Study Says

Viagra, containing the drug sildenafil, is one of the most talked-about prescription medications on the planet. Patented in 1996 and hitting the market in 1998, its primary purpose is to help men achieve an erection. "Viagra is indicated for erectile dysfunction, pulmonary artery hypertension, and off label for Reynauds," Dr. Darren Mareiniss, MD, FACEP , Emergency Medicine Physician at Einstein Medical Center in Philadelphia, explains to Eat This, Not That! Health . "If you don't have one of these issues, probably should not take it." According to the National Institutes of Health , the drug, available as a tablet or liquid suspension, should be taken anywhere from four hours to 30 minutes prior to sexual activity. "Sildenafil usually should not be taken more than once every 24 hours," they note. So what can happen if you take viagra daily? Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You Have "L