Anabolic Resistance and Aging: How to Maintain Muscle Mass as You Get Older

anabolic resistance


As we age, it is common for our bodies to undergo various changes, including a decline in muscle mass and strength. This phenomenon, known as anabolic resistance, poses a significant challenge for individuals who want to maintain their muscle mass and overall physical function as they get older. In this article, we will explore the concept of anabolic resistance, its underlying mechanisms, and strategies to combat it and preserve muscle mass as we age.

Understanding Anabolic Resistance

What is anabolic resistance?

Anabolic resistance refers to the reduced muscle protein synthesis (MPS) response to anabolic stimuli, such as resistance exercise and protein ingestion, that occurs with aging. In simpler terms, it means that the body becomes less efficient at building and repairing muscle tissue in response to muscle-building signals.

Causes and mechanisms of anabolic resistance

Several factors contribute to anabolic resistance in older adults. These include hormonal changes, reduced sensitivity to anabolic signals, impaired nutrient delivery to muscles, and increased levels of inflammation. Additionally, age-related muscle loss, also known as sarcopenia, further exacerbates anabolic resistance.

Consequences of anabolic resistance

Anabolic resistance can have significant consequences for older adults. It leads to a loss of muscle mass, strength, and function, which can increase the risk of falls, fractures, and loss of independence. It can also impair metabolic health and contribute to the development of chronic diseases such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

Strategies to Combat Anabolic Resistance

Resistance training

Resistance training, also known as strength training, is a crucial component in combating anabolic resistance. By engaging in regular resistance exercise, older adults can stimulate muscle protein synthesis and promote muscle growth. Focus on multi-joint exercises that target major muscle groups, such as squats, deadlifts, bench presses, and rows. Gradually increase the intensity and volume of your workouts over time to continue challenging your muscles.

Optimize protein intake

Protein is the building block of muscle tissue, and optimizing protein intake is essential for maintaining muscle mass. Older adults should aim to consume an adequate amount of protein with each meal, typically around 20-30 grams per meal. Include high-quality protein sources such as lean meats, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy products, and plant-based protein sources like legumes, tofu, and quinoa.

Timing of protein intake

Distributing protein intake evenly throughout the day can help maximize muscle protein synthesis. Aim to have a good source of protein at each meal and consider having a protein-rich snack before bedtime. This strategy ensures a steady supply of amino acids to support muscle repair and growth.

Leucine supplementation

Leucine, an essential amino acid, plays a crucial role in stimulating muscle protein synthesis. Some studies suggest that leucine supplementation, in combination with resistance exercise, may help combat anabolic resistance in older adults. Consult with a healthcare professional or a registered dietitian before considering any supplementation.

Maintain an active lifestyle

Regular physical activity beyond resistance training can also support muscle mass maintenance. Engage in activities such as walking, swimming, cycling, or yoga to promote overall physical fitness and preserve muscle function. Incorporating aerobic exercise into your routine can improve cardiovascular health and support overall well-being.

Get enough sleep

Adequate sleep is essential for muscle recovery and growth. Aim for 7-8 hours of quality sleep each night. Establish a regular sleep schedule, create a comfortable sleep environment, and practice relaxation techniques to improve sleep quality.

Manage stress

Chronic stress can contribute to muscle loss and hinder muscle-building efforts. Incorporate stress management techniques into your daily routine, such as mindfulness meditation, deep breathing exercises, or engaging in hobbies or activities that bring you joy and relaxation.

Stay hydrated

Proper hydration is essential for maintaining optimal muscle function. Ensure you drink enough water throughout the day to support muscle hydration and overall health. Aim for at least 8 cups (64 ounces) of water daily, or more if you are physically active or in a hot climate.


Preserving muscle mass and function as we age is crucial for maintaining overall health and independence. Anabolic resistance poses a significant challenge, but by incorporating strategies such as resistance training, optimizing protein intake, and adopting a healthy lifestyle, it is possible to combat anabolic resistance and preserve muscle mass as we get older. Remember to consult with healthcare professionals or experts in the field to tailor these strategies to your specific needs and circumstances.

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