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Interventions and public health nutrition

Effects of whey proteins and carbohydrates on the efficacy of resistance training in elderly people: double blind, randomised controlled trial



A few previous studies indicate that protein supplementation increases gains in muscle mass and strength during a resistance exercise program. The purpose of this study was to investigate whether whey protein supplementation results in greater increases in lean body mass, muscle strength and physical function in elderly individuals during 12 weeks of resistance exercise when compared to isocaloric carbohydrate supplementation.


A total of 161 men and women, 65–91 years old, participated in a randomized, controlled, double-blind intervention study, involving dietary supplementation and a 12-week resistance exercise program, designed to increase muscle mass and strength of all major muscle groups. Participants exercised three times a week and received either 20 g of whey protein (n=83) or isocaloric carbohydrate (n=78) in liquid form immediately after each workout. Data were obtained at baseline and end point.


The primary outcomes, lean body mass, strength and physical function increased significantly during the course of the study. Type of dietary supplementation did not influence gains in lean body mass (P=0.365), quadriceps strength (P=0.776) or performance during a 6-min walk (P=0.726) or a timed up-and-go test (P=0.151). Twenty participants discontinued the intervention.


Ingestion of 20 g of whey protein immediately after resistance exercise three times per week, does not lead to greater gains in lean body mass, strength and physical function in elderly people with sufficient energy and protein intakes when compared to isocaloric carbohydrate.

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The study was funded by the Icelandic Technology Development Fund (No. 071323008), Research Fund of the University of Iceland, Landspitali University Hospital Research Fund and the Helga Jonsdottir and Sigurlidi Kristjansson Geriatric Research Fund. The trial is registered at the US National Library of Medicine (Nr. NCT01074879).

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Correspondence to A Arnarson.

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Arnarson, A., Gudny Geirsdottir, O., Ramel, A. et al. Effects of whey proteins and carbohydrates on the efficacy of resistance training in elderly people: double blind, randomised controlled trial. Eur J Clin Nutr 67, 821–826 (2013).

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  • elderly
  • protein
  • whey protein
  • resistance exercise
  • muscle strength
  • muscle mass

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