Building and Preserving Muscle: A Guide for Individuals 30+

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As humans age, preserving muscle mass becomes essential for maintaining mobility, independence, and overall health. Muscle mass refers to the total amount of muscle in the body, a combination of the number and size of muscle fibers. This guide will provide information on building and preserving muscle strategies, focusing on individuals 30 years and older.

It is natural for all humans to experience a decline in muscle mass as they age. This decline, known as sarcopenia, results in reduced mobility and physical function over time. However, the extent and rate of muscle loss can be influenced by lifestyle, diet, and exercise.

With aging, the body’s rate of muscle protein synthesis decreases, leading to a gradual loss of muscle mass, strength, and function.

What is Sarcopenia

Sarcopenia is a natural aging process that affects all individuals. Gradually, it leads to the loss of muscle mass, strength, and function. The decrease in the rate of muscle protein synthesis causes this decline in muscle mass and function, reducing mobility and physical ability.

Sarcopenia can result in rapid or gradual muscle wasting. The effects of this aging process can become noticeable as early as age 30 and lead to a significant decline in muscle mass and physical function by the time a person reaches their 50s. In some cases, sarcopenia may cause an acute loss of muscle mass and function. Although the exact causes of sarcopenia are unclear, factors such as hormonal changes, oxidative stress, inflammation, and neural changes contribute to its development.

Gradual vs Rapid Muscle Mass Decline with Age, Peaking at 20-30 Years.
Gradual vs Rapid Muscle Mass Decline with Age, Peaking at 20-30 Years.

Hormonal Imbalances and Sarcopenia

Hormonal imbalances play a significant role in sarcopenia’s development. As people age, growth hormone and testosterone production decrease, causing muscle mass and function to decline. Additionally, cortisol, a stress hormone, increases and contributes to the breakdown of muscle tissue, further exacerbating sarcopenia.

Individuals can adopt strategies such as resistance training, proper nutrition, and hormone replacement therapy to combat the effects of hormonal imbalances on muscle mass. Resistance training increases the production of growth hormone and testosterone, slowing down sarcopenia’s progression. Adequate protein intake and proper nutrition provide the necessary building blocks for muscle repair and growth. Hormone replacement therapy 1 restores hormonal imbalances, reducing muscle mass and function decline.

In conclusion, sarcopenia is a natural aging process that affects all individuals. Hormonal imbalances play a significant role in its development, but resistance training, proper nutrition, and hormone replacement therapy can slow down its progression. 2 By implementing these strategies, individuals can maintain muscle mass and function as they age.

Impact of Hormones on Sarcopenia

As people age, the number of hormones that help build and keep muscle decreases, including growth hormone, IGF-1, testosterone, and estradiol.3 Changes in IGF-1 and a reduction in insulin sensitivity also harm muscle growth. Hormones like DHEA, thyroid hormones, and vitamin D, which decline with age, may also play a role in muscle loss. 4 In addition, the chemicals released by body fat (adipokines) change as people age and can affect muscle health and how it uses energy. For example, cortisol and angiotensin II, which break down muscle and increase with age, can speed up muscle loss as people age.

Angiotensin II is a hormone that regulates blood pressure and fluid balance in the body. The body produces it in response to decreased blood volume or increased salt concentration. Angiotensin II acts as a vasoconstrictor, narrowing blood vessels and increasing blood pressure.

In addition to controlling blood pressure, angiotensin II contributes to muscle wasting and accelerates muscle atrophy in aging individuals. As angiotensin II levels rise with age, it causes the breakdown of muscle tissue.

Protect your muscles, for they are the guardians of your health and the armor against disease.

Preserving Muscle

In addition to resistance training, proper nutrition is crucial for maintaining muscle mass. Adequate protein intake provides the necessary building blocks for muscle repair and growth. Aim for 0.73-0.99 grams of protein per pound of body weight per day (1.6-2.2 grams per kilogram per day). Individuals can incorporate high-protein foods like chicken, fish, dairy, legumes, and nuts to meet these protein requirements. Supplements, such as whey protein, can also be used to increase protein intake.

According to a review published in Nutrition Reviews 5, protein supplementation on top of resistance training is recommended to increase muscle mass and strength, especially for obese individuals, and for a minimum of 24 weeks.

Consuming enough calories to support muscle growth and maintenance is also essential. For example, suppose a person cannot meet the recommended protein intake of 0.73-0.99 grams per pound of body weight per day. In that case, they can consider increasing their protein intake gradually.

Building Muscle

The most effective way to build muscle mass is through resistance training, such as weightlifting, bodyweight, and resistance band exercises. To achieve optimal results, individuals should focus on compound movements that work multiple muscle groups, such as squats, deadlifts, and bench presses. Gradually increasing weight and intensity over time challenges the muscles. For example, to target fast-twitch fibers, heavy lifting can mean lifting a weight 70-85% of an individual’s one-rep max for 1-5 reps. Lighter weights with more reps (8-12 reps) target slow-twitch fibers.

Research published in the “Int J Environ Res Public Health” 6 showed that persistence in training and diet is essential for building muscle. The initial stages of resistance training (around 4 sessions) result in muscle growth mainly due to muscle damage-induced cell swelling, with most strength gains resulting from neural adaptations (8-12 sessions). Muscle growth becomes the dominant factor within the latter phase of resistance training (6-10 weeks).

Creatine can positively affect muscle strength and memory and influence neurodegenerative conditions. 7

The Significance of Muscle Mass

As individuals age, muscle mass naturally decreases, leading to reduced mobility and physical function. This process is called sarcopenia. Sarcopenia can be exacerbated by excessive body fat, a condition known as sarcopenic obesity.

Sarcopenia and sarcopenic obesity, as measured by the body weight or adiposity bearing on a unit of muscle mass (the adiposity to muscle ratio), could predict an incident or worsening physical limitation in older women across the entire range of the total body fat to lower-limb muscle mass ratio, and in older men when this ratio was equal to or greater than 0.75 8.

Practical Tips:

The following program is based on the guidelines discussed in our article. However, this is an example and should be tailored to meet your individual goals and needs. 

According to the Institute of Sport Sciences, practical resistance training should focus on mechanical tension and metabolic stress to maximize muscle growth. 

Individuals should aim for hypertrophy-oriented resistance training that involves multiple sets (3-6) of 6-12 repetitions with short rest intervals (60 seconds) and moderate intensity of effort (60-80% 1RM), followed by increasing the training volume over time (12-28 sets/muscle/week).

To maintain efficiency and prevent lengthy training sessions, the Institute suggests considering advanced resistance training techniques such as agonist-antagonist and upper-lower body supersets, drop sets, SST, and cluster sets. In addition, incorporating a fast but controlled tempo and supplementing with high-load and low-load resistance training under BFR can also help improve training efficiency.

The Institute emphasizes the importance of persistence in training and diet to build muscle. The initial stages of resistance training (around 4 sessions) lead to growth due to muscle damage-induced cell swelling. In comparison, most strength gains come from neural adaptations (8-12 sessions). Over time, as resistance training continues (in the latter phase of 6-10 weeks), muscle growth becomes the dominant factor.

In conclusion, building and preserving muscle mass is essential for maintaining physical function, independence, and overall health. Resistance training and proper nutrition are critical components for building muscle. At the same time, adequate protein intake is crucial for preserving muscle mass. By implementing these strategies, individuals 30 years and older can ensure that their muscle mass remains at optimal levels.

Glossary of Abbreviations:

  • 1RM: One Repetition Maximum refers to the maximum weight an individual can lift for one repetition of a given exercise.
  • SST: Superset Training is a type of resistance training where two exercises are performed back-to-back with no rest.
  • BFR: Blood Flow Restriction Training, a kind of resistance training where blood flow to the working muscle is restricted, increasing metabolic stress.
  • RT: Resistance Training, a type of physical activity involving resistance to increase muscle strength and endurance.
  • AEL: Accommodating Eccentric Loading, a type of resistance training where the resistance is increased during the eccentric phase of the movement.
  • 1RM: One Repetition Maximum refers to the maximum weight an individual can lift for one repetition of a given exercise.


This guide is for informational purposes only and is not intended to replace professional medical advice. It is important to consult with a healthcare professional before starting any new exercise or nutrition program. The information provided in this guide is based on current research and is subject to change. The author and publisher of this guide cannot be held responsible for any errors or omissions or for any consequences arising from the use of the information contained within it.


  1. Transactions of the American Clinical and Climatological Association vol. 125 (2014): 27-42; discussion 42-4.
  2. Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab. 2002;282(3):E601-E607. doi:10.1152/ajpendo.00362.2001
  3. Vitam Horm. 2021;115:535-570. doi:10.1016/bs.vh.2020.12.021
  4. Adv Exp Med Biol. 2018;1088:207-233. doi:10.1007/978-981-13-1435-3_9
  5. Nutrition Reviews, Volume 79, Issue 2, February 2021, Pages 121–147,
  6. Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health 16, no. 24: 4897.
  7. F1000Research, 3, 222.
  8. Age (Dordr). 2013;35(4):1377-1385. doi:10.1007/s11357-012-9423-9