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Minimising muscle loss as we get older

Maintaining our muscle mass as we age is an important aspect of healthy ageing. It’s also normal for our muscle mass to decrease as we age. But we can minimise how much we lose by modifying what we eat and our exercise habits.

Why do we lose muscle mass as we get older?

Once we reach about 35 years old, we start to lose muscle mass. We initially start to lose this muscle mass slowly, but by the time we reach about 75 years old we lose muscle mass and function at a more rapid pace. Daily activities can become challenging once we lose muscle function, and it can make recovering from illness or injury more difficult.1 There are many factors that contribute to losing muscle mass as we age, including less frequent exercise, eating less and a change in the way our bodies process and absorb food.2

Food for maintaining muscle mass

Protein acts as the building blocks for our muscles! So when it comes to maintaining muscle mass as we age, it’s important to make sure we’re consuming good quality sources of protein at every meal. Good quality sources of protein include animal sources (like lean meats, fish, chicken, eggs and dairy) or plant based sources (like lentils, chickpeas, beans, tofu and nuts). Our bodies absorb protein best when it’s spread evenly across the day, rather than eating a large amount all in one go.3 Here’s what a day of evenly distributed protein intake might look like:

  • Breakfast: wholegrain cereal or oats with ½ cup cow’s milk
  • Snack: ½ cup dairy-based yoghurt or a handful of nuts
  • Lunch: lentil salad with grilled chicken and bread (see our recipe below!)
  • Snack: ricotta cheese with crackers and vegetable sticks
  • Dinner: tofu curry with vegetables
  • Dessert: fruit and custard

Exercise for maintaining muscle mass

Strength based (or resistance) exercise is the best way to maintain muscle mass as we age.4 Resistance exercise involves using weights, resistance bands or your own body weight to strengthen and build up your muscles. These can be done either at the gym, or in the comfort of our own homes! Strengthening and toning our muscles through resistance training can help improve our posture, decrease our risk of injury and help with overall energy levels.4

Get Active Victoria offers strength based workout videos and activity plans that are suitable for beginners. To access the videos, login to your account or join Get Active Victoria.


  1. Harvard Health Publishing – Harvard Medical School [Internet]. Age and muscle loss. © 2022 by The President and Fellows of Harvard College. Updated 2021 Nov 11 [cited 2022 Jun 15]. Available from:
  2. Papadopoulou SK. Sarcopenia: A Contemporary Health Problem among Older Adult Populations. Nutrients [Internet]. 2020 May [cited 2022 Jun 15];12(5):1293. Available from:
  3. The Better Health Channel. Protein [Internet]. Department of Health, State Government of Victoria, Australia © Copyright State of Victoria 2020. Updated 2022 Jan 13 [cited 2022 Jun 15]. Available from:
  4. The Better Health Channel. Resistance training – health benefits [Internet]. Department of Health, State Government of Victoria, Australia © Copyright State of Victoria 2020. Updated 2018 Aug 26 [cited 2022 Jun 15]. Available from:

Recipe: Lentil Salad with Chicken and Bread

Serves 4


  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 500g chicken tenderloins
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • ½ red onion
  • 2 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • ½ lemon, juiced
  • 1 x 400g can chickpeas
  • 1 x 400g can brown lentils
  • 4 iceberg lettuce leaves
  • 6 snow peas
  • 1 ½ punnets cherry tomatoes
  • Handful fresh basil leaves
  • 50g Greek feta
  • 4 slices bread, toasted


  1. Heat a frypan over medium-high heat and add 1 tablespoon of olive oil.
  2. Add chicken to the pan and sprinkle with paprika. Cook chicken for 5-6 minutes then flip using tongs and cook for 5-6 minutes on the other side, or until cooked. Set aside.
  3. Peel red onion and thinly slice. Place red onions in a bowl with vinegar, lemon juice and 1 tablespoon olive oil. Set aside.
  4. Drain the cans of chickpeas and brown lentils into a sieve and rinse under cold water. Set aside.
  5. To make the salad, thinly slice the lettuce and snow peas, and cut the tomatoes in half. Add to a large bowl with the basil leaves and drained chickpeas and lentils. Add the onion, vinegar and oil dressing. Stir to combine. Crumble feta over salad.
  6. Serve salad with toasted bread and cooked chicken tenderloins.


Last updated: February 21, 2024 at: 9:41 am