Combination of strength training and green tea gives elderly more muscle mass
Strength training is more productive in older women if they also consume a modest amount of tea catechins. Researchers at the Tokyo Metropolitan Institute of Gerontology discovered this when they did an experiment with 128 women aged 75 and above.
The women that the Japanese worked with had sarcopenia. They had already lost so much muscle mass and strength as a result of the aging process that they no longer functioned at the level of their healthy age-mates. The researchers wanted to know whether strength training and supplementation could help remedy this.
The Japanese divided the women into four groups. One, the control group, only received information about a healthy lifestyle [HE].
The second group drank a tea-based functional food produced by the Kao Corporation every day [TC]. Each bottle of 350 ml contained 540 mg green-tea based catechins. This is the amount of catechins you’d consume if you drank two strong 200 ml cups of green tea every day.
The third group did an adjusted training programme three times a week [Ex]. The elderly subjects did muscle strengthening exercises with ankle weight bands and resistance bands for 30 minutes and walking and balance exercises for 20 minutes.
A fourth group trained and also took catechins daily [Ex+TC].
After three months the researchers noticed that the leg muscle mass had increased more in the members of the Ex+TC group than in the members of the other groups. The Ex+TC group members had not built up more muscle power, however.
The elderly subjects were also able to walk faster as a result of the combination of catechins and training. “The improvement observed in walking speed is an important finding, as studies have reported that walking speed is an indicator of vitality and a predictor of functional decline, subsequent disability, survival and other adverse outcomes”, the researchers write.
The effects of the training programme were modest. With or without catechins, the training did not result in a significant increase in muscle mass.
This may be because the training volume was also modest. Meta-studies have shown that elderly people need a somewhat higher training volume, and with this they can build up a kilogram of muscle mass in a period of about 20 weeks. [Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2011 Feb; 43(2): 249-58.] A heavier training programme would probably not have had better results, but may have led to an interesting interaction between training and supplementation.