The Best Protein Powders and Supplements for Seniors

UK Fitness Pro
UK Fitness Pro
· 7 min read
An image representing the best protein powders for seniors

As it ages, the human body undergoes various changes, including the loss of muscle mass. This makes it crucial for older adults to ensure they're getting enough protein in their diets. Protein supplements can be a convenient way to achieve this, especially for senior citizens who might struggle with meeting their daily protein requirements through whole foods alone. 

Understanding the Importance of Protein for Older Adults

Older people often face nutritional challenges, including a reduced appetite and changes in their digestive systems. This can lead to not consuming enough protein, which is essential for maintaining lean body mass, muscle strength, and overall health. A high-protein diet can also help mitigate age-related muscle loss and maintain immune system health, strength, speed, and balance (1).

Research published in Nutrition Review (2) also suggests that high-protein diets can help older individuals avoid weight gain while maintaining lean muscle.

You might also be interested in our articles on collagen and whey proteins and the best protein powders for weight loss

How Much Protein Should Older Adults Consume?

Research published in 2012 in The Journals of Gerontology (3) highlighted that the prior recommended daily protein intake (i.e., recommended dietary allowance) of 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight per day might not be sufficient for maintaining physical function in healthy adults over 70 years. Based on research like this, updated guidelines published by the NHS suggest that the amount of protein per day that an older individual should aim for is 1–1.5 grams per kilogram of body weight. Therefore, a 50-kg individual would require 50–75 grams per day. 

A protein-rich meal

The US Food and Drug Administration recommends people consume about 2,000 calories per day, and similarly, the NHS recommends that men and women should typically aim for a calorie intake of 2,000 and 2,500 per day, respectively. Since a gram of protein contains about 4 calories, a 50-kg woman aiming for 75 grams of protein per day should strive to get at least 15% of their calories from protein (75 grams of protein contains 300 calories, which is 15% of 2,000 calories). 

Different Types of Protein Supplements

There are various protein supplements available, catering to different dietary needs and preferences. The type of protein that's best for you will depend on your goals and dietary needs (e.g., whether you tolerate lactose well). 

A bag of whey protein powder
  1. Whey Protein Powder: Often considered the gold standard, whey protein is a complete protein containing all 20 amino acids (the so-called "building blocks" of proteins). It's known for supporting muscle growth and weight loss (4). Whey protein isolate and whey protein concentrate are popular forms, with the former being lower in lactose. Research indicates that whey protein powders tend to be lower in heavy metals compared to other types (5), so they may be the better option for those concerned about risks associated with these naturally occurring elements.
  2. Plant-Based Protein Powders: For seniors with lactose intolerance or those on a vegan diet looking to avoid animal products, plant-based proteins like pea proteinsoy protein, and other vegan blends offer a great option. Hemp powder, in particular, is considered a high-quality protein source due to its comprehensive amino acid profile.
  3. Specialised Senior Protein Drinks: Products like Max Protein Nutrition Shake are formulated specifically for elderly people, considering their unique nutritional needs. Grenade also offers a range of pre-mixed nutrition drinks that, with 25–38 grams of protein per bottle, could be a good option for busy older adults. In terms of grams of protein per bottle, their best protein drink is either their white chocolate shake or their strawberries and cream shake, which each has 38 grams of protein per 500-ml bottle.

Key Factors to Consider

When choosing the best protein supplement, seniors should consider:

  1. Protein Content and Quality: Look for high-quality protein sources that offer a complete profile of essential amino acids. Whey protein and most plant-based proteins meet these criteria.
  2. DigestibilitySupplements with digestive enzymes can aid in protein absorption, important for older adults whose digestive efficiency might have declined.
  3. Added Nutrients: Some protein drinks and supplements are fortified with additional vitamins and minerals like Vitamin D and calcium, which are beneficial for bone health.
  4. Sugar and Sweeteners: Opt for supplements with minimal added sugar or artificial sweeteners to maintain a healthy diet. For instance, the vanilla-flavoured version of Myprotein's whey protein contains just 8.3 grams of sugar per 100 grams. If you'd like to also avoid artificial sweeteners, you could consider their unflavoured version, though – be warned – you may need to find a way of making this more palatable (e.g., include it in a smoothie with lots of tasty fruits).
  5. Taste and Mixability: A pleasant taste and easy mixability can make protein shakes a more appealing option. A good shaker can help with dissolving protein powders.

Health Considerations and Professional Advice

Before starting any new supplement, it's vital for senior citizens to consult with a healthcare provider or a registered dietitian. They can offer medical advice tailored to individual health conditions and dietary restrictions. Here's a list of online personal trainers with expertise in nutrition and/or working with older clients who would be pleased to answer any questions you have about your diet while working with you to improve your strength and fitness level. 

Incorporating Protein Supplements into a Balanced Diet

Protein supplements should complement a balanced diet rich in whole foods. They can be a convenient way to ensure adequate protein intake, especially for seniors who may eat less protein-rich foods. Nutrition experts often recommend incorporating them into meals as shakes or smoothies or even using them in cooking. A top pick for many fitness professionals is vanilla whey protein, as its relatively neutral flavour means it can be incorporated into a range of meals and snacks, such as pancakes and flapjacks

Protein pancakes

The Role of Physical Activity

In addition to dietary protein, physical activity, especially strength training, plays a crucial role in maintaining muscle mass and strength in older adults. Combining protein supplements with regular exercise can significantly enhance muscle protein synthesis and overall health. If you're based in the UK, you could consider reaching out to one of the personal trainers listed here to get advice about how to combine a high-protein diet with effective exercises. 

Choosing the Best Protein Supplement

  1. For Muscle Strength and Growth: Whey protein powders, like whey protein isolate or concentrate, are often recommended due to their high biological value and rapid absorption, making them ideal for muscle recovery post-exercise (6).
  2. For Weight Management: Seniors focusing on weight loss or management might prefer supplements with a higher protein-to-calorie ratio and minimal added sugars or fats.
  3. For Specific Health Conditions: Some supplements are formulated to address particular health issues like high blood pressure or joint pain, offering added health benefits. For instance, magnesium supplements can lower blood pressure (7), and omega fatty acid supplements can reduce joint pain (8).
  4. For Dietary Restrictions: Plant-based protein powders are a good choice for those with lactose intolerance, following a vegan diet, or with sensitivities to dairy.
  5. For Overall Nutritional Needs: Look for supplements that also contain other essential nutrients, like fatty acids, to support a healthy diet.

Final Thoughts

Adequate protein intake is crucial for seniors to maintain skeletal muscle, support immune function, and ensure overall well-being. While whole foods are the best source of dietary protein, supplements can be a great way to meet daily needs, especially for those with reduced appetite or dietary restrictions.

An elderly couple enjoying protein shakes

Selecting the best protein powder for you depends on your individual nutritional needs, health conditions, and personal preferences. Whether it's whey protein for its muscle-building properties, plant-based proteins for their digestibility and nutrient content, or specialised senior formulas, the key is finding a product that supports your overall health and dietary goals. 

If you're interested in other dietary supplements, you might also like our articles on: 

Transparent Labs also has an article on supplements to use for building muscle after 60

About the Author

As well as BSc, MSc, and PhD degrees in life science subjects, Dave Robinson has over 10 years of experience in strength and endurance training. He loves to write in order to share his expertise in healthy eating, training, and supplementation. 


1. Coelho-Júnior, H. J., Calvani, R., Tosato, M., Landi, F., Picca, A., & Marzetti, E. (2022). Protein intake and physical function in older adults: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Ageing research reviews81, 101731. 

2. Kim, J. E., O'Connor, L. E., Sands, L. P., Slebodnik, M. B., & Campbell, W. W. (2016). Effects of dietary protein intake on body composition changes after weight loss in older adults: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Nutrition reviews74(3), 210–224. 

3. Volpi, E., Campbell, W. W., Dwyer, J. T., Johnson, M. A., Jensen, G. L., Morley, J. E., & Wolfe, R. R. (2013). Is the optimal level of protein intake for older adults greater than the recommended dietary allowance?. The journals of gerontology. Series A, Biological sciences and medical sciences68(6), 677–681. 

4. Park, Y., Park, H. Y., Kim, J., Hwang, H., Jung, Y., Kreider, R., & Lim, K. (2019). Effects of whey protein supplementation prior to, and following, resistance exercise on body composition and training responses: A randomized double-blind placebo-controlled study. Journal of exercise nutrition & biochemistry23(2), 34–44. 

5. Bandara, S. B., Towle, K. M., & Monnot, A. D. (2020). A human health risk assessment of heavy metal ingestion among consumers of protein powder supplements. Toxicology reports7, 1255–1262. 

6. Buckley, J. D., Thomson, R. L., Coates, A. M., Howe, P. R., DeNichilo, M. O., & Rowney, M. K. (2010). Supplementation with a whey protein hydrolysate enhances recovery of muscle force-generating capacity following eccentric exercise. Journal of science and medicine in sport13(1), 178–181.

7. Kass, L., Weekes, J., & Carpenter, L. (2012). Effect of magnesium supplementation on blood pressure: a meta-analysis. European journal of clinical nutrition66(4), 411–418.  

8. Goldberg, R. J., & Katz, J. (2007). A meta-analysis of the analgesic effects of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid supplementation for inflammatory joint pain. Pain129(1-2), 210–223.