© 2019, The Author(s).The causes of impaired skeletal muscle mass and strength during aging are well-studied in healthy populations. Less is known on pathological age-related muscle wasting and weakness termed sarcopenia, which directly impacts physical autonomy and survival. Here, we compare genome-wide transcriptional changes of sarcopenia versus age-matched controls in muscle biopsies from 119 older men from Singapore, Hertfordshire UK and Jamaica. Individuals with sarcopenia reproducibly demonstrate a prominent transcriptional signature of mitochondrial bioenergetic dysfunction in skeletal muscle, with low PGC-1α/ERRα signalling, and downregulation of oxidative phosphorylation and mitochondrial proteostasis genes. These changes translate functionally into fewer mitochondria, reduced mitochondrial respiratory complex expression and activity, and low NAD+ levels through perturbed NAD+ biosynthesis and salvage in sarcopenic muscle. We provide an integrated molecular profile of human sarcopenia across ethnicities, demonstrating a fundamental role of altered mitochondrial metabolism in the pathological loss of skeletal muscle mass and function in older people.