How to Improve Muscle Mass as We Age
So many effects to our body are due to aging. It’s a rite of passage but also exerts influence over our mood and health. Although the battle is hard, we can do a lot to delay the negative consequences of aging, especially regarding muscle mass which begins to diminish after the age of 30. This is referred to as sarcopenia, or loss of muscle mass and strength. (1)
Throughout our lives, all the cells in our muscles need nutrients and oxygen to develop properly. As we age, though, our blood vessels through which this nourishment passes become weaker.
Decreasing muscle mass impacts mobility, increasing the likelihood of injury from falls, and decreasing overall quality of life. However, there are certain guidelines you can add to your routine to help slow down deterioration and loss of muscle mass, and, in some cases, make the muscles stronger than before.
The formula for success:
More exercise + better nutrition = decreased fat and increased muscle
Exercise is essential for maintaining and increasing muscle mass. If the goal is overall health and weight maintenance, the goal should be to exercise daily, but at least 5 times a week for a minimum of 30 to 45 minutes.
When you are overweight, though, you need to be more realistic and consider exercising for 45 minutes to 1 hour. If you have not led a very active life, start small and gradually increase the time. Spend at least three days a week training the different muscle groups in your body. This approach will be more effective in the long run.
Weight and resistance exercise, even using just your own weight, is best suited to helping maintain and build muscle mass while strengthening the entire musculoskeletal system. In addition, weight and resistance training helps metabolize what we eat so that it goes directly to support and feed the muscles to meet their needs.
This does not mean that cardiovascular exercise is less important. The idea is to be sure to dedicate enough time to weight training to maintain muscle mass. There are studies showing muscle mass can increase equally after 8 weeks of training with both high and low intensity exercises. The key is consistency. (2)
Protein, the sacred food
If nutrient depletion causes sarcopenia, logic tells us that nourishing the muscles is necessary. Nutrition should focus on acquiring more nutrients than calories. Within that perspective, protein occupies the highest value, especially protein from whey. It is a more complete protein that is better assimilated by the muscles when compared to egg protein. Whey contains more essential amino acids that are responsible for tissue replenishment, and in terms of bioavailability it is faster absorbed into the body to quickly offer its benefits.
If you prefer another type of protein such as egg or vegan, you will still receive benefits. In fact, supplementation made with soy protein or pea protein has also shown good synthesis. However, the impact of whey protein remains superior. (3)
Adding the right amount of high value protein helps collaborate the feeling of satiety, making you eat less caloric products of little nutritional value. Protein supplementation is not about replacing your meals with shakes. It should be a fundamental part of your diet because it strengthens the muscles and contributes to increased mass, but your body also requires other minerals and vitamins, fiber, and everything else that products from nature provide.
Choose pro-muscle fats
Usually, the more exercise and protein, the less accumulated fat (and more muscle). But muscles need good and healthy fats to stay strong. Research has shown that not eating pro-muscle fats can lead to muscle mass loss. (4)
The idea is to consume unsaturated or liquid fats, like omega 3 and 6, that help sweep away bad cholesterol among other things. When it comes to our muscles, these fats aid in the balance of testosterone, progesterone, and growth hormones, which are all related to muscle mass maintenance. (5)
What products can you add to your diet to acquire these good fats?
- Nuts, salmon, sardines, tuna, mackerel, seeds such as chia or flax, avocado, nuts, olives, and olive oil. If you think that your diet might be deficient at this point, consult with your doctor about the possibility of supplementing omega 3 fatty acids.
There are surprising cases of older people who, after leading a sedentary lifestyle, decide to begin purposefully and conscientiously taking care of their health with the goal of improving muscle mass and achieving the best shape of their life. And they succeed simply by taking the right steps. Could you be next?
Let's get healthier together.
Your Santo Remedio Team
1. Lars Larsson, Hans Degens, Meishan Li, Leonardo Salviati, Young Il Lee, Wesley Thompson, James L Kirkland, Marco Sandri, Sarcopenia: Aging-Related Loss of Muscle Mass and Function, Physiol Rev. 2019 Jan 1;99(1):427-511. doi: 10.1152/physrev.00061.2017. PMID: 30427277
3. Daniel W. D. West, Sidney Abou Sawan, Michael Mazzulla, Eric Williamson, Daniel R. Moore, Whey Protein Supplementation Enhances Whole Body Protein Metabolism and Performance Recovery after Resistance Exercise: A Double-Blind Crossover Study
4. Juma Iraki, Peter Fitschen, Sergio Espinar, Eric Helms, Nutrition Recommendations for Bodybuilders in the Off-Season: A Narrative Review, Sports (Basel). 2019 Jul; 7(7): 154. Published online 2019 Jun 26. doi: 10.3390/sports7070154, PMCID: PMC6680710
5. Thomas W Storer 1 , Shehzad Basaria 1 , Tinna Traustadottir 2 3 , S Mitchell Harman 2 4 , Karol Pencina 1 , Zhuoying Li 1 , Thomas G Travison, Renee Miciek, Panayiotis Tsitouras, Kathleen Hally, Grace Huang, Shalender Bhasin
Effects of Testosterone Supplementation for 3 Years on Muscle Performance and Physical Function in Older Men, Randomized Controlled Trial J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2017 Feb 1;102(2):583-593. doi: 10.1210/jc.2016-2771. PMID: 27754805 PMCID: PMC5413164 DOI: 10.1210/jc.2016-2771
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