Many people don’t realize that muscle loss as they age can ruin their dream of living a smart, healthy life in later years. This muscle and strength loss as you age is known as sarcopenia. It’s a preventable medical condition.
But remember, muscle loss is a natural process associated with aging, and it’s not an unavoidable condition. A healthy and active 60-year-old person can have the muscle mass of a 30-year-old, while a sedentary middle-aged person who eats a largely processed food diet and struggles with insulin resistance or diabetes may have the muscle quality of a 70-year-old.
Why Maintaining Muscle Mass Is So Important?
Basically, muscle loss with age not only reduces in size and strength, but it also loses its aerobic capability. A less known side effect is that this loss of muscle mass can also cause an overall weakening of metabolic function.
In fact, the biological role of your muscles is not limited to mobility. Your muscles also help maintain your metabolic system in order. Moreover, conserving muscle mass safeguard you from metabolic and hormonal deterioration, obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.
Age-related muscle dilapidation can cause an immense health crisis depending on your muscles’ biological and metabolic condition.
The bottom line is once muscle loss begins, your health is on a sharp downhill slope. Muscle loss is directly related to a general loss of physical energy, a propensity to gain excessive weight, increased vulnerability to disease, and faster aging.
Not to mention that muscle loss makes you so frail as you age that you become dependent on others and can’t move around unassisted.
How To Prevent Muscle Loss As Grow Old?
If you don’t take preventive steps to avoid muscle loss, it will badly affect your capability to move, and eventually, you won’t be able to lead the healthy and active lifestyle you’ve always wanted.
Moreover, sarcopenia also enhances your risk of falling, which can have life-threatening consequences. Falls are the most common cause of hip fractures among older adults, which has massive risks of complications and usually require prolonged specialized care.
The good news is that with certain diet and lifestyle changes, age-related muscle loss can be avoided, and your later years can be great ones. Read on here to find our best tips about not only preventing loss of age-related muscle mass but also learn here how to recover and increase muscle mass as well:
Include Protein-Rich Foods In Your Diet
One of the major causes of muscle loss, especially for seniors, is that they don’t eat enough protein and amino acids. According to Suzette Pereira, Ph.D., an associate research fellow at Abbott – Amino acids and protein are the compounds that the muscles use to build themselves.
Eat Protein Throughout The Day: However, you should think in terms of maximum protein consumption per meal and not focus on the total protein consumption per day. Avoid protein-loading at dinner or at any meal. You achieve the best results when protein is consumed throughout the day.
How Much Protein In One Meal?: Like most researchers, Dr. Douglas Paddon-Jones, Ph.D., professor of nutrition and metabolism at The University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston, agrees that increasing protein consumption over the RDA is important when it comes to building and maintaining muscle mass and function, especially for older adults.
“Between 25 grams and 30 grams of protein is all most of us need per meal,” says Dr. Paddon-Jones.
Sources Of Protein: Eggs, chicken, turkey, fish, dairy, beans, soy, legumes, quinoa, nuts, and mushrooms are all great protein sources. All vegetables have some sort of protein in them. Spinach, for example, has five grams per cup.
Note: If you’re too busy to get your protein from food at any given meal, consider including protein powders or bars into your diet to get your fill.
Caution: However, read labels carefully, says Dr. Paddon-Jones. The 20 to 30 grams of protein that come in a serving of whey protein powder, for instance, won’t do you as much good if the product is laden with sugar and fat.
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Why, how, and what to eat to meet your protein needs – whether you are a non-vegetarian, vegetarian or vegan, man or woman – A most comprehensive Protein Guide!: Protein Synthesis / Myths & Facts
Exercise Is Key to Preventing Loss of Muscle
Avoiding age-related muscle loss is difficult without regular exercise. Resistance (or strength training), weight training, and cardiovascular exercise are especially crucial for seniors. The American College of Sports Medicine, the American Heart Association, and the US Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) recommend engaging in muscle-strengthening activities by recruiting all major muscle groups at least two days a week.
A 2011 study in the journal Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise reported men and women in their 60s and 70s who started weight training developed muscles as large and as strong as people in their 40s.
Tip: Begin with 8 to 10 repetitions of one exercise per body part, with 30 to 60 seconds in between to rest. Then gradually work up to 3-4 exercises per body part for maximizing benefits.
Note: Don’t worry if you’ve already lost a considerable amount of muscle and are too weak or frail to engage in these types of exercises. Many seated exercises can help you improve your balance and strength.
Adequate Sleep To Avoid Preserve Muscle Mass
Sleep is so important for your muscles that lack of sleep can result in poor muscle development or even muscle loss as you age. Moreover, after a workout, your body needs time to regenerate itself, and most of that work happens while you sleep.
How much sleep do you need? The most common figure is 8 hours of sleep a night for adults. Yet, some research suggests that the optimum length may be closer to 7 hours, rather than 8.
Carbs Too Are Important
You need carbs to perform resistance/strength training or weight lifting to help you gain muscle mass. Instead of cutting out carbs from your diet, exclude white, refined grains because they are deficient in vitamins and fiber and can spike your blood sugar. Aim to eat 6 to 11 servings of whole grains, sweet potatoes, beans, peas, legumes, and fruit.
Tip: Many research studies support the fact that eating a combination of protein and carbohydrates before and after a workout can also help build muscle.
Vitamin D Essential For Muscle Health
Besides maintaining bone health, Vitamin D regulates muscle function, and low vitamin D levels are also linked to lower muscle mass and strength. Experts from the University of Manchester suggest that a low level of Vitamin D as you age can lead to loss of strength and muscle mass. Make sure to get vitamin D through fortified milk, orange juice, cereals, fatty fish like salmon and mackerel, beef liver, or egg yolks.
Note: Consult your doctor about checking your vitamin D levels, and check if you need a supplement.
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Alcohol Eats Away Muscle Mass
Alcohol inhibits the repair of lost or damaged muscle, thus making it difficult to recover completely. Alcohol causes dehydration, slows down protein synthesis, and reduces the amount of blood flow to muscles like the heart, which weakens them and may potentially lead to muscle death. Weakening of the muscles in the heart can cause disorders like cardiomyopathy, where the heart beats sluggishly.
Note: Women should limit their alcohol consumption to a 5-ounce glass of wine or a 12-ounce beer in a day, and men should limit it to twice that.
Don’t procrastinate – Follow the above tips if you want to live independently without any assistance from others in your later years.
About Author: Renu Bakshi, AKA Fitness Buffhq, is ISSA Certified Elite Trainer. He passed Personal Fitness Trainer Course, Nutrition Health Coach course & Specialist Exercise Therapy course from ISSA, the USA, obtaining + 97% marks. He shares his experience and knowledge about nutrition and effective workouts to get you in the best shape of your life, no matter how old you may be. The author says: “For me, age is just a number!”
AVOID SOY !!!, especially men .
Try to eat 4 to 5 smaller meals a day , rather than 3
Minutes for brain to get message , after eating,if you’re full or not.
I’m going on 76 and am in bodybuilding competitions.
Usually 1 gram of protien per 1 pound of body weight
Thank you so much. I feel encouraged, when veterans like you give their valuable feed back on my posts. 🙂
Thank you Peter, very much!