When the people reach 50, they suddenly realize that they have lost a lot of muscle mass on one hand, and on the other have gained fat – especially around their mid-section. Many of them also stop working out because of some injury, fatigue or hormone shifts – which can further lead to more muscle loss & gaining fat.
Let me tell you a secret. Muscles are subject to the mantra: “use it or lose it.” This explains why weight training is so important for fitness & health, especially for the seniors. Strength/resistance/weight training exercises have great potential to increase bone density, regain muscles, reduce fat, boost memory, and even prevent many old age medical conditions such as osteoporosis.
Even if you are over 50 (or even 60), it’s not too late to regain/build muscle mass. Continue reading this article to learn how you can regain muscle mass after 50 or even 60?
Why You Lose Muscle Mass With Age?
Muscle mass tends to peak around the age of 40 years. After that it starts declining due to sarcopenia (muscle loss natural phenomenon).
A major cause for muscle atrophy (muscle mass loss) is NOT doing exercise & the sedentary behavior. Typically the working professionals & our older parents, grandparents either don’t have time or lack interest to work out consistently.
Moreover, your body’s capability to manage every day physical stress declines over the years. Combined with declining energy levels and the sedentary lifestyles, such as sitting all day, muscle loss is even more acute.
However, good news is that it’s really possible to regain muscle mass, and also bone mineral density, even after we reach our 50s.
It’s important for you to understand that we lose muscle mass with age, mostly due to the fact that we don’t do anything to prevent it. On average, we lose about 10 pounds of lean muscle mass for every decade of our adult life. The best way to prevent this is to do regular workouts.
The less muscle mass you have, the lesser calories/fat you will be likely to burn, meaning you will gain fat. Moreover, as you lose muscle, your metabolism also slows down – which will further make you more likely to gain more fat. It’s a known fact that weight/strength training improves metabolism, so this is another reason that strength/weight training is critically important to regain muscle mass.
Is It Possible To Regain Muscle Mass At Or After Age 50?
Yes, yes – It’s absolutely possible, 100%. You can regain or build muscles after 50. A research study in fact found that this can be achieved in as little as forty minutes of weight/strength training twice a week. Surprisingly, the rate of muscle gain was almost the same for young adults, middle-aged adults, and older adults (Source).
Muscle wasting can lead to frailty, which can cause falls or fractures. Frailty is typically characterized by loss of nutrition deficiency, reduced balancing abilities, unsteady gait & cognitive impairment. Weight/strength/resistance training plays a very important role in maintaining stability, bone density & overall good health in your old age. And that muscle loss is preventable.
How To Regain Muscle Mass As We Age?
Although regaining muscle mass might get harder with age, but it’s not impossible. For elderly, regular weight training with fewer sets spaced in between rest days, along with eating adequate protein help build muscles.
Make sure to maintain main focus on working on your major multi-joint moves, like deadlifts, squats, chest presses, rows, overhead press & core work.
Though, it’s ok to add in single-joint movements such as bicep curls, triceps work and hip adduction/abduction – but aim to make the big multi-joint movements as foundation of your weight training.
Being a senior (I am 67), I very often get chance to work with a lot of retirees & baby boomers. My personal experience is – even the persons who are in their 50s (or for that matter even in 60s) can maintain & regain muscle mass with less work performed regularly if they follow the right methods. Generally, a 50+ individual can do better even with fewer sets performed every other day.
There are many research studies that reconfirmed the view that strength/weight/resistance exercises (free weights, weight machines, and resistance bands) significantly improve muscle & bone health in the elderly persons.
Though the seniors don’t necessarily need to lift really heavy loads, but in order to regain/build muscle mass they have to work on their muscles & get them so tired, where they really feel to take a break before being able to do more.
This means instead of doing the most common, traditional “3 sets of 10” model, consider doing enough reps until fatigue or failure.
What Should You Eat To Regain/Build Muscle Mass In 50s?
To build muscle mass at the age 50 or over 50 (or above 60), you need to focus on both diet & regular workout. Ensure that you’re eating sufficient protein, nutrient-dense & anti-inflammatory foods, both calcium and vitamin D along with supporting vitamins & minerals. Good nutrition is particularly a key factor for those over 50.
Protein needs a special mention. Usually, seniors diet decreases with age leading to diminishing daily nutrient intake. Adequate intake of protein is essential for muscle development. Here’s a rough thumb rule. The bare-minimum recommended protein intake for seniors is equal to about half of the individual’s body weight in grams (i.e. a 150-pound individual should aim to eat at least 75 grams of protein in a day). The suggested good sources of muscle-building protein are whey protein, fish, pork, eggs, lean meats, poultry and beans/lentils.
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Antioxidants are also important for muscle recovery, which is critical for muscles development. As for antioxidants, I recommend blueberries & multivitamins (especially A, C, and E).
Fish oil for heart & a Glutamine supplement for the joint health.
Note: If you have never exercised before or restarting it after a very long gap, it’s suggested that you speak to an expert to identify a workout routine according to your needs. Also if you have any medical condition, reach out a doctor before starting a new training program.
For best results, keep varying your workout routine. Everyone has a unique body type, different needs & health conditions. Whereas any exercise plan can be good, but it is a good practice to reach out to a personal trainer to figure out a workout plan that specifically matches your needs to help you re-gaining muscle mass.
Remember maintaining & improving muscle strength is of utmost importance. Decreased muscle strength causes disability. Believe it or not, your body requires huge strength to walk up & down stairs and even for getting up from the toilet! Moreover, muscle power & strength are critically needed to support your walking & balancing abilities, preventing falls and fractures, particularly for the elderly people. And not the least, improved muscle mass directly affects your aerobic capacity, meaning your capability to stand, walk, and move for long periods of time.
Hope after reading this article, you will agree that exercising is in no way less than medicine, so get moving!