During the aging process, sarcopenia or age-related muscle loss is common. This is a natural part of the aging process that typically starts at the age of 30. At this age, it is common to begin losing muscles at a 3% to 5% rate.
Building Muscles For Seniors
While it is true that at the age of 30, muscles begin to deteriorate, seniors have still hope for building muscles. An earlier study1 back in 1994 found that it is possible for elderly individuals to build muscles.
If you are among the millions with age between 40s and 50s, you may be noticing some changes in your body. These changes include diminishing strength and muscle loss regardless of doing regular exercise.
But don’t let that stop and put worries on you. Instead, continue to be physically active as moving less and going sedentary at some point can lead to significant age-related muscle loss. This is a primary contributor to frailty or weakness and even loss of independence. Although muscle loss starts at the age of 30s, it accelerates during the 50s until mid-70s.
Therefore, continue doing your regular exercise particularly high-intensity resistance exercise training. This is the type of exercise that combats muscle weakness and physical frailty as the study found.
The participants in this study were 70 years old and above. The researchers put them in a high-intensity progressive resistance training 3 times a week for 10 weeks.
Muscle Size and Strength
In this study, researchers find that exercise provided significant improvements in muscle strength tests, as well as muscle gains. The changes in muscle strength after doing the high-intensity resistance training were related to sex, age, and medical diagnosis.
The participants who have weaker muscles initially but large reserves of muscle mass showed significant gains in muscle strength. Moreover, the high-intensity resistance exercise intervention helped participants improved their ability to climb stairs, habitual gait velocity and overall level of physical activity.
Strength training is an essential intervention for muscle loss. It helps builds muscles and develops connections between muscle cells and nerves for muscle preservation. Moreover, this type of exercise also helps the body boost its response to dietary protein.
Unfortunately, many people don’t exercise intensely enough in order to reap the full benefits of high-intensity strength training.
Aside from exercise, dietary protein plays a vital role in combating muscle loss. Protein provides muscle building blocks and muscle growth. However, protein distribution throughout the body becomes crucial with age.
Unfortunately, there are people who don’t have enough protein intake as they age, which can further accelerate age-related muscle loss.
A study1 suggests that older individuals may benefit from higher protein intake. In fact, higher than the recommended daily allowance suggested in the guidelines.
Moreover, it is also important to divide the total protein intake evenly through the day to have optimal benefit for muscle health. Complete protein usually comes from meat and dairies such as chicken, fish, eggs and lean red meat.
When it comes to red meat, it is a healthy option to choose grass-fed beef. On the other hand, if you’re a vegan, there are plenty of plant-based protein sources you can choose from.
Other Things Worth Considering
We’ve covered diet and exercise for preserving and gaining muscles. What else should we consider?
Supplementation – Taking muscle building supplements is another thing. As a matter of fact, one study finds that whey protein supplements may be able to rejuvenate and repair muscles on older adults. The same is true with creatine supplementation2 3.
Get Enough Sleep Regularly – Getting enough and good quality sleep every night is key to managing stress, which is helpful in preserving muscle loss. It also helps in optimizing and balancing hormones responsible for muscle growth and maintenance.
Optimize Your Vitamin D – Vitamin D is essential for many bodily functions. Have it checked with your doctor to make sure you are not deficient in Vitamin D. A decrease in sun exposure can lead to weight gain and other unhealthy consequences. If sunlight is limited in your area, talk to your doctor about vitamin D supplementation because a low level of it can also lead to muscle loss.
Minimize or (even) Eliminate Added Sugars – One of the biggest issues in diet today is added sugar. Almost all food products in packaged have it. However, it is essential as part of a healthy diet to minimize or even eliminate added sugars. Instead, focus on increasing fruits and vegetable intake along with healthy oils like olive and coconut oil. Eating nuts like walnuts and pistachios are also an essential part of a healthy diet. Of course, don’t forget avocado. These foods are anti-inflammatory, contain a high level of antioxidants and dietary fibers that are helpful in optimizing the synthesis of protein for better muscle health.
There you have it! Hopefully, this takes away the worries about muscle loss as you grow older. As long as you maintain a healthy way of life, although the negative consequences cannot be totally avoided, it can be dramatically minimized.