Muscle mass and aging seem to be inversely proportional. This means that your muscle mass will go down as your age goes up. This loss of muscle mass is called sarcopenia. This common condition affects about 10 percent of American adults older than 50 years. It may decrease your life expectancy, as well as living quality. But then, you can take certain actions to either prevent or reverse sarcopenia. We know that sarcopenia has some natural causes due to aging. However, certain causes can be prevented. Something as little as healthy eating and doing regular exercise may help to reverse this condition. This will, in turn, increase your quality of living and lifespan.
Sarcopenia literally translates to “lacking flesh.” It results from muscle degeneration. Once you reach middle age, you will begin to lose an average of about 3% muscle strength yearly. This will limit your ability to carry out many of your routine activities. Let’s explain how it happens to you. There is a constant process of muscle growth (anabolism) and teardown (catabolism) going on side by side in your body. Ordinarily, anabolism outruns catabolism for your muscles to grow larger. But in old age, anabolism slows down and catabolism overtakes it. This leads to gradual muscle wasting. So is there a way to fight this imbalance? Is there a way to tip the balance in favor of anabolism or at least make it on par with catabolism? Read on as we explain further.
Muscle Mass and Aging: How to Recognize It
The major sign that you may sarcopenia is that your muscle strength will diminish. Some of the early signs that you will notice include physical weakness, which progressively increases over time. As you grow older, you will progressively experience more difficulty in lifting certain objects you normally would be able to lift.
The strength of your hand-grip is one surefire way to test for sarcopenia. If your hand-grip is becoming weak, then your muscle strength may be decreasing. But a weak grip is not the only way to tell that sarcopenia may be setting in.
Other signs of sarcopenia include walking a little bit more slowly, or easy exhaustion. You may also have reduced interest in physical activity. And since your muscles contribute significantly to your weight, you may begin to lose weight with no trial. You should also watch out for this.
The thing with sarcopenia is that many of its signs are similar to other health conditions that may affect muscle strength. But then, if you notice more than one of these signs with no valid explanation, you should speak with a doctor.
In summary, if you are losing stamina or strength, you should be wary. More so, if you begin to experience unintentional loss of weight, you may be dealing with multiple diseases, one of which may be sarcopenia.
Reversing Sarcopenia with Exercise
The best solution to sarcopenia is keeping your muscles in use. That implies being physically muscle. The more you use your muscles, the better they will grow. It is best to combine balance training, aerobic exercise, and resistance training. These can prevent, as well as reverse sarcopenia. At least 2 to 4 exercise sessions every week will help you achieve muscle-boosting benefits.
The easiest way to deal with sarcopenia is by walking. More so, you can walk for free, from anywhere to anywhere. Some experts did a study in Japan and found that walking daily for months would significantly increase muscle mass in people older than 65, especially those whose muscle masses were low.
If you are not used to walking a long-distance, don’t start on a high note. Start from a small distance daily. You can then increase your walking distance by about 10% every month. The faster you walk, the more results you will see.
2. Resistance Training
This form of exercise includes weightlifting and any other exercise that requires you to pull against resistance or move your body against gravity. This form of exercise increases tension in your muscles. This leads to growth signals which, in turn, cause increased strength.
Resistance exercise can also stimulate growth-promoting hormones. These help to enhance muscle repair, as well as growth. Walking may be easier, but resistance exercise has a more direct effect on increasing muscle mass, as well as preventing its loss.
3. Fitness Training
Fitness training refers to the form of exercise that helps raise your heart-rate. This includes endurance training and aerobic exercise. You can control sarcopenia with these exercise routines. Most studies on using aerobic exercise to treat or prevent sarcopenia usually include flexibility and resistance training as well. It’s usually a combined exercise program.
We cannot tell if aerobic exercise would be beneficial when there is no resistance training. But the combined exercise regimen works well.
4. Nutrients to Fight Sarcopenia
If you don’t get adequate calories or protein in your diet, or if you lack certain minerals and vitamins, you may risk muscle loss. So you should make sure to get these nutrients in your meals. To be honest, your exercise program may not yield adequate results if you lack the proper diet.
Proteins help to signal the building and strengthening of your muscle tissue. But as you age, your muscles may begin to resist this signal. As such, you will need more protein than usual to stimulate muscle growth.
Protein and essential amino supplements may also be helpful. They also help stimulate muscle growth. One very vital amino acid for regulating muscle growth is Leucine. Rich Leucine sources include meat, whey protein, eggs, and fish.
Creatine is normally created in your liver. Your body can produce enough creatine to meet your needs. So you are not likely to be deficient. But the more you get from your diet, the better it is for your muscles.
When you take creatine supplements, you may get more benefits and results from your exercise program. But then, creatine may have no tangible effect on sarcopenia if you use it without exercise.
7. Omega-3 Fats
You can get enough of this from seafood or dietary supplements. It will help boost the growth of your muscles.
Muscle mass and aging may have inverse links. But it’s not something that you can do nothing about. You can take proactive steps to prevent muscle loss in old age. All you need is a combined exercise program and a good well-balanced diet.