Did you know muscle mass naturally declines as we age?
Keep reading to see why and what steps we should take to slow down the aging process.
Muscle mass naturally declines as we age, resulting in a slower metabolism, decreased mobility, loss of balance and an increased risk of injury.
Muscle atrophy, a term for the loss of muscle mass, has many health implications. Sarcopenia is the term used for the loss of muscle mass with aging specifically. Muscle mass decreases approximately 3-8% per decade starting at age 30, and the rate of decline increases after age 60. If we want to age ‘well’, meaning prolong our functional independence, then preserving our muscle tissue is of top priority.
Sarcopenia increases the risk of falls and fractures, which in turn can lead to functional dependence and disability. The loss of muscle mass is also often accompanied by an increase in fat mass. This could decrease your metabolic rate by 30%. Moreover, sarcopenia can lead to a decrease in bone density, stiffer joints and a smaller stature.
What causes our muscles to atrophy with age?
Muscle protein synthesis is the term used when our bodies naturally use protein to repair and grow our muscle tissue. This process is essential for us to maintain strength and increase muscle mass. Anabolic resistance is the phenomenon within muscle tissue of older adults where there is an attenuated response in muscle protein synthesis to both exercise and protein intake.
In addition, lifestyle factors that come with aging, such as a decrease in protein intake, and reduced physical activity, especially strength training, play a critical role in the decline of muscle mass.
The importance of strength training and protein consumption to preserve (and build) muscle mass.
Exercise and nutrition can have huge impacts on decreasing the decline of muscle mass with age. We cannot stop the decline, however we can slow down the rate. Please note: it is important to build as much muscle mass now, so that when you do start to decline, you have more to start with.
It is recommended by the International Society for Sports Nutrition to consume around 1.4-2.0 g per kg of body weight of protein daily. A general rule of thumb is to consume 30 grams of high quality protein per meal. The most important take away when it comes to protein ingestion is that we want to space out our protein intake throughout the day.
When it comes to exercise, resistance training will have a greater effect on increasing muscle mass and strength compared to aerobic training (aka cardio). Resistance training can be in the form of weight lifting or using your own body weight. At the end of the day, we want our muscles to contract against external load. It is best to do compound movements like squats, steps, planks, rows, and pushups. This will target multiple major muscle groups at once, as opposed to only doing isolated exercises.
It is important that you add resistance training into your weekly exercise regimen, in addition to adequate protein consumption on a daily basis, no matter how old you are.
Written by Diane Tuerke, Registered Kinesiologist, Certified Nutritional Practitioner and founder of Nourished Movement.