This week we are talking about how to minimize sarcopenia. What the heck is sarcopenia you ask? Well as the title of this week’s post implies, it is the inevitable decline in the strength and size of our muscles as we age. Starting around age 30 we all start to lose muscle mass and there is absolutely nothing we can do to stop it. However, several factors can exacerbate sarcopenia to extremes. In fact, it can cause loss of mobility and function, decline the ability to perform activities of daily living, increase risk of cardiometabolic disease, and increase chances of falls and hip fractures.
So the only things in life that are guaranteed are death, taxes, and sarcopenia. Might as well accept your fate right? WRONG! Here are a few key factors to keep your muscles, and consequently your lifestyle, from wasting away.
I’ll start with protein because I know you all are protein pros! Protein is essential to muscle function. So it should come as no surprise that if you are under consuming amino acids, you will be at greater risk to suffer from advanced sarcopenia as you age. It’s important to note here that we need more protein as we age. So don’t be a part of the 50% of the elderly population who doesn’t get enough protein. Shoot for 1.2 grams of protein per kilogram of weight per day (calculate here).
Antioxidants are in the media constantly. They are touted as being the miracle source of all sorts of health. The reality is that they only play a role in our overall health. What they do is reduce oxidative stress. Oxidative stress is responsible for all sort of things, not all of them bad. So for some the key is moderation, and for others it is supplementation. So how does it affect sarcopenia? Well in several ways, but really the most important way is that it reduces or even can reverse anabolic resistance. Now this is extremely important because anabolic resistance basically means your muscles can’t use proteins, and thus they will wither away.
By far the most important factor in reducing sarcopenia is resistance training exercise. I think this point is even more important for women because in addition to sarcopenia they are more likely to suffer from bone diseases like osteoporosis. What resistance training does is force the body to adapt to the stress placed upon it. So your muscles get bigger because they need to adapt to lift more weight, and bones get bigger to support the added stress from the muscles. This is why I always encourage women of all ages to lift weights. It’s also why I cringe when a women tells me “but I don’t want to get too bulky”. James Fell wrote a fantastic piece on this very topic and I encourage everyone to read it here.