Saving Muscle As We Age

Why does this muscle loss take place as we age? Some of the reasons include:

  • gender differences – Women start out with less muscle, so when they lose it, there are bigger consequences.
  • diet changes – As we age, many of us eat less. And, in particular, we eat less protein.
  • loss of nerve cells – In addition to losing brain cells as we age, we also lose motor nerve cells that send messages to our muscles.
  • not enough muscle stimulating exercise – If we don’t do the right kind of physical activity regularly, our muscles start to deteriorate at the rate of over 10% per decade.
  • slow down of muscle metabolism – Our ability to make muscle protein decreases as we age.
  • genetic differences – Some people just have good genes.

And What Are the Consequences of This Muscle Loss?

There are a number of ways that muscle loss can affect your health, here are a few:

  • poorer balance – Muscles are crucial for maintaining balance. The more muscle you lose, the more likely you are to suffer falls.
  • weaker bones – Muscles put stress on bones, which makes the bones stronger. People who lose muscle have less healthy stress on their bones and will end up with weaker bones.
  • decreased metabolism – Most of your calories are burned by your muscles. The less muscle you have, the fewer calories you burn and the more your body stores as fat.
  • muscle marbling – More fat is deposited in your muscle cells, which can lead to insulin resistance and and an increased risk of diabetes and heart disease.

Wow! I think you can see that muscle loss can be a very big problem. So, what can you do about it? The simple answer is – resistance exercise.

Two months of resistance training can increase a person’s strength by 40%. That means you can reverse the affects of two decades of muscle loss in 60 days. The most important thing to remember to reduce muscle loss is to strengthen the big muscles around the thighs, shoulders, arms and back. This can be done with as few as 6 exercises.

Another key is to make sure that you are getting enough protein. If you eat too little protein , your muscles get smaller and weaker. The US RDA for protein consumption is about .36 grams per pound of body weight, or 55 grams for a 150 pound person. But some studies have shown that if you are exercising your muscles, you need about 25% more protein than the RDA just to maintain your muscle mass. And, to gain muscle mass, you should consume 50% more protein than the RDA suggests, which is about half your body weight in grams of protein. This translates to 75 grams of protein for a 150 pound person.