The older you get, the more muscle you lose. It’s one of the most dreaded side-effects of aging. While many people believe that it’s nearly impossible to rebuild this muscle, you can. Here is some information regarding muscle loss as you age, how to reverse this muscle loss and factors that play into muscle loss.
What is the Muscle Aging Process?
Your muscles will continue to grow and develop throughout the aging process from the moment we are born until the time we hit our 30’s. Researchers believe that at some point in our 30’s, we begin to lose muscle mass and function. This is actually caused by age-related sarcopenia or sarcopenia with aging. This can cause physically inactive people to lose as much of 3% to 5% of their muscle mass each decade after age 30. Even if you are active you will still have muscle loss. Here are some of the reasons why we develop sarcopenia as we get older:
- Reduction in nerve cells responsible for sending signals from the brain to the muscles to start the movement
- Lower concentrations of some hormones, including growth hormone, testosterone, and insulin-like growth factor
- A decrease in the ability to turn protein into energy
- Not getting enough calories or protein each day to sustain muscle mass
Luckily, there are treatment options for sarcopenia and there are ways you can regain muscle mass lost as you get older. We will go into further details about how exactly you can do that later in the article.
Can Seniors Regain Lost Muscle Mass?
It’s a very common misconception that once we lose muscle mass, we can’t gain it back, especially as we get older. This couldn’t be further from the truth. While it may be more difficult to add muscle as you get older, you can regain muscle that you have lost by placing a major focus on nutrition and diet. Ensuring that you’re consuming the proper amount of protein is critical to muscle development.
Antioxidants are equally important for muscle recovery. Many experts recommend less beef for heart health and digestion. But any other protein (fish, poultry, pork, eggs, and beans/lentils) is a great option. As for antioxidants, experts suggest blueberries, multivitamins (ensure it has A, C, and E), and fish oil or a Glutamine supplement for heart and joint health.
How is the Muscular System Affected by Aging?
The older that you get, the density of our bones begin to diminish in both men and women. For women, the loss of bone density can accelerate after menopause. This means that your bones become more fragile and are more likely to break. This explains why older people seem to break their bones more often. It also explains why falling becomes increasingly dangerous the older you get.
As people age, their joints are affected by changes in cartilage and connective tissue. The cartilage inside a joint becomes thinner, and components of the cartilage (the proteoglycans—substances that help provide the cartilage's resilience) become altered, which may make the joint less resilient and more susceptible to damage. Thus, in some people, the surfaces of the joint do not slide as well over each other as they used to. This can lead to osteoarthritis and your joints becoming stiffer over time.
Can Muscle Loss Due to Aging be Reversed?
As we mentioned earlier in the article, it is possible for you to reverse any muscle loss accelerated by sarcopenia. The best way to reverse muscle loss is by implementing healthy lifestyle choices and practicing healthy lifestyle choices. Perhaps the best way to reverse muscle loss is to understand some of the factors that help accelerate muscle loss with age. Here are four key factors:
- Immobility and a sedentary lifestyle - Disuse of muscle is one of the strongest triggers of sarcopenia, leading to faster muscle loss and increasing weakness. Poor sleep and immobilization after an injury or illness can also lead to a rapid loss of muscle
- Unbalanced diet - Your diet is perhaps the most important part of muscle loss or muscle growth. Any diet lacking in calories and protein results in weight loss and diminished muscle mass. Unfortunately, low-calorie and low-protein diets become more common with aging, due to changes in sense of taste, problems with the teeth, gums, and swallowing, or increased difficulty shopping and cooking
- Inflammation - Your body works to tear down and rebuild after suffering from an injury or illness. Chronic or long-term diseases can result in inflammation that disrupts the normal balance of teardown and healing
- Severe stress - Sarcopenia is also more common in a number of other health conditions that increase stress on the body. There are ways for you to reduce the amount of stress you’re going through
By preventing some of these things from happening, you can help slow the effects of sarcopenia and muscle loss. Consult with a doctor to find out how you can implement a healthy lifestyle.
Is Exercise Good for Muscle Loss?
This is a simple question with a simple answer. Yes, exercising is good for regaining lost muscle. Exactly how much exercise is required is difficult to say because everyone’s bodies are different. Some experts suggest that as long as you are nourishing your body properly with the right diet and keeping your stress levels down, the average person can maintain their body’s strength and size with just two to three resistance training workouts per week.
The problem that happens is that we do not live in the perfect scenario to keep ourselves in a maintenance phase. Many factors become challenges. This includes hitting a plateau, meaning if your body is no longer receiving the increased stimulus it once received from your workouts, you may not experience the same benefits you once did.
Can You Build Muscle at Any Age?
We have mentioned throughout the article that it is possible to build muscle no matter your age. However, it does grow more and more difficult the older that you get. Experts suggest that your mid-20s is the best age to build muscle. Once you hit your 30s, you will begin to experience muscle loss much quicker. Here are some of the foods you need to add to your diet to ensure you’re building muscle:
- Eggs - Eggs contain high-quality protein, healthy fats, and other important nutrients like B vitamins and choline
- Salmon - Salmon has plenty of Omega-3 fatty acids which play an important role in muscular health
- Chicken breast - Chicken is packed with protein and contains generous amounts of B vitamins
- Greek yogurt - Dairy not only contains high-quality protein, but also a mixture of fast-digesting whey protein and slow-digesting casein protein
- Lean beef - Too much red meat can be bad for the heart but lean beef is packed with high-quality protein, B vitamins, minerals, and creatine
- Soybeans - Soybeans are a great source of vitamin K, iron, and phosphorus
- Chickpeas - Chickpeas, also known as garbanzo beans, are a good source of both carbs and protein
Not only will these foods help you grow muscle mass, but it will also help you live a healthier life, thus improving your longevity and quality of life.
Supplements Can Help
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