We all fear it. Losing our muscle as we age. You might say “Well, that’s just part of getting old.” This is true…but does it have to be?
The truth is, we don’t HAVE to lose all of our muscle tone. Sarcopenia, is the medical term for loss of muscle tissue as a natural part of aging. As we get older the body loses its ability to produce new muscle proteins. We can, however, slow the process by staying active, incorporating strength training at least twice a week and making sure we consume enough protein to build muscle.
So when does this start? And how much do you lose? Research has shown that inactive individuals lose 3%-5% every decade after the age of 30! That can be as much as 7 pounds of muscle every 10 years! I don’t know about you, but to me that’s a lot! Typically, most significant changes take place after the age of 50 but it has been found that muscle loss can start as early as in your 20’s. That statistic is for both men and women so it doesn’t matter what sex you are…you are going to lose muscle if you don’t take care of it!
You may be wondering what the big deal is about muscle loss. Well, it has more of an impact on your health than what you may think. Muscle mass helps to protect your body from obesity, cardiovascular disease and diabetes. It helps your body with stability. The less muscle you have the more susceptible you are to falling. It also helps with your metabolism. The more muscle you have, the higher your metabolism, which in turn means you burn more calories even at a resting state. It enhances cognitive function and slows down the aging process! I’d say that’s enough reason to get started building some more muscle!
We have determined that we need to prevent muscle loss as best we can, but how? Strength training is key but it doesn’t mean you have to live at the gym and lift weights for hours. You DO have to lift enough weight to put stress on your muscles but you don’t want to lift so much that you can’t keep good form. You can also use your body as weight if you don’t have access to weight equipment. Following is a list of different exercises you can do with and without weights.
Body weight exercises
- Bicycle crunches
Workouts using free weights
- Bench press
- Shoulder press
- Tricep extension
- Bicep curls
These are the ones I do on a regular basis, especially when I’m busy. The body weight exercises I do almost daily. The don’t take much time but are very effective.
Eating enough protein when you are doing strength training is just as important as the strength training itself. If you don’t eat enough protein you will end up breaking your muscles down and not have anything for your body to use to build them back up. I try to drink a protein shake within 20 minutes of my workout to ensure my body is fueled. High quality Whey Protein is what I use for mine along with a banana to ensure I have a complete protein/carbohydrate mix. There are many options, that’s just my choice for a quick, easy breakfast. I also eat about every 3 hours to keep my body fueled throughout the day. I generally try to have a little protein at each mini meal; even if it’s just a few almonds. For meals, chicken, fish, eggs and beef are all good choices.
We’ve learned that if not well taken care of, our bodies will start to lose muscle mass and as we get older that loss will accelerate. We’ve also learned that it can be slowed way down if we will make some adjustments and incorporate weight training into our day. Now it’s time to put into practice what we’ve learned. Let me know what you do. I’d love to hear from you.