How To Stop Losing Muscle As You Age?


5 Min Read

Everyone (including the most active) loses muscle as they age. Just that the rate and severity of it varies - fitter people have delayed, milder sarcopenia (age-related muscle loss). A daily intake of 25-30 gm protein (whey protein is effective) and vit D supplements encourage muscle growth. Yoga, strength training, and aerobics delay the onset of muscle atrophy. Keep other lifestyle diseases like diabetes away.

Sarcopenia or age-related muscle loss is accepted as an inevitable outcome by most elderly. In reality, this muscle loss begins much earlier than your senior years – as early as your 30s in some cases. With the average physically inactive person in their 30s losing between 3 and 5 percent of their muscle mass in every decade, there’s plenty at stake. Even those who are more active will see some amount of muscle being lost. So how do you limit or stop muscle loss from happening?

Can Diet Help Limit Muscle Loss?

Various researchers have found that increasing protein intake can help stimulate muscle protein synthesis. One study proposes not just having a daily protein RDA increase for the elderly, but a plan that incorporates between 25 and 30 grams of “high quality protein” in every single meal. The study also notes that if protein intake is below 20 grams, muscle protein synthesis among the older population is actually blunted.1 Research also shows that whey protein is quite effective in increasing muscle protein synthesis when compared to casein.2

A separate study commissioned by the Society for Sarcopenia, Cachexia, and Wasting Disease notes that those with low Vitamin D levels will also need replacement of the nutrient.3 This is because Vitamin D plays a vital role in muscle growth and development, and any deficiency needs to be treated with supplementation.4

Exercise To Stop Muscle Loss

Protein and carbohydrate intake needs to be supplemented with aerobic and resistance exercise to prevent and arrest muscle loss.5

Lower muscle mass as you age is seen even in those who have been physically active. Pro-athletes aren’t spared either. The difference, however, is in the rate of onset and extent of loss. Physical inactivity accelerates the condition. One study on aging suggested a wider “public health approach” to prevent as well as stop the progress of sarcopenia. Higher levels of physical activity no matter what age you are could be the key to preventing large-scale disability in a graying society in the future. For some, progressive resistance training may be most effective.6

The American Heart Association recommends that the elderly in otherwise good health fit in about 30 minutes of some form of moderate aerobic activity every day. Strength exercises have been found to be beneficial in increasing muscle mass and helping in its maintenance, translating to a better quality of life in older adults.7

Strength exercises, as well as those to help flexibility, should be undertaken twice a week.8

Control Other Illnesses To Halt Sarcopenia

Numerous studies have been devoted to studying sarcopenia in conjunction with existing illnesses in the test subjects. Sarcopenia has been found to exist more in those with conditions like obesity, osteoporosis, osteopenia, Type-2 diabetes, and breast cancer, compared to normal healthy individuals. As such, battling or controlling the other health condition may help halt the progress of muscle loss.9

A Holistic Look At Prevention

An emerging school of thought looks at managing sarcopenia from a younger age. Muscle strength and mass in later years are linked to not just the diet and exercise as you age, but the peak muscle mass in your younger years. Those looking to prevent sarcopenia may need to look at early and lifelong interventions in diet, nutrition, and exercise.10

Alternative Therapy For Sarcopenia

Yoga may be an effective treatment for sarcopenia and could help limit the progress of the atrophy. One report on the use of yoga in the mitigation and rehabilitation of astronauts who experienced similar muscle atrophy found it could be applied to the elderly as well. The four grounding asanas in particular (Padmāsana, Sarvang āsana, Halāsana, and Sirshāsana) can help build muscle tone. Kapālbhati posture and Shakti mudra can boost metabolism, build muscle tissue, and enhance neuromuscular transmission. All of these can help in preventing sarcopenia.11

References   [ + ]

1.Paddon-Jones, Douglas, and Blake B. Rasmussen. “Dietary protein recommendations and the prevention of sarcopenia: protein, amino acid metabolism and therapy.” Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care 12, no. 1 (2009): 86.
2.Pennings, Bart, Yves Boirie, Joan MG Senden, Annemie P. Gijsen, Harm Kuipers, and Luc JC van Loon. “Whey protein stimulates postprandial muscle protein accretion more effectively than do casein and casein hydrolysate in older men.” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 93, no. 5 (2011): 997-1005.
3, 5.Morley, John E., Josep M. Argiles, William J. Evans, Shalender Bhasin, David Cella, Nicolaas EP Deutz, Wolfram Doehner et al. “Nutritional recommendations for the management of sarcopenia.” Journal of the American Medical Directors Association 11, no. 6 (2010): 391-396.
4.Gordon, Patricia L., Giorgos K. Sakkas, Julie W. Doyle, Tiffany Shubert, and Kirsten L. Johansen. “Relationship between vitamin D and muscle size and strength in patients on hemodialysis.” Journal of Renal Nutrition 17, no. 6 (2007): 397-407.
6.Roubenoff, R. “Sarcopenia and its implications for the elderly.” European Journal Of Clinical Nutrition 54 (2000): S40-7.
7.Júnior, Hélio José Coelho, Samuel da Silva Aguiar, Ivan de Oliveira Gonçalves, Ricardo Aurélio Carvalho Sampaio, Marco Carlos Uchida, Milton Rocha Moraes, and Ricardo Yukio Asano. “Sarcopenia is associated with high pulse pressure in older women.” Journal of Aging Research 501 (2015): 109824.
8.Rizzoli, René, and Mélany Hars. “Sarcopenia, mobility and balance: the importance of physical exercise.” (2013): 184-191.
9.Beaudart, Charlotte, René Rizzoli, Olivier Bruyère, Jean-Yves Reginster, and Emmanuel Biver. “Sarcopenia: burden and challenges for public health.” Archives of Public Health 72, no. 1 (2014): 1-8.
10.Robinson, Siân, Cyrus Cooper, and Avan Aihie Sayer. “Nutrition and sarcopenia: a review of the evidence and implications for preventive strategies.” Journal of Aging Research 2012 (2012).
11.Sarkar, Dilip, and A. Deepak. “Yoga Therapy for Countering the Adverse Effects on Astronauts’ Health Due to Micro-G or Zero-G Environment: A Concept Study.” (2011).
CureJoy Editorial

The CureJoy Editorial team digs up credible information from multiple sources, both academic and experiential, to stitch a holistic health perspective on topics that pique our readers' interest.

CureJoy Editorial

The CureJoy Editorial team digs up credible information from multiple sources, both academic and experiential, to stitch a holistic health perspective on topics that pique our readers' interest.