Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, we will receive an affiliate commission from the vendor at no extra cost to you. These business relationships allow us to keep bringing you great EatMoveHack content. All opinions remain our own.
Muscle loss with age is something that all of us will have to deal with as we get older. And if fitness and well-being are an important part of your life, then you’ll especially want to understand this process. The reason? If you’re proactive and stay busy, you can largely prevent losing muscle as you get older. Unfortunately, the opposite is true as well. If you live a sedentary lifestyle and your muscles are left to atrophy, then you’ll certainly experience muscle loss with age.
As the human body ages, it is common for the body’s muscles to lose their mass. The term referring to the loss of muscle tissue is called muscle atrophy. The scientific name for this process is sarcopenia. People can experience muscle atrophy for many different reasons throughout life, such as lack of physical activity, illness, poor nutrition, or even genetics.
From the time you are born and into your twenties, your muscles are constantly developing and growing stronger with even minimal activity. It’s just the normal growth process during your formative years. However, eventually, there is a turning point in life when your muscle mass and functions will start decreasing. It’s the natural aging process that we all experience.
Sarcopenia Starts Earlier Than Most People Realize
Sarcopenia, or muscle loss with age, starts to affect the average person in their thirties. This is younger than most people realize. Again, a lot of this is directly correlated to your activity level. And muscle loss affects many areas of your life. Some of these include your balance and overall ability to perform daily tasks. Even though everyone will experience some muscle atrophy at some point in life, there are ways you can help to prevent serious sarcopenia or slow the process down. So being aware of sarcopenia, and how to prevent it, is keenly important even before you reach middle age.
How to Prevent Muscle Loss With Age
The first main way to help prevent muscle loss with age is nutrition and diet. This is overlooked by so many people in today’s world. They simply don’t realize that nutrition and being physically active are the two key factors that work together to build and maintain muscle mass. And the western diet is known to be quite unhealthy, which is why 60% of adults are overweight or obese.
A person can still lose muscle mass even if they work out daily if your diet is poor. If you’re not filling your body with the right nutrition, then you are going to become weaker over time. Protein is essential in the diet to building and maintaining muscle. A good rule of thumb is .5 grams of protein per pound of body weight. So if you weigh 200 pounds, then aim for 100 grams of protein each day. But always consult your personal physician first, as everyone’s health situation is different.
Some good sources of protein are milk, eggs, lean meats like turkey, fish, peanuts, and beans. Carbohydrates are also important as they give the human body its source of energy in order to workout. Your daily calorie intake can affect your muscle mass also. The recommended calorie intake for the average women is 2,000 calories a day, while for men 2,500 calories a day.
Most importantly, the best course of action is a healthy, balanced diet. No one consumes a perfect diet, and we all have cheat days. But if you eat a healthy, balanced diet on most days then you’ll be far ahead of the average! A good goal to shoot for is 5 days a week of a clean, healthy diet.
Exercise is Key to Maintain and Grow Muscles
Another important way to prevent losing muscle mass is to stay active and physical. Most people naturally start to become less active as they get older, so make sure to guard against this! To stay active as you age, you can get exercise by doing activities as simple as going for a walk, running, bike rides, or swimming. But most importantly, doing resistance training a few days a week.
The most important factor, in addition to proper diet, in maintaining muscle mass is resistance training. This is also called weightlifting or lifting weights. You need to keep your muscles active and engaged as you get older, and especially after the age of 40. This does not mean that you have to become a gym rat working out 6 days a week. Two days a week working out is plenty of resistance training to properly work your muscles. A Lean Life promotes a simple plan for working out two days a week with weights to build lean muscle.
So try to build into your schedule 30-60 minutes, two days a week, for resistance training. The resistance can come in many forms, from dumbbells or barbells to workout machines. The key is to put your muscles under strain, and this activity is what keeps muscles from experiencing atrophy.
So aim for 2-3 sets per muscle group and 6-12 repetitions per set. And it’s best to keep things simple so that it can be sustained for the long-term. So two days a week in the gym, or in your home gym: one A-day, and one B-day.
And when you perform these exercises, make sure to push your muscles to fatigue. If you’re just “going through the motions” without proper resistance, this will not engage your muscles and will not have much impact. But if you exert yourself and exert each muscle group with moderate to high intensity, then your muscles will substantially benefit.
And make sure you do a proper warm-up prior to resistance training. This is absolutely key to avoiding injury. As you get older, your muscles become very susceptible to injury. The way to guard against this is proper warm-up:
3 minutes of light cardio
2 minutes of dynamic stretching (motion stretching, like swinging your arms)
Aside from working out, sleep is the main factor to keep muscles healthy and strong. After a person works out their muscles need time to rest, and most of that takes place while you sleep at night. A person should try to get an average of seven to nine hours of sleep each night.
The last item is proper hydration. Many people do not drink enough water during the day, and your muscles are fueled not only by food but also by proper hydration. Shoot for 8-12 glasses of water each day, and maybe more on your workout days.
Throughout a person’s life, many people will gain muscle and then lose it. However, if you have good nutrition, and stay active with resistance training and exercise, you can help your body stay strong and maintain your muscle mass. This ultimately is the best blueprint to live a long and healthy life.
Want to learn different ways you can stay healthy at any age? Check out our main page to read our other helpful articles – Eat.Move.Hack.