Muscle loss is common as we age. It starts when we are young. Beginning in your 30’s. muscle loss is about 3-5% per decade. You not only begin to look flabby, but losing muscle also has serious health consequences. Sarcopenia, the medical term for loss of muscle tissue, is a natural part of the aging process. It is important to slow the loss and increase the gain because sarcopenia has serious consequences such as:

  • Weight gain and change in body composition
  • Decreased strength and mobility
  • Increased falls and fractures
  • Increased fat that increases inflammation
  • Insulin resistance, blood sugar elevations
  • The development of heart and respiratory disease
  • Early death and reduced quality of life

There are some obvious and not so obvious ways to build muscle and to avoid the complications of sarcopenia. Let’s review some of them.

Secrets to Building Muscle

Group of people performing resistance exercise training

Resistance training

The most obvious and well know way to increase muscle mass is resistance training.

  • Lifting light weights or putting a low load on muscles until fatigued may combat the root cause behind the development of muscle loss by remodeling the mitochondria which improve the metabolic health of the muscle.
  • Lifting heavy weight until fatigued with less repetitions builds muscle.
  • Lengthening or eccentric exercise showed significant improvement in functional capacity and body composition while decreasing muscle damage.
  • An eccentric movement is the lowering part of a move when your muscle lengthens. An example would be when you’re lowering into a squat or lowering a dumbbell after a biceps curl.
  • Muscle fibers in your body are the strongest as they move eccentrically!

Nutrition

There is a balance of metabolic protein synthesis (building muscle) and metabolic protein breakdown (muscle breakdown) when using resistance training to remodel muscle. Good nutrition assures you have more building. Poor nutrition on the other hand will decrease muscle mass and increase breakdown despite resistance training.

  • Ingesting essential amino acids within 4 hours of a workout will increase muscle protein synthesis.
  • Essential amino acids are lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, leucine, isoleucine, valine, and histidine.
  • If you are older, you may need more that the recommended daily allowance of (0.8g/kg/day) of protein to build muscle.
  • Distributing an even amount of protein throughout the day is better to build muscle than skewing the amounts.
  • Eating at least 0.4g/kg protein per meal and 3 to 4 meals per day was recommended by the researchers along with resistance training to maximize building muscle. For an average 50 kg man that is 20 grams of protein 3 to 4 times a day and an average 45 kg woman that is 18 grams of protein per meal.
  • Since digestive enzymes decrease with age, consider adding betaine and pepsin to increase hydrochloric acid and a digestive enzyme that has proteases to digest protein and enhance protein absorption.

Supplements

While many companies make claims about their supplements, the most well studied and tried and true are as follows:

  • Vitamin D levels, if low, doubles the chance that older individuals will develop muscle wasting. However, correcting low levels can improve muscle strength when combined with resistance training.
  • Creatine and whey protein may improve muscle mass, however, use caution with whey protein as many people are sensitive to dairy and whey. Whey protein isolates are better absorbed than other types of whey protein.

Testosterone

Testosterone is essential in both men and woman and aside from its muscle building properties, it regulates mood, decreases anxiety and depression, gives a sense of empowerment and wellbeing and enhances libido.

  • Testosterone levels that are adequate are needed to get the benefits of resistance training.
  • While most of the studies have been done in men, women tend to benefit from the same things and testosterone levels in women are much lower.

Eating right, exercising, and balancing and replenishing hormones can keep you slim, fit and strong as well as help you avoid the complications of sarcopenia. Working with a functional medicine physician can help you prevent sarcopenia and its consequences and help you maintain your youthful physique.  Have your hormone, nutrients, amino and fatty acids and vitamin D levels tested by a functional medicine physician who is well versed in nutrition and hormones who can help you live younger and healthier. Sign up for a free, no obligation clarity call to see if you are a good fit for our practice.