How to Avoid Age-Related Muscle Loss
Forty-five percent of the population, whether they realize it or not, are dealing with chronic sarcopenia. Sarcopenia is the medical term for muscle loss — a serious condition that affects nearly everyone in one way or another, especially with age.
Sarcopenia has been linked to an increased risk of physical disability, depression, debilitating falls, and even death. With the aging of the population, the incidence of sarcopenia is expected to dramatically rise in the coming decades. In fact, current estimates project there will be more than 200 million cases of sarcopenia by 2050.
Sarcopenia literally means "lack of flesh". It's a condition of age-associated muscle degeneration that starts around age 35 and is much more common in people over the age of 50.
Upon reaching middle age, its common to lose 3% of muscle strength every year, on average; over time, this limits the ability to perform many routine activities.
Unfortunately, if not addressed, sarcopenia not only affects quality of life, it also can shorten life expectancy — especially when compared to individuals with healthy muscle strength and muscle mass.
Understanding Why Sarcopenia Happens
Sarcopenia is caused by an imbalance between signals for muscle cell growth and signals for teardown. The cell growth process is known as "anabolism," and cell teardown processes are called "catabolism".
This cycle of muscle cell growth and breakdown is always occurring, and when things are in balance, muscle keeps its strength over time. With exercise, especially strength training, and eating to support our muscles, it’s possible to grow muscle faster than it is broken down.
However, with age, the human body becomes resistant to the normal growth signals, tipping the balance toward catabolism and muscle loss — this is when muscle and strength decline associated with sarcopenia starts to occur.
While everyone loses some muscle mass with age, it’s possible to slow or even reverse that loss with regular exercise and many other easy, natural treatments. Maintaining muscle mass and function is vital to having functional independence as you get older.
In addition to aging, there other several other factors that contribute to muscle loss, including:
Immobility, Lack of Exercise, and a Sedentary Lifestyle
Not getting enough exercise is one of the biggest contributors to loss of muscle mass and strength. Over 35% of the population is considered sedentary; factor in that nearly 70% of the population is also overweight or obese, and it’s clear to see why sarcopenia is becoming increasingly common, especially in older adults.
In fact, research has shown that with age, even just two to three weeks of decreased walking or other regular physical activity is enough to decrease muscle mass and strength — so it really doesn’t take much to shift from muscle building to muscle burning mode, which results in decreased strength, lack of energy, fatigue, and even increased levels of inflammation in the body.
Speaking of inflammation, it is actually a normal part of the muscle building/tear down cycle and is essential for repairing and rebuilding damaged cells. However, chronic or long-term inflammation resulting from disease, illness, or poor diet has a profound effect on the normal muscle-building cycle and results in an increase in the rate of muscle loss.
Additional evidence showing the damaging effects of inflammation can be found in a recent study of over 11,000 older adults which found that blood levels of C-reactive protein, an indicator of inflammation, strongly predicted sarcopenia.
Poor or Unbalanced Diet
A third factor contributing to increased rate of muscle and strength loss is a diet providing insufficient nutrients and protein.
Unfortunately, low-nutrient and low-protein diets become more common with aging. Since aging bodies require vitamins, minerals, nutrients, and especially protein to build and repair muscle mass, you can see how this contributes to increased loss of muscle and strength.
To help prevent sarcopenia, many doctors are now recommending that you consume 25–30 grams of protein at each meal.
So, that’s the bad news on sarcopenia. The good news is that age-associated muscle deterioration can be prevented, decreased and even reversed by following these tips:
It should come as no surprise, but when it comes to preventing age-related muscle loss, exercise has been shown to increase strength, aerobic capacity and muscle protein synthesis, as well as to increase muscle mitochondrial enzyme activity in both young and older people.
While any exercise or increased physical activity is great, strength training or resistance exercise, in particular, is really the most effective way to decrease frailty and improve muscle strength in older adults.
In fact, a study of adults aged 65–94 showed that performing resistance exercises three times per week increased muscle strength over a 12-week period.
Resistance training or strength-training includes weightlifting, pulling against resistance bands, or moving part of the body against gravity through gentle movements associated with yoga or even tai chi.
When you perform resistance exercise, the tension on your muscle fibers results in growth signals that lead to increased strength. These signals cause muscle cells to grow and repair themselves, both by building new muscle and reinforcing, repairing, and strengthening your existing muscle
Study after study confirms that resistance exercise or strength training is the most direct way to increase muscle mass and prevent its loss.
Increase Intake of Lean Protein Sources
Without question, protein is the most valuable and important macronutrient for repairing and building muscle fibers. Unfortunately, older adults typically eat significantly less protein than is recommended to maintain and even build muscle.
Currently medical experts recommend 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight each day.
Equally important as eating enough protein, is making sure you are eating the right sources of protein; remember, not all sources of protein are created equal!
Dietary proteins are made up of many types of amino acids. The body can make some amino acids on its own, but the rest it must obtain from food sources. Of the 20 total amino acids, certain ones are considered “essential” because these are the specific kinds we aren’t capable of making ourselves.
Others are “nonessential” because the body can create them by synthesizing other amino acids — so they are important, but not essential
One essential amino acid to really focus on getting enough of is the amino acid leucine, which has been shown to preserve body muscle. Leucine is an essential amino acid, which means the body cannot produce it, so it must be consumed from dietary sources.
Make sure you are choosing lean, natural sources. Great sources of protein, including the amino acid leucine include:
- Organic chicken
- Pumpkin seeds
It’s easy to get caught up in the “protein = meat” mindset, and while it's true that meat is an excellent source of protein, it's not the only clean source of protein. Look for vegetarian protein sources too, including beans, nuts, nutritional yeast, and even organic tofu.
It’s also helpful to supplement with Curcumin
Earlier you read how dangerous chronic inflammation is for your health, and especially for encouraging muscle loss as you age.
The National Institute of Health (NIH) has found that long-term use of curcumin, which is found in turmeric, as an inflammation-fighting agent is an effective way to prevent or reverse the damaging effects of chronic inflammation.
Fortunately, curcumin and other essential nutrients have been shown to fight the damaging effects of inflammation.
Specifically, turmeric’s active ingredients, the curcuminoids, are able to effectively fight off the underlying causes of inflammation, which severely inhibit your ability to build and repair muscle.
In order to get the full inflammation-fighting benefit of turmeric, and especially to prevent muscle loss as you age, you need to make sure you are taking in enough to benefit from its active ingredient — curcumin.
It’s difficult to get enough curcumin from just eating turmeric; that’s why it's important to supplement with a very specific forms of curcumin and other essential nutrients.
Essential Nutrients For Fighting Inflammation
Nobody wants to hear that taking more pills is the answer, but fortunately, less is more when it comes to supplements to lower your inflammatory load.
There is one supplement formula in particular that is such an inflammation-fighting powerhouse that it should be part of everyone’s daily routine.
However, it’s not antioxidant vitamins. If you’re following an anti-inflammatory diet, then you should already be getting plenty of the key inflammation-fighting antioxidant vitamins like B, C, E, K and A.
But you need more than that, and simply adding spices like turmeric and ginger to your food will not provide enough inflammation-reducing horsepower to move the net inflammatory load needle enough to tip the scales in your favor.
Here’s what works…
There are 5 inflammation-fighting supplemental herbs you need to know about.
The First is Curcumin
If you’re new to curcumin, it is the concentrated active ingredient inside turmeric. It’s only about 2-3% of the turmeric root, but when formulated properly it can have an amazing effect on your body. In fact, it’s a whopping 250 times more potent an inflammation-fighter than turmeric itself. A large part of the inflammation-fighting effect of curcumin comes from is its ability to inhibit key enzymes in the body known to promote inflammation.
But it does even more that… curcumin is really amazing stuff.
It’s rare that a dietary ingredient can have such a broad spectrum of health benefits. In nutritional science it’s called being pleotropic, meaning it produces multiple health effects on biological systems throughout the body. Curcumin is one of the most highly pleotropic compounds on earth; even pharmaceutical drugs can’t claim anything close to what it can do.
Now when shopping for a curcumin supplement, you want to look for curcumin in its most active form, so it goes to work in your body almost immediately. The active form of curcumin is pre-converted so it is almost immediately bioavailable in your body when you take it. It’s kind of like when you juice something and break the fiber bonds; your body just absorbs it better and faster.
The active form of curcumin is called 95% tetra-hydro curcuminoids.
The majority of curcumin on shelves however is not this active form, which means these supplements can take hours to start working. The active form of curcumin is the one you want, so always check the label to make sure it has 400 mg of 95% tetra-hydro curcuminoids per serving.
The other thing you need to know about curcumin is that it’s fat soluble in the body. This means it needs to come in a healthy carrier oil to get the effect you need. That brings us to the next inflammation-fighting ingredient …
Black Seed Oil
Black seed oil is extracted from the seeds of Nigella sativa, a plant native to southwest Asia. Also known as black cumin seed oil, it is a powerful antioxidant and inflammation-fighter and offers a range of health benefits supported by hundreds of studies.
It’s great for your stomach as well. In fact, Hippocrates himself was said to have used black seed oil to improve digestion issues. The seeds are considered to be naturally carminative, which means they aid digestion and can help to decrease bloating, gas and stomach cramps.
Ginger contains chemicals that help reduce inflammation, and it helps with digestion and reduces nausea too. Researchers believe that, like curcumin, the chemicals in ginger work in different parts of the body including the stomach and intestines, and in the brain and nervous system as well, to help tame the flames of inflammation.
The next ingredient is called an adaptogen. Adaptogens are a unique class of healing plants that go to work when you are under stress, especially important for people who live in a state of chronic stress and inflammation. They work to help balance and restore the body.
Astragalus’s roots are in Traditional Chinese Medicine, where it’s been used as an adaptogen for thousands of years, activating when you are under stress to help avoid inflammation. It is one of the most powerful immune-building plants on the planet, and it’s an essential herb in the daily wellness regimen of top holistic nutritionists.
And the last of the five natural ingredients to help lower your inflammatory load is…
The unique and beneficial compounds in ginseng are called ginsenosides. They’re so powerful in fact that they are currently under clinical research to investigate their potential for a variety of medical uses. Ginseng’s effects on “inflammatory cykotines” produced by the body from living in a state in chronic inflammation, as most people do, is well known. Plus, like the other four, it’s safe to take every day. It’s a great daily supplement.
In summary, here are the top five natural inflammation-fighters:
- Active Curcurmin (95% tetra-hydro curcuminoids)
- Black seed Oil
- Ginger Root
Now remember that magical supplement formula mentioned earlier? Well that supplement is the only one that combines the top five natural inflammation-fighters in just the right amount. Plus, it’s a super clean formula that’s also vegan, non-GMO, gluten-free, and a great value too.