By David Blyweiss, M.D., Advanced Natural Wellness
November 27, 2013
- Are your muscles wasting away?
- It’s not always the exercise that counts
- More protein builds stronger muscles
Did you know that, by the time you hit your 30’s, you start losing muscle mass and strength?
It starts slowly. In the beginning it only amounts to about one or two percent of muscle mass each year. But that loss increases with age. And over time it can really add up.
Now that might not sound important if you are feeling healthy and fit right now. After all, nobody walks around talking about or worrying over the health of their muscles.
However, if you’re over 40, it’s something you need to start taking seriously.
Not convinced? Well just take a look at this.
If you’re losing two percent of muscle each year starting at age 30, you’ll have less than half of your muscle volume left by the time you reach 60. And if that’s the case, it’s a pretty sure thing you’ll be weak, and frail by the time you’re in your 70’s and 80’s.
If you’re one of those losing more than two percent each year, it could happen even sooner. It won’t take long before flimsy muscles steal your health. Before you know it, your ability to perform daily activities can slip away entirely.
This condition is known as “sarcopenia,” or muscle wasting.
You might think it only affects people who don’t exercise. And it’s true… a sedentary lifestyle can increase your risk of muscle loss.
But here’s the thing. Even though plenty of physical activity reduces your chance of muscle wasting, it doesn’t completely stop the risk. In fact, it’s not uncommon to see sarcopenia in people who remain actives their entire lives.
And there’s a reason for that.
Keeping your muscles strong and flexible as you age is critical to your health, independence and quality of life. And taking part in regular exercise is a first step when it comes to the quality of your muscles.
But there is an underlying cause of sarcopenia we don’t hear nearly enough about.
It’s called “muscle protein synthesis.” This is the process that regulates the growth, repair and maintenance of your muscles.
Like so many other things, muscle protein synthesis declines as you age. And the fall off causes two things to happen:
- Reduced muscle protein synthesis appears to be the starting point for the development and progression of sarcopenia. Any decrease at all in this process will result in the loss of muscle mass.
- Without adequate protein synthesis, the ability of your muscles to repair and regenerate themselves after exercise or an injury is decreased. (This might explain why some people who get plenty of exercise are still prone to sarcopenia.)
The solution to this problem is quite simple. And it’s much easier to accomplish than you would imagine…
Whether you are exercising regularly or not, if you’re losing muscle mass it could simply be a matter of getting more protein in your diet.
It’s been proven, over and over again, that people who eat less protein are more likely to suffer muscle loss from sarcopenia. And the older you get, the more apparent it becomes.
You see, the current recommended daily allowance for protein is about one and a half ounces for women and about two ounces for men. That doesn’t sound like much, but a lot of aging adults aren’t even close to meeting these requirements.
This is a real a problem, because today we’re finding older adults might need twice that much to boost protein synthesis, maintain muscle mass and build strength.
Fortunately, it’s easy enough to add more protein to your diet. However, if you’re serious about pumping up those muscles, quality is just as important as quantity. So don’t run out and load up on commercial steaks, milk and cheese.
Instead, focus on healthy sources of protein. Some of my favorites include…
Protein shake. Now maybe you haven’t thought about a protein shake lately. But there are some great ones out on the market lately. And plant proteins make great alternatives to milk, beef or egg based. I recommend Sunwarrior brand. It’s gluten free. non-gmo, and soy and dairy free. Plus it’s delicious.
Wild-caught fish is another preferred source of protein. And it comes with a bonus. The omega-3 fatty acids found in fish stimulate muscle protein synthesis. So adding fish to your diet is a powerful weapon against the loss of your muscles.
To reduce mercury exposure, I recommend avoiding deepwater fish and sticking with ones that are lower on the food chain. This includes salmon, herring, sardines, trout and flounder.
Pastured eggs come from chickens raised outdoors where they eat grass, weeds, bugs and worms. They are loaded with protein that your body uses for protein synthesis.
And don’t worry. Research continually shows eggs aren’t the heart threat we once thought they were. In fact, they may actually be protective. Recent reports find eggs lower the risk of cardiovascular disease and improve HDL cholesterol ratios.
Organic, pasture-raised poultry. Lean meats like chicken and turkey are an excellent source of high quality protein. I prefer them to red meat because the fat content is much lower. Just make sure to pass on the skin.
Organic, greek yogurt. For non-meat eaters, this is a must. Greek yogurt is lower in sugar than most commercial yogurts.
Other good sources of protein include beans, nuts, seeds, grassfed beef and almond milk. If necessary, you can even supplement with a high quality whey or egg white protein.
The key, however, is making sure to eat a variety of these proteins at every meal. When combined with exercise, it’s a sure way to improve muscle strength and fight off sarcopenia.
Douglas Paddon-Jones and Blake B. Rasmussen. Dietary protein recommendations and the prevention of sarcopenia. Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. 2009 January; 12(1): 86–90.
Robinson S, Cooper C, Aihie Sayer A. Nutrition and sarcopenia: a review of the evidence and implications for preventive strategies. J Aging Res. 2012:510801. Epub 2012 Mar 15.
Rong Y, et al. Egg consumption and risk of coronary heart disease and stroke: dose-response meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies. BMJ. 2013 Jan 7;346:e8539