Fit and Fine by Kamal Singh CSCS: Why you lose muscle mass
As you age, just adding small amounts of protein is not enough. You also need to add weight training to the fitness regime
We reach peak muscle mass between the second and fourth decades of our life and then we progressively lose muscle mass as we age. After the fourth decade, muscle mass is lost at the rate of 0.5% per year, increases to 1-2% per year after the age of 50 and then over 3% annually after the sixth decade. This is called sarcopenia and this unintended weight loss can be the cause of frailty–loss of balance, falls and even bone loss for the aging population.
Skeletal muscle mass is measured as the balance between protein degradation and protein synthesis. When the two processes of degradation and synthesis are in balance, muscle mass remains constant but it can shift towards negative due to a number of factors, including lack of physical activity, nutrients and hormones. According to researcher, Alan Aragon, the causes of sarcopenia are complex and multifactorial but a big one is the resistance of skeletal muscle tissue to growth or anabolic stimuli, now termed Anabolic Resistance. Anabolic resistance could be main reason that the body does not maintain muscle mass as we age.
What is Anabolic Resistance?
According to Alan Aragon et al, muscle protein synthesis increases if we add a protein source to our diet and this leads to a positive muscle protein balance. But as we grow older, just adding small amounts of protein is not enough for stimulating muscle protein synthesis. This decrease in sensitivity to protein means that with aging, we need to eat more protein and not less protein, so as to promote muscle protein synthesis.
Another significant way to reduce or reverse Anabolic Resistance is to add weight training to the fitness regime for the senior citizens. A recent survey in UK showed that most senior citizens do not train with weights. Most doctors recommend walking as the best form of exercise for the elderly but this is not true at all.
Obesity also has a negative impact on muscle protein synthesis. Improving body composition goes a long way in upping muscle protein synthesis. Obesity could be also one of the factors for increasing Anabolic Resistance.
Improving protein sensitivity and decreasing sarcopenia
Research shows that master athletes maintain their muscle mass as long as they continue to train and compete! That is the answer to the problem of Sarcopenia.
After the fourth decade, most people become sedentary. This is leads to Anabolic Resistance and sarcopenia.
If you are over 40, now is the time to actively start training with weights.
*Follow weight training programs which will help in increasing muscle size. Full body routines done thrice a week are a great way to kick start muscle hypertrophy.
*Choose 6-8 exercises–squat, lunge, deadlift, bench press, row, curls and triceps extensions. Do 2-3 sets with 12-15 repetitions per set.
*Eat 25-30 grams of protein in every meal. If you are vegetarian, then look to supplement your protein intake with a good quality whey protein shake.
*Do weight bearing cardio 2-3 days in a week. Fast paced walking, jogging, walking with a back pack are great ways to improve cardio vascular fitness while maintaining a positive muscle protein balance.
*Alan Aragon’s research shows that we need at least 1.6 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight to avoid Anabolic Resistance. So, load up your plate with protein.
*Improve body composition by lowering fat and adding muscle, Anabolic Resistance will automatically vanish as will age related sarcopenia.
It is not surprising how everything is interconnected–get active, eat right, stay fit and healthy or eat junk, lead a sedentary life and then survive by eating lots of medicines. The choice is yours.
Kamal Singh is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist who has been coaching for 15 years
From HT Brunch, September 17, 2022
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