Wasting away as we age.
From the day you are born through till around somewhere in your 30’s your muscles tend to grow larger. But at some point, in your 30’s something shifts. You start losing muscle mass. This condition is completely natural and eventually unavoidable, it is called sarcopenia, or age-related sarcopenia.
People that are inactive can lose as much as 3 – 5% of their muscle mass per decade after the age of 30. Even if you are moderately active you can lose some muscle mass. I’ll give you an example. Say you are an 80 kg man. Your body fat% is 18%. Take out bone mass rough guess 3 kg. Organs 3 kg again very rough. That gives you approximately 60 kg of lean muscle mass. Take 5% of that 60 kg and you are left with 57kg. So, think to yourself are you over the age of 40? Are you active? Are you losing weight or putting weight on? Because if you aren’t very active and are putting weight on that literally means that you are replacing muscle mass with fat. Imagine you have put on 5 kg on between your 30th and 40th birthday and you lost 5% of your muscle mass because you have made a big push in your career and done next to no exercise. You haven’t put 1 kg of fat on you have put 8 kg of fat on and lost 3 kg of muscle. Quite sobering isn’t it, even scary. As we age it becomes more and more easy to put fat on because as a generalisation we become less active.
Remember also that muscle is the most metabolic tissue in the body. That means it burns more calories, so if you are losing muscle mass your calorie needs are dropping, which also means that if you are eating the same number of calories where as in your 30’s you may not have put weight on but now due the decrease in muscle mass and activity levels you will start to put on weight and an ever-increasing amount.
What is the cause? There are many. A couple of the bigger ones are: a drop in natural testosterone and growth hormone, lower levels of insulin like growth factors a decrease in the bodies ability to convert protein in to energy and as previously stated a general decrease in activity levels as life priorities start to shift.
How do we stop Sarcopenia?
Well eventually you can’t. 75 years old seams to be the magic number where it seems to accelerate and can become a major problem. When you put it with another age related degenerative disease Osteopenia it is a major reason that falls for the aged population are often a terminal problem due to a lack of muscle and bone density and the person just never heals.
The good news though is that by starting a good structured strength program you can arrest the loss of muscle and bone density and even reverse it in most cases. Weight training in as little as 2 weeks can increase the bodies ability to convert protein in to energy. It also causes the body to release testosterone and growth hormone.
It has been an alarming trend in recent years for people to use testosterone supplements whether through a doctor with Hormone replacement therapy or over the counter supplements at a supplement shop to try to keep levels higher. This can get very expensive very quickly and especially with the supplement route there is little to no evidence that they help in any way shape or form. To help naturally get good quality sleep, Get plenty of Vitamin D ( preferably through natural sunlight), Get plenty of quality Omega 3 oils, Cruciferous Vegetables (they help detox excess estrogen from the body), Garlic (this helps lower cortisol which in turn allows the body to release testosterone as a recovery hormone). Reduce your overall carbohydrate and sugar intake.
Another non-diet related method is a daily meditation routine. Meditation helps reduce cortisol which again allows the body to release more testosterone.
What can you do about it?
Well even if you are over 75 years of age, it is not too late. If your heart is beating, then you can do some sort of strength training. Whether it be with resistance bands or lifting weights. If you are in your 30’s or 40’s then this is the time to beat back the ravages of age related problems. Getting 2 moderate weight sessions a week and 2 – 3 moderate to high intensity cardio sessions a week will allow you to keep muscle mass and even put some on if you try. Loading the skeleton will maintain bone density and can also help reverse osteopenia.
Exercise, especially weight training is like your bodies superannuation. Make your body strong and muscular in your working life and it will give you more to draw off as you get older. Because if you do have a little more muscle on the body now you can maintain a good quality of life for much longer in life.
Ask yourself. How do you want to age? Do you want to still be vibrant and living large will in to your 70’s and 80’s? Did you answer year to those questions? Do you train at the moment? Do you invest any time in to yourself currently to make this happen? If not. Why not? Do you pull out the all too common I don’t have time card. If so I call BULLSHIT!!!!! There is always time you just need to set it aside and make it one of your bigger priorities. There are no excuses because in the end it is your body, it is your job to keep it in some sort of shape, it is your job to be capable of doing your job and being the best version of yourself, you can be.
Now is the time to act! Get active, do some strength training and get your body moving and under some load. It may take some time and you will end up a little sore and most likely get some niggles and little injuries as well a long the way. But if you address them and get them fixed as they arise there is no limits to what you can achieve. You just need to make it a priority and make the time to do it.
As a 47-year-old male I can tell you that strength training is a big part of my life and along with my triathlon training I hope to be doing it well in to my 70’s and 80’s. I feel fitter now than I did I my late 20’s and early 30’s. I plan on still doing long course triathlons in to my 60’s and hopefully 70’s. I see no reason why I shouldn’t be able to do it. In fact I see it more as an obligation to myself to continue to do it.
At Total Performance Centre we specialise in helping everyday people be the best version of themselves and we pride ourselves in specialising in helping people over the age of 40 be better than they thought they ever could be.
As usual team.
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