There are a few obvious signs that we’re getting older. For instance, our hair grows more silver, you have a greater appreciation for classic rock, and your friendships grow stronger. But there are less obvious signs of aging as well.
Of particular concern for men is the gradual loss of muscle mass as they age. More than just “dad bod,” men can begin to lose as much as three to five percent of their muscle mass every decade after age thirty. This means that with time, your ripped pythons start to look more like limp garter snakes.
But just because your aging doesn’t mean you have to give up on your muscles. With a little hard work, dedication, careful planning, and the right supplements, you can maintain your muscle mass longer, meaning you’ll keep that muscular physique into old age.
What Causes Muscle Loss As We Age?
As we age, it gets a little harder to get out of bed or to jog that extra block, or lift that final set. It’s not for lack of trying, it’s actually because of an age-related condition known as sarcopenia. This condition begins to appear most notably in older adults, ages 65 and older, but the effects of sarcopenia can be felt as early as your 30s.
Of course, sarcopenia isn’t something to dread, it’s just a natural part of aging. There’s no specific test to measure it or to diagnose it for that matter. It’s just the gradual loss of muscle mass, and as a result, the lessening of strength and mobility. That said, a growing body of research is beginning to suggest that there are factors that accelerate the development of sarcopenia, including:
- A lessened ability to convert protein into energy
- Not getting the calories or protein needed to sustain your muscle mass
- Lowered concentrations of key hormones like growth, testosterone, and insulin
- A reduction in the nerve cell signaling the brain to move the muscles
Men and women experience muscle loss in different ways and have to face different results as well. In men, sarcopenia is tied closely to the lowered production of testosterone. This leads to a decreased libido, a depressed mood, lessened stamina, and smaller muscle size. In women, the declining production of testosterone affects their body’s use of estrogen. This means that their muscles often wither faster than men’s.
The Importance of Maintaining Muscle
After reading the above, it might be natural to shrug your shoulders and say, “well, if it’s natural, maybe I should just go with the flow.” That’s an understandable reaction, but not the right one.
The fact is, maintaining your muscle mass is a crucial part of aging gracefully. After all, even into old age, we still want to be doing the things that bring us joy, and for the most part, those things involve some level of physical exertion.
Losing muscle mass makes even mundane tasks like tying your shoes or getting dressed a real challenge. A loss of muscle mass also leaves you at an increased risk of contracting illnesses like diabetes and may lead to you becoming obese. Losing muscle mass doesn’t just keep you from crushing your sets in your 80s, it keeps you from completing the basic tasks that make up daily life.
A loss of muscle mass can also dramatically affect your appearance. Without well-maintained muscles, you might notice that you age more rapidly. Your face might suddenly have sunken cheeks and more defined wrinkles.
Not only can muscle loss interrupt your lifestyle, but it can also interrupt your financial plans. A study from 2004 found that the United States spent roughly $18 billion in 2000 to address healthcare costs related to sarcopenia. Your healthcare costs can jump significantly if you have complications stemming from muscle loss.
So How Do You Keep Your Muscles Longer?
The importance of maintaining your muscles should be clear, and fortunately, so are the steps to keeping your muscles healthy and strong even into old age. In fact, the advice is so common, you probably already know it.
Yes, it’s simply diet and exercise.
For regular readers of the Athletic Majority blog, you’ll know that we cover diet and exercise pretty much all of the time. It’s not a bad idea to read some of our back posts to get caught up on some strategies you can start using today to keep your muscles and diet in shape. But let’s take a look at a few ways you can maintain your muscles as you age.
Pump Up With Protein
By chowing down on high-quality sources of protein, you’re offering the body the amino acids it needs to build muscle. When you eat good protein, you’re getting plenty of the amino acid called leucine. This amino acid is great at building muscle and can be found in tasty foods like greek yogurts, lean meats, fish, soy, edamame, and tofu.
But you also have to be strategic with how much protein you eat and when you eat it. For instance, most American diets ramp up their protein intake throughout the day. Breakfasts usually consist of a little protein (if anything at all), lunch has more, and we end the day with a pile of protein at dinner. But how much is right for you? We hate to say it, but it depends. Most dietary specialists suggest that about 0.36 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight is about right.
That’s about 56 grams a day for men and 46 grams a day for women. Of course, this amount can vary based on your lifestyle and activity level.
Thankfully, it’s pretty easy to get your protein in from a wide variety of nutritious sources. That means you can get protein from foods like:
- Egg yolks and whites
- Skinless turkey and chicken breast
- Cuts of beef like sirloin, tenderloin, and flank
- Low-fat dairy products like milk, cheese, whey, and yogurt
- Tilapia, tuna, salmon, and cod
- And much more
Exercise Smarter, Not Necessarily Harder
Exercise is the other part of maintaining your muscle mass. But the kind of exercise you do has to be fairly focused. You’ll want to gear your workouts toward building strength and power. Strength is great for moving heavy objects, but power is how fast and efficiently you move. In fact, many argue that power is the key to completing many of the daily tasks you use your muscles for.
So to develop strong and powerful muscles, Harvard Health recommends a Preparation and Recovery Training program. Essentially, this program is designed to help you make use of all of your muscle groups in one session. That session should include exercises that target the major muscle groups in sets of 12 to 15. This should be done two to four times a week to see the best results.
You’ll also want to get a good amount of cardio each week too. Aerobic exercise aids in developing your body’s response to insulin. Insulin plays an important part in repairing and maintaining your muscles. At a minimum, you’ll want to do about 30 minutes of intense cardio three or more times a week. That can be biking, walking, or swimming.
Use the Right Supplements
The right amount of protein is a great first step in offering your body the nutrients it needs, but it’s certainly not the last one. It’s also important to supplement your diet with vitamins, essential fatty acids, and other nutritional products.
Take, for instance, vitamin D. Many of us are deficient in this vital vitamin without even realizing it. But low levels of vitamin D can lead to issues like decreased muscle strength, worsened injuries, and slower recovery times. Even when we’re young, these are issues we don’t want to deal with. Numerous studies have linked adequate vitamin D levels to improved muscle growth and maintenance. For instance, a study from 2018 showed that low levels have been associated with heightened risks of falls and proximal weakness. The same study noted that vitamin D treatments are safe, effective, and affordable. You can simply ask your doctor to measure your levels, then take a recommended dosage of an over-the-counter supplement.
Another nutrient you can supplement safely is essential fatty acids. While many of us get enough of these through our diet, some struggle to get enough. Essential fatty acids are remarkable for their anti-inflammatory properties. This means that things like injuries and muscle soreness can be alleviated when your body has a regular resource for its fatty acid needs. Essential fatty acids can be found in sources like fish, which is chock full of Omega-3 and Omega-6.
Stay Fit With Axis Labs
Leading an active and healthy life should be a life-long goal. While aging and muscle loss is a natural process, you don’t have to let it impact your quality of life or keep you from doing what you love.
That’s why we’ve designed a series of nutritional supplements and products that can be easily integrated into your daily routines and can result in the changes you’re looking for. In addition to other vitamins and supplements, you can also make use of high-quality supplements like our testosterone boosters, keto products, and our amino recovery supplements. When you pair these supplements with regular diet and exercise, you can help maintain your muscles and stay stronger longer. All of these products are carefully crafted in our lab and tested for potency. Additionally, we offer a line of high-end CBD products that are designed to fit into your health-conscious lifestyle.
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