While osteoporosis has become a household word, how many people have even heard of sarcopenia? Sarcopenia or muscle wasting is another age-related malady that, along with osteoporosis, makes patients grow more and more frail with age. Sarcopenia impacts 45% of people over age 60 and approximately 20% of Americans over age 60 are classified as functionally disabled due to loss of skeletal muscle.
Sarcopenia generally starts to set in around age 45, when muscle mass begins to decline at a rate of about 1% per year. As muscle mass declines, so does muscle strength. Muscle strength declines by approximately 15% per decade in the sixties and seventies and about 40% there after. As strength goes, so does the ability to do chores, take walks, climb stairs, etc. This loss of strength can create a vicious cycle. By the age of 70, many people become so fragile that they are likely to suffer falls or lose the ability to care for themselves.
Muscle wasting can be avoided and even reversed with diet, exercise, and nutritional supplements. We’ve all heard it before….use it or lose it. When it comes to building or maintaining muscles, resistance training is the key. Resistance training is any exercise that causes a muscle to contract…push ups, weight machines, free weights, whatever. You don’t have to bench press a ton. Any activity, no matter how limited, can help maintain muscle mass.
There are some natural things that you can take to help boost your workouts. In human studies, creatine supplements significantly reduced fatigue, enabling subjects to perform for longer periods at speeds close to maximum. It is believed that creatine allows the muscles of the body to recover from intense activity much faster.
Since muscles are made of protein, high quality protein is essential to muscle maintenance. Older people, particularly those who live alone, often become less likely to cook for themselves and thus, may have protein deficient diets….it’s sometimes called “tea and toast” syndrome. In addition, digestive problems may interfere with protein assimilation. Whey protein, a rich source of these essential amino acids, rapidly elevates plasma amino acid levels, providing the foundation for muscle mass preservation. Protein is most effective when taken immediately after exercise.