Lean body mass does not increase with age. On average, when you reach the age of 30, you start to lose muscle mass. This is known as sarcopenia. This happens to those who have a sedentary lifestyle as well as those who are inactive. There are multiple causes for sarcopenia to occur. This includes changes in levels of growth hormones and testosterone and how certain hormones interact with your nervous system. But just like many inevitable challenges you face in life, there are ways to combat this and at the very least, slow down or delay the process of muscle loss.
Nutrition, Fitness, And Resistance Training
So no surprises here. But the ways to prevent or reverse sarcopenia is improving your fitness levels with general aerobic activities, resistance training, and increasing your intake of certain nutrients such as protein, vitamin d (if you are deficient), omega-3 fatty acids and creatine. I think the bigger issue lies with the mindset you have as you get older.
How do you prevent muscle loss in old age?
As many people get older and life gets busier with family, kids, and work, they buy into the illusion that exercise was just something they did when they were younger. Pushing heavy weights or doing heavy squats was just something they did to attract the opposite sex or to feel confident. Now that they are married with kids and sitting on the couch gaining weight while watching 4 hours of television a day, they’re just like every other average American. Because they are just like every other American, they don’t feel like they are doing anything wrong. But they are.
Humans didn’t evolve to sit in front of a screen most of the day during their work hours and sit on a couch for the rest of the night watching television. Most of us intuitively know this but still do not take any action steps to correct this behavior.
You can choose to prevent muscle loss in old age, but you have to change your habits. You have to decide that you don’t want to lose muscle mass and put in work to do so. This may include eating more protein, doing more resistance training, sleeping better and other things many people intuitively know are good for you.
Mindset to Avoid Sarcopenia
If you want to maintain your muscle mass and even gain strength and muscle as you get older, you have to change your mindset. While everybody is programmed to lose muscle mass as they get older, you can decide to fight this by making a few shifts in the way you think about fitness. Instead of working out and training just to maintain your level of fitness so you won’t be too out of breath while climbing stairs, you can decide you want to be a better version of yourself. By better, I mean stronger, faster, and leaner. You do this by setting basic goals and training to achieve them. I’m not talking about goals to be the next powerlifting or Olympic weightlifting champion. I’m talking about small goals like progressively getting stronger at specific movements or exercises week after week.
Entering your 40s doesn’t mean you accept the status quo of fitness and life. Do you want to be the former college or high school athlete that now looks like a slob with a beer belly beaten up by life? Or be the person who realized that you still have a lot of life left in you and appreciate the fact that you can still train reasonably hard and make physical gains until the day you die?
Even if your goal isn’t to look good anymore, working hard to build muscle will help you feel better, move better, and live better. It will allow you to produce better work or be a better parent or spouse or a business owner.
Once you decide you want to be stronger and prevent your body from wasting away, you should choose a workout routine that involves some cardio and some resistance training to follow that seems reasonable to you and follow it consistently. This could range from 15 minutes a day 3 times a week to an hour a day every day. Everybody has some time to allocate to fitness. The older you get, the more important maintaining a fitness routine will be.
Protein and Resistance Training
To maintain muscle mass, you should perform some type of resistance training when you do work out. This could include using machines at the gyms or dumbells at home. There are endless tutorials and videos on exercises for those who are beginners in weight training online. A great place to start watching high-quality training videos for free is the Athlean X channel on YouTube where they go over everything fitness-related from resistance training, proper form, to nutrition, mobility, and flexibility.
You should also make sure you are eating a good quality diet that has enough protein in the form of meat, fish or eggs as “physical exercise and adequate protein and energy intake are to date the only strategies of proven efficacy (and safety) to improve muscle health across ages”
A proper mindset will lead you to make better decisions on nutrition and your approach to fitness. This will assist you in preventing your muscles and body from weakening as you age.
What I Do To Maintain Muscle Mass
In 2018, my body fat percentage was 8% and I weighed about 172 based on my Dexa scan results shown here. I’m now trying to gain around 5 pounds of mass, mostly muscle for 2020 and beyond. So far its been doing well, I weight about 175 and feel great. To do this I’ve been doing more hypertrophy workouts in addition to my cardio and high-intensity interval training. That means every few days I will target a few muscle groups and lift heavy 5-8 reps. I do this by adding powerlifting movements to my regiment when I have time. This includes heavy bench, deadlift, and squats.
I’ve also been eating more protein. I may add an extra egg to my meals and an extra piece of meat since I’m not a huge fan of slurping down protein shakes unless I really feel the meal I’ve had didn’t have sufficient protein. I still only eat 2 meals a day. You can see an example of what I eat here.
What I recommend is simple, lift heavy, eat enough protein, and sleep well. It sounds simple but when you talk to many people to find out what their daily diet and exercise routine is, you will find out most people aren’t doing the basics to achieve optimal health while aging.