Preventing Muscle Loss as We Age

Sarcopenia — a decline in skeletal muscle with age — begins as early as age 40 and, without intervention, gets increasingly worse, with as much as half of muscle mass lost by age 70. (If you’re wondering, it’s replaced by fat and fibrous tissue, making muscles resemble a well-marbled steak.)

But you can slow or reverse this phenomenon with increased strength and muscle mass by practicing strength-training exercises regularly.

Proper technique is critical to getting the desired results without incurring an injury. It’s very important to start at the appropriate level of resistance. Whether using free weights, machines, bands or tubes, Dr. Marilyn Moffat, physical therapist and a professor at New York University offers these guidelines:

“Start with two repetitions and, using correct form through the full range of motion, lift slowly and lower slowly. Stop and ask yourself how hard you think you are working: ‘fairly light,’ ‘somewhat hard’ or ‘hard.’ If you respond ‘fairly light,’ increase the weight slightly, repeat the two reps and ask yourself the same question. If you respond ‘hard,’ lower the weight slightly, do two reps and ask the question again.

“If you respond truthfully ‘somewhat hard,’ you are at the correct weight or machine setting to be exercising at a level that most people can do safely and effectively to strengthen muscles. Continue exercising with that weight or machine setting and you should fatigue after eight to 12 reps.” Of course, as the weight levels you’re working at become easier, you should increase them gradually or increase the number of repetitions until you fatigue.

Strength-training will not only make you stronger, it may also enhance bone density.

The fact that you may regularly run, walk, play tennis or ride a bike is not adequate to prevent an incremental loss of muscle mass and strength even in the muscles you’re using as well as those not adequately stressed by your usual activity. Strengthening all your muscles, not just the neglected ones, just may keep you from landing in the emergency room after a fall.

Doctors recommend that adding and maintaining muscle mass requires adequate nutrients, especially protein, the main constituent of healthy muscle tissue.

Protein needs are based on a person’s ideal body weight, so if you’re overweight or underweight, subtract or add pounds to determine how much protein you should eat each day. To enhance muscle mass, people require at least 0.54 grams of protein per pound of ideal body weight, an amount well above what people typically consume.

Thus, if you are a sedentary aging adult who should weigh 150 pounds, you may need to eat as much as 81 grams (0.54 x 150) of protein daily.

To give you an idea of how this translates into food,

  • 2 tablespoons of peanut butter has 8 grams of protein;
  • 1 cup of nonfat milk, 8.8 grams;
  • 2 medium eggs, 11.4 grams;
  • one chicken drumstick, 12.2 grams;
  • a half-cup of cottage cheese, 15 grams;
  • and 3 ounces of flounder, 25.5 grams. Or if you prefer turkey to fish, 3 ounces has 26.8 grams of protein.

“Protein acts synergistically with exercise to increase muscle mass,” and protein foods naturally rich in the amino acid leucine — milk, cheese, beef, tuna, chicken, peanuts, soybeans and eggs — are most effective.

Source Article: Preventing Muscle Loss as We Age, New York Times: https://nyti.ms/2CdChJ8

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