As we get older, we are more prone to lose muscle mass and strength. This condition is called sarcopenia, and it occurs as early as our thirties and forties, depending on different lifestyle factors.
Sarcopenia is linked to an increased risk of physical disability and injuries, cardiovascular problems, depression, and even death. And with the aging of our population, it is estimated that by 2050, 1/3 of the world’s society will be over 65 years of age.
That is why sarcopenia is expected to dramatically rise in the coming decades. As such, muscle loss presents a big public health challenge.
Symptoms and Causes of Sarcopenia
General symptoms of sarcopenia include musculoskeletal weakness and loss of strength which lead to a reduction in physical abilities. Physical inactivity then further reduces muscle mass.
Even though sarcopenia is mostly seen in people who are inactive, it also occurs in people who stay active. This suggests that there are other factors involved in the development of this condition (1).
Studies conclude that the following factors may influence sarcopenia:
Tips to Prevent Sarcopenia
1. Eat Healthy and Bump up Your Protein Intake
A nutrient-rich diet is essential for good health and well-being. Not only will eating properly protect you against sarcopenia, but it will also lower the risk for other serious diseases, such as heart disease, diabetes, cancer, etc.
Protein is something you should especially concentrate on. The amino acids found in protein are the building blocks of muscle, which is the foundation you need. Our body requires essential and non-essential amino acids, and only high-quality sources of protein contain both.
So for protein aim to consume lean meats such as chicken, trout, lamb, tuna, then dairy products such as Greek yogurt, whey protein, low-fat milk, etc. Vegetable sources of protein such as tofu, lentils, beans, chickpeas, are also fine, however some do not contain all essential-amino acids (2).
The rest of your diet should be filled with quality carbohydrates and healthy fats.
2. Fats Are Imperative
Research published in the journal of Nutrition concludes that consuming omega-3 fatty acids can be crucial for muscular development and preservation. Unfortunately fats have gotten a bad rap over the years as they are a contributor to heart disease and cancer. However this is only the case with unhealthy saturated fats. Healthy polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats play an essential role in hormone production of our body, which in turn is responsible for muscle growth and strength. A low-fat diet can impact the body’s testosterone production as well, increasing the risk of sarcopenia.
Best source of healthy fats include all forms of nuts, such as almonds, walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts, all forms of seeds, such as flaxseeds, chia seeds, pumpkin seeds, and so on. Fatty fish like salmon and mackerel are also great options (3).
3. Boost Your Vitamin D, Zinc, and Magnesium Intake
One of the most important vitamins when it comes to our muscular system is without a doubt vitamin D. It has a key role in the absorption of proteins, which we known are the main drive of muscular tissue. Most of our vitamin D comes from sunlight exposure, so it is necessary to get at least 30-45 minutes of sunlight daily.
Great dietary sources of vitamin D are sardines, salmon, cod, egg yolks, mushrooms, milk or non-dairy substitute, and fortified cereals.
Zinc and magnesium are also vital minerals that have their supporting role in healthy functioning of the muscles. Both are available in dietary or supplement form. Zinc is found in shellfish, lamb, beef, dairy products, and even dark chocolate. Magnesium is easily found in green vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and fish.
Researchers state that a proper intake of these three micronutrients can significantly lower the risk of sarcopenia (4).
4. Resistance Training is Recommended
Going to the gym, or even working out from the comforts of your home, is massively important for building and preserving muscle. Two to three resistance sessions per week is all you need. The key here is to give your maximum effort to really tax your muscles with different exercises, rep ranges, and weights. Also, make sure to get have a protein meal or shake after your workout. This will ensure you reap all the necessary benefits from your training. We suggest if you can safely that you use 85%+ maximum effort to maintain bone density and healthy muscles.
5. Don’t Forget About Cardio
Getting your heart rate up is absolutely a must for muscle maintenance. Cardio exercises improve one’s response to insulin, and insulin helps with muscle health and recovery. Performing aerobic activities also enhances blood flow, including the flow of nutrients inside the muscles.
Try to do at least 30 minutes of moderate to high intensity cardio, such as walking, hiking, biking or swimming, three or more days a week (5). Did you know that oxygen flow and blood flow affect cells, tissues, healing, repair, recovery of damaged cells, so keep moving.
6. Get Enough Sleep
Our whole body, including our muscles, needs proper rest and recovery. Being sleep deprived not only causes a terrible sluggish feeling, but it can also bring up various ailments, including sarcopenia. Therefore it is vital to get between seven and eight hours of sleep every night. A day filled with physical activities will assist in ensuring a good night’s sleep.
Sacropenia is a serious health problem in today’s society. However, it’s devastating effect can be easily avoided if you incorporate some of the tips presented above.
Simply eat the right foods, exercise regularly, sleep properly, and forget about the fear of sarcopenia.