How to Out-Muscle Sarcopenia

Most women know that we can lose significant amounts of bone as we get older as a result of osteoporosis. However, sarcopenia doesn’t seem to get as much notice. What is sarcopenia and why does it matter to weight control?

Sarcopenia is the age-related loss of muscle mass, quality and strength that begins to unfold pretty early in life. Even at age 30 we may begin to lose some of the muscle that we use on a regular basis. As for it’s relationship with weight management, there’s a couple of factors:

  • * Muscle uses more calories than fat, so it keeps your metabolism more active.

  • * Muscle can give you the strength and balance you need to exercise safely and effectively – an important part of successful weight management.

  • And, because no one is getting any younger, there are also other costs of sarcopenia that are worth knowing about:

  • * Loss of stability and balance (and therefore an increased risk of falls – a major cause of the dreaded hip fracture and other issues with aging).

  • * Decreased function. You need muscle to open jars, carry your groceries to and from the car and go for a long walk.

  • Are we all doomed to watching our muscles slowly waste away or is there anything we can do about it?

  • This is a great question, particularly for everyone out there who wants to manage their weight over the long term, rather than just accepting the yearly weight gain that can come with age. Slowing down sarcopenia IS possible if you’re willing to do some of the following:

    • * Use your muscles by exercising them regularly. This doesn’t mean spending hours lifting heavy weights. It does mean that you should consider buying a few light weights that you can use a few times a week for some resistance training. If you find it hard to stick with an exercise regime without some type of accountability, consider getting a personal trainer who can create resistance exercise routines customized to your needs and preferences.

    • * Both aerobic and progressive resistance exercises can help slow down muscle loss.

    • * Make sure you’re getting enough good quality protein in your diet.

    • * Vitamin D deficiency should also be treated as it can compound other risk factors for sarcopenia.

    • * Increasing your intake of fish to four times per week and/or consider omega-3 supplementation.

    • * If you’re in the middle of a weight loss journey, keep working your muscles. You want to make sure that you are maintaining muscle mass while losing weight.

    • Just remember that keeping your muscle mass intact, doesn’t mean your muscles will be as strong as they used to be. The natural results of aging can happen to all of us. But you can at least do your part to slow down muscle loss. For example, in one study, people with higher amounts of body fat demonstrated quicker rates of muscle mass loss. The authors suggested that investing time earlier in life to keep your body fat in check may reduce future vulnerability to sarcopenia.

    • There’s a reason a cliché like “an ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure” continues to exist, and that’s because it continues to provide wisdom in many areas. In the case of your muscles, make it easier on yourself to manage your weight, keep your balance and preserve your independence for years to come by doing your part to keep your muscles healthy and happy!