As we age, our body undergoes many changes, including the loss of muscle mass. This loss of muscle mass has many negative consequences, including weight gain. This further results in a slower basal metabolic rate, which means that instead of efficiently converting the foods we eat into energy, we store what we eat as body fat.
As functional medicine specialists, we see first-hand how this condition affects patients. That’s why we’ve decided to take a closer look at the relationship between the loss of muscle mass and weight gain, and share some strategies for maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
How to slow down age-related muscle loss?
After the age of 30, we start to lose muscle mass at a rate of 3% to upwards of 8% per decade. By age 50, some of us have lost 16% of our muscle mass. This rate increases after age 60, so by the time we’re 80, many people have lost 40% of their muscle mass. This can result in various unfavorable outcomes such as decreased physical strength, reduced mobility, loss of physical autonomy, and increased susceptibility to injury.
As mentioned earlier, loss of muscle means a slower basal metabolic rate. So how do we counter the inevitable loss of muscle mass as we age?
1. It’s time to exercise
One strategy is to fight back by adding strength training to your exercise routine. This involves working out with heavy weights or resistance bands on a regular basis. Cardio and stretching are great for your health, but they do not replace the muscle-building, muscle-preserving benefits of resistance exercises.
People who are older and have little physical activity should start off gently: take walks, practice yoga, or do some jogging. It may even be a good idea to sign up for a few personal training sessions with a trainer to learn how to do exercises properly and customize a workout plan.
2. Take healthy foods
If you’re looking to slow down age-related muscle loss and maintain a healthy weight, it’s important to focus on your diet. Start by increasing your intake of fruits and vegetables while decreasing the amount of fast food, added sugar, and processed foods you consume. Whole foods such as vegetables, beans, nuts, whole grains, and fruit are packed with fiber, which makes them high-volume foods that take up more room in your stomach and contribute fewer calories to your daily intake.
Additionally, it’s important to maintain a sufficient intake of proteins and consider supplementing with amino acids. Branched-chain amino acids are particularly effective for muscle building and preservation. By incorporating these strategies into your diet, you can slow down the loss of muscle mass and maintain a healthy weight as you age.
3. Get a good night’s sleep
Getting enough rest and quality sleep is also important for muscle recovery and growth. Aim for at least 7-8 hours of sleep per night and try to establish a regular sleep schedule to optimize your body’s recovery process.
Additionally, sleep is a time for the body to rest and repair, and when we don’t get enough sleep, our muscles don’t have enough time to recover from the wear and tear of daily activities and workouts. Without it, we may experience muscle soreness, fatigue, and decreased performance.
4. Be more stress-aware
Lastly, managing stress is important for hormone balance and muscle preservation, not to mention that many people overeat when they are stressed. Also, chronic stress can increase cortisol levels, which can lead to muscle breakdown and loss. Engage in stress-reducing activities like meditation, yoga, or deep breathing exercises to help manage your stress levels.
Contact the best functional medicine specialists near you
Looking for expert medical advice on how to preserve our muscle mass and enjoy better health and quality of life as you age? Although the loss of muscle mass is a natural part of the aging process, it doesn’t have to lead to weight gain and decreased physical function.
Count on our expert team to consider everything and help you maintain a healthy lifestyle. You can trust us to tailor an extensive treatment plan to your specific conditions and circumstances. Additionally, we provide Functional Medicine consultations via webcam or in person. Contact us at 562-789-1588 or click here to schedule your initial session.