How to ensure muscle health as you age.
The other day, I saw an ad on television for a nutrition drink that’s supposed to prevent the loss of muscle that occurs naturally as we age. Once you’re over 40, the ad says, you could be losing as much as 8% of your muscle mass every decade. The product, (Ensure™ Muscle Health) promises to help stave off this age-related muscle loss with an amino acid metabolite called HMB. I had never heard of HMB, so I thought I’d take a closer look at this new product and the claim that it will help keep you from getting soft as you get older.>
Why Do We Lose Muscle As We Age?
It’s true that people tend to lose lean muscle tissue as they age. One factor is a decline in the secretion of growth hormone and other anabolic hormones that help you build and maintain muscle mass. The other factor is lifestyle. Muscle is a “use it or lose it” type of tissue. People tend to be less active as they get older and lose muscle as a result.
Even if you maintain the same body weight over the years, unless you make a concerted effort to prevent it, your body composition will gradually change to less muscle and more fat. That means a less efficient metabolism and an increased risk of diseases including diabetes, heart disease, and osteoporosis.
3 Ways To Prevent Age-Related Muscle Loss
Take Hormones Doping with growth hormone, testosterone, and other steroids is a very effective way to slow and reverse age-related changes in body composition. And if you’re not a professional baseball player, it’s also perfectly legal. However, anti-aging hormone therapy is expensive and there are significant concerns about the long-term health risks, so this is not a route that I recommend.
For a tip on how to keep growth hormone levels higher naturally, see my episode on How Sugar Affects your Body.
Lift Weights Weight training—at any age--is also an extremely effective way to build and maintain muscle mass and unlike hormone therapy, it’s inexpensive and doesn’t pose any scary long-term health risks. On the contrary, it offers a host of additional benefits, such as strengthening your bones and keeping your mind sharp. And if pumping iron at the gym isn’t your thing, you can use resistance bands or even your own body weight to build muscle. Of course, it’s important to know what you’re doing in order to avoid injury. For that, there’s really no better source than Get Fit Guy’s podcast.
Eat More Protein Finally, you need to feed your body nutrients that help it build and maintain muscle. Chief among the muscle-building nutrients is good old protein. I talked about the many benefits of including more protein in your diet in my episode on How Much Protein Should You Eat.