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Sarcopenia - Age Related Muscle Loss
And How to Reverse It

You've got to push yourself hard.
You've got to push yourself hard.

As we age, the loss of muscle tissue has a name; it’s called sarcopenia. Now scientists have figured out why it happens but, more importantly, what we can do about it. Let’s start with a bit of basic biology.

When you exercise, working your muscles creates a “molecular signal that activates muscle protein synthesis.” In other words, lift something heavy, and you make small tears in muscle fibers. Then your body sends protein to repair everything, you grow stronger and your muscles grow bigger.

Here’s what’s happening with younger people. Someone in their 20s might see changes in the expression of around 175 genes when they workout. Exercising triggers the production of proteins that get incorporated into muscle fibers.

When researchers looked at older subjects, they found changes in the expression of only 42 genes, less than a quarter of what they saw in young people. With weaker signaling, less protein is produced and incorporated into the muscle. That decline in gene expression and the reduced ability to grow muscles appears to start around the age of 50. Unfortunately, it continues going down as we age.

That means a 20-year-old and a 50-year-old could do the same workout, and the 20-year-old would get better results. Older people have a more challenging time putting on muscle mass because they aren’t getting as many, or as strong, molecular signals.

You may wonder why strength and mobility are so important. In a two-year study, researchers worked with 1,635 subjects that had an average age of 78.9 years old. The study participants were divided into two groups; 817 were put into the “health education” group and told about the benefits of a proper diet and exercise. The other 818 engaged in a regular program of cardio and resistance exercises.

At the end of the two years, the group that had to exercise regularly reduced their risk of becoming disabled by about 20 percent. There was also a 20 percent reduction in disability risk for people who started physically frail, as long as they were consistent with their workouts.

That’s not all. Low muscle strength is also “a predictor of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular morbidity and mortality, and quality of life,” according to a 2013 study on metabolic syndrome and muscle strength by Martin Senechal et al.

The message is clear. Losing muscle is killing us.

Build muscle early for a good foundation as you age.
Build muscle early for a good foundation as you age.

However, we shouldn’t be discouraged because it’s harder to put on muscle as we age. Instead, we should be encouraged to exercise more. Working out can help you live a longer, stronger and healthier life. Here’s are four steps to get there.

First, start working out as soon as possible. You can still add muscle fiber when you’re younger, and it’s easier to build strength. The sooner you start, the more muscle mass you’ll have to work with as you age. It’s easier to maintain what you have than build from scratch.

Second, it’s just as important for women to workout as men. Women typically start with less muscle mass than men, so they need to do more just to catch up. Plus, women tend to live a few years more than men, so they’ll have to deal with declining strength longer.

Third, you’ve got to push yourself hard. Remember, studies show older adults require higher doses of weekly loading than young people because of the body’s reduced ability to build muscle when we age. You may need to join a class or hire a professional to develop and teach you an appropriate routine.

Fourth, you have to eat balanced meals, including enough protein, so your body has the nutrients to build muscle. The minimal amount of protein intake suggested is 1.0 to 1.2 grams of protein per kilogram of weight each day. That’s the optimum amount for older adults to “maximize muscle function, regeneration and recovery.”

Even if you’re in your 60s, 70s or 80s, you can make dramatic changes to your body with a good resistance-training program. The decision is up to you.

Reference Links:

Effects of Chronic Overload on Muscle Hypertrophy and mTOR Signaling in Young Adult and Aged Rats

Angela Chalé-Rush, Evan P. Morris, Tracee L. Kendall, Naomi E. Brooks, Roger A. Fielding
The Journals of Gerontology: Series A, Volume 64A, Issue 12, December 2009, Pages 1232–1239, https://doi.org/10.1093/gerona/glp146

Click Here for the Study


Diminished skeletal muscle microRNA expression with aging is associated with attenuated muscle plasticity and inhibition of IGF-1 signaling

Donato A. Rivas,Sarah J. Lessard,Nicholas P. Rice,Michael S. Lustgarten,Kawai So,Laurie J. Goodyear,Laurence D. Parnell,Roger A. Fielding
The FASEB (Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology) Journal, First published: 13 June 2014 https://doi.org/10.1096/fj.14-254490

Click Here for the Study


Effect of Structured Physical Activity on Prevention of Major Mobility Disability in Older Adults
The LIFE Study Randomized Clinical Trial

Marco Pahor, MD; Jack M. Guralnik, MD, PHD; Walter T. Ambrosius, PhD; et al
JAMA, 2014;311(23):2387-2396. doi:10.1001/jama.2014.5616

Click Here for the Study


Understanding the Cellular and Molecular Mechanisms of Physical Activity-Induced Health Benefits

P. Darrell Neufer, Marcas M. Bamman, Deborah M. Muoio, Claude Bouchard, Dan M. Cooper, Bret H. Goodpaster, Frank W. Booth, Wendy M. Kohrt, Robert E. Gerszten, Mark P. Mattson, Russell T. Hepple, William E. Kraus, Michael B. Reid, Sue C. Bodine, John M. Jakicic, Jerome L. Fleg, John P. Williams, Lyndon Joseph, Mary Evans, Padma Maruvada, Mary Rodgers, Mary Roary, Amanda T. Boyce, Jonelle K. Drugan, James I. Koenig, Richard H. Ingraham, Danuta Krotoski, Mary Garcia-Cazarin, Joan A. McGowan, Maren R. Laughlin

Cell Metabolism, Published:June 11, 2015 DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cmet.2015.05.011

Click Here for the Study


Exercise dosing to retain resistance training adaptations in young and older adults

C Scott Bickel 1, James M Cross, Marcas M Bamman
Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 2011 Jul;43(7):1177-87. doi: 10.1249/MSS.0b013e318207c15d.

Click Here for the Study

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