We do not really realize this phenomenon at the beginning because part of the muscle is gradually replaced by fat. This will roughly maintain its volume but the function of the muscle becomes worse and, of course, it loses power.
In addition, this decrease in lean mass has consequences on health:
- poorer blood circulation and heat regulation in the body,
- glycemia (blood sugar level) is less stable,
- immunity decreases because the body lacks protein stock,
- loss of bone density (less muscle = less bone underneath),
- fewer calories burned, therefore more fat stored easily, etc.
We would thus lose about 1% of our muscle mass from the age of 35, i.e. more than 150 gr of muscle per year after 50 years. Good news: this phenomenon is neither mandatory nor irreversible. Of course, don’t expect to look like Arnold Schwarzenegger when you turn 30 when you turn 80, but you can keep your muscles over time.
The causes of muscle loss with age
Once again, there is not “one” but “several” causes. First of all, slowing of amino acid metabolism (digestive absorption, assimilation, transformation by the body into proteins, etc.) sets in over time. Moreover, various nutritional deficiencies can settle down with age, and decrease in our hormone production (especially growth hormone and testosterone) cause the synthesis of muscle fibers to slow down.
The loss of aging neurons also leads to a loss of the muscle fibers associated with them. The sedentary lifestylemodern scourge for health, will aggravate all these phenomena and intensify muscle wasting after 30 years.
In addition, our stock of stem cells muscle also decreases over time, making it more difficult to rebuild and/or renew muscle fibers.
In 2015, researchers highlighted a gene (sprouty1) responsible for maintaining the supply of these stem cells in the muscles. Its inhibition manifests itself with age and the reserve stock would decrease by more than half compared to the young subject. Scientists are therefore looking for a way to reactivate this Sprouty1 gene in order to fight against the loss of muscle mass from aging or certain diseases.
“For each week of complete rest, muscle strength is reduced by 10-15% with an increased decrease in lower extremity muscle strength” (RVH Canada Foundation)
To keep your muscles, the basic equation is simple:
protein nutrients + exercise! = muscle building
To lose them, it boils down to: sedentary lifestyle.
Exercise to keep your muscles
Certainly, sport (or physical exercise in general) works at any age to build muscle. Many studies prove it and recently, it was shown that the same efforts could be made at 25 or 75 years old.
However, some exercises build more muscle than others. We believed for a long time that light endurance exercise (jogging, cycling, swimming, etc.) was the best way to maintain our muscles as we age. In fact, studies show us that it is thealternation between endurance exercise and high intensity exercise which works best. Sweating will only do you good, provided you follow good training practices (do the right movements, progressive efforts, good equipment, etc.).
Resistance exercises (done using your own weight first and then dumbbells later) are a good way to start training. The exercises split where we alternate short phases of intense effort with longer phases of endurance (regardless of the sport) are also very effective, by promoting the production ofgrowth hormone. Everyone can do it, at their level.
The 1 to 2% of muscle mass that we lose, on average, each year after 40 years can practically be recovered in 3 weeks of training, at the rate of 3 or 4 sessions per week.
Keep your muscles with food
A good supply of dietary protein
Dietary protein intake is also essential for building muscle. Good balance of essential amino acids is important too. In fact, it must all are brought to the body, in good proportions, so that everything works well, and in particular the synthesis of muscle.
A priori, it is lean animal flesh that works best according to studies, while a diet rich in saturated fats (fatty meats, cold cuts) reduces the production of proteins in the muscles (studied in animals).
Lean meats include poultry, fish and shellfish. Egg protein (the white) represents the best balance of amino acids. It is the reference assimilable protein for humans.
Then, it is possible to provide large amounts of protein with cheeses, whey, but also plants: chia or hemp seeds (also rich in omega 3), nuts, mushrooms, seaweed, spirulina, etc. The association of whole grains with legumes is also a vegetable contribution of proteins balanced in essential amino acids.
The contribution of leucine can be increased as it is an essential amino acid most involved in muscle metabolism. It is found more particularly (by decreasing content) in: legumes (lentils, peas, beans, etc.), lamb, fish and shellfish, beef, poultry, pork, cheeses and eggs, etc.
Protein consumption and longevity
Recent studies suggest that a reduced intake of amino acids may increase longevity and reduce the risk of age-related diseases (see proteins, amino acids and anti-aging). There is therefore a balance to be found: enough protein to build muscle but not too much, so as not to promote degenerative diseases, and to live a long life.
The optimal daily amount of protein to keep your muscles is above all a matter of common sense: you have to take into account your starting muscular condition, physical activity, digestion, weight, goals, etc.
Another important element to take into account: after 65 (on average), the digestive assimilation of proteins is less successful and it is considered that an increase in food intake is generally useful.
According to Dr. Dinicolantonio (who has extensively documented his conclusions): if one seeks to increase muscle mass, the doses should be, depending on age, between 1.6 and 2.2 g. / kilo / day, or even more in case of sarcopenia.
Everything is therefore still a question of measurement. In fact, the more intense physical activity you have, the more protein you can eat to ensure muscle synthesis, without prejudice to longevity.
Nutrients to stimulate muscle gain
While we wait to find out exactly what to do to activate our Sprouty1 genes, here’s what we know works to help regain muscle. It is also not excluded that we discover later that some of these treatments work precisely by stimulating this gene Sprouty1. Science is like that.
Vitamin D stimulates muscle building (as well as bone strength).
L-leucine : finally, leucine used alone proved to be more effective for muscle gain than by combining it with other “branched amino acids” (as we used to do in the gym).
L-Citrulline: Watermelon contains a lot of this amino acid. It promotes muscle protein synthesis and improves growth hormone levels better than arginine, of which it is a precursor. Citrulline seems to be the most suitable amino acid for muscle gain in subjects over 50 years old. Indeed, as we age, the amino acids ingested are more quickly captured and used by the organs of digestion, to the detriment of the muscles which they have trouble reaching. However, citrulline escapes this phenomenon. The dose ranges from 3 g per day for standard cases up to 10 g in the event of significant sarcopenia and/or malnutrition.
L-creatine: according to some studies, creatine intake could promote lean mass gain to the detriment of fat mass, provided that you practice physical training such as intense and short effort, or effort against resistance (bodybuilding with weights, for example). This does not work for endurance sports such as running, cycling, walking, etc. The effects observed in studies are not miraculous, nevertheless creatine is one of the products most used by athletes because it would also increase muscle performance (5 to 15% according to studies). Doses around 3 g per day seem to be reasonable.
Omega 3 unsaturated fatty acids have been described as promoting muscle production in the elderly*.
Hormonal activity and muscle building
You don’t need to inject growth hormone (GH) to gain muscle. Its side effects are difficult to control and this can be dangerous. Be aware, however, that muscular exercise (especially interval exercise) causes your body to produce equivalent (and free!) amounts of growth hormone.
Certain amino acids promote its production, such asargininethe betaine or the citrulline.
It is very involved in the production of muscle and, of course, its blood level drops as we age. The correction of the androgenic terrain may be considered in the event of other associated disorders: loss of libido, depressed mood, breast gain in men, significant stomach gain, etc.
It is possible to increase the body’s sensitivity to the effects of testosterone with certain plants such as tribulusthe macathe ginsengI’ashwaganda… It could also be that our testosterone production is boosted by these same plants. You also need to make sure you have good levels of zinc and Vitamin E (which are often too low) to synthesize this hormone.
In some cases where testosterone levels are really too low, substitution treatment may be useful, provided:
- to use a natural testosterone bio-identical
- to use the lowest possible doses
- to eliminate any contraindication
- to be followed by a competent anti-aging doctor.
Oxytocin is best known for facilitating childbirth, uterine contractions, breastfeeding but also emotional attachment and even libido… This hormone, produced by the brain, decreases with age like many others. It would also play a role in muscle building.
In animals, it has been shown that less oxytocin during growth slows down muscle regeneration. Conversely, by adding this hormone to deficient animals, muscle synthesis is revived
muscular torsoFirst make the decision tohave regular physical activity, otherwise nothing will work
. Make sure to improve your diet to have every day allits essential nutrients ( vitamins andminerals) and absorb enough amino acids
well balanced, but not too much either. There is no point in blindly taking all stimulants or dietary supplements, but making the right choice, depending on the context, can improve results.
For example, if you need to recover a lot of muscle, you can add citrulline and leucine. If one wants to improve sports performance, one can try L-creatine. The vitamin D
will be useful if we discover a lack of this vitamin or decalcification, or even a drop in the immune defences.
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