Sarcopenia: Your Limited Opportunity to get Stronger

Strength gains need to be made by 65 years old… or else it might be too late.

I don’t think this is a commonly understood fact about life, but you have a limited window of opportunity to put on muscle. You may be thinking – “There’s nothing wrong with my body the way it is, Sarah. I like the way I look.” Or, “I don’t need to be muscular.”

Unfortunately, if you’re thinking that, you might be missing the point. It’s not about “how you look.” It’s about what’s supporting your skeletal system to move you around in life and get the job done.

Muscles are functional.

A couple of days ago, I came across this interesting picture.

It’s great that he’s now a body builder, but what interested me was the timeline included.

Notice, he put on most of his muscle before the age of 65. From that point on he seems to maintain his muscle, but he is no longer “building muscle.”

Sarcopenia: The muscle wasting that comes with age.

This is a truth for most people. Aging brings many wonderful things, but one of these things is the ceasing ability to put on NEW muscle after 65-70 years old. At this point in your life, you take whatever muscle you’ve accumulated and have two options:

  1. Maintain your muscle by continuing to lead an active lifestyle or working out.
  2. Lose your muscle slowly overtime from lack of use.

Considering the average retirement age is 57-60 years old, this is a limited amount of time to get to a strength level that would support your last years of life. Unfortunately, too many people use the beginning of their retirement as an excuse to slow down and start “enjoying” life instead of as a time to prepare for their later years of retirement. This can lead to unexpected gains in weight and quick losses in muscle that issue a person into their later years in life as a heavy – but weak – individual.

This set of choices can lead to a variety of problems:

  1. Slow recovery from potential surgeries
  2. Decreased ability to perform activities of daily living
  3. Increased dependence on people around you
  4. Increased chance of falling and breaking a bone
  5. Decreased opportunity for play or activity
  6. Increased risk for other co-morbidities like diabetes and heart disease.

I’m not sure that people realize they are choosing these issues when they choose to slow down after retirement. I would be using those years to get in the absolute best shape I possibly could get into.

How to Maintain your Muscle in your Older Years

  1. Keep moving. Keep exercising. Stay active. Lift appropriate weights if your day to day routine does not include lifting.
  2. Don’t go for long periods with little activity.
  3. Push yourself to continue eating even when you are sick and lose  your appetite.
  4. Focus on making sure you get enough protein. If protein is lacking in your diet, your body will start to break down your muscle (your protein stores) to get what it needs.

There are a lot of protein drinks marketed to older individuals that you can probably do without.

Instead of Ensure/Glucerna…

  • try whey protein shakes with milk
  • scrambled eggs
  • A glass of skim milk
  • 4 ounces of lean meat

I know for some of you this seems entirely irrelevant. But, I spend a lot of time with people older than me. So, I think about these things – even at 27.

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