The Unseen Role Our Muscles Play in Getting Older
Think of our muscles like connectors that allow us to go about our day to day activities, the irony is that we hardly pay attention to them, and we ought to – especially as we get older
Think about what you first did this morning probably when your alarm woke you up, hey am sure that you got out of bed and headed straight to the kitchen, but wait a second, did you turn off the alarm, did you hit the snooze button, did you sit down a little on your bed, did you write a quick reminder of the day’s activity down? Now, all this plus all the things that your body do subconsciously, like breathing, heart pumping, blinking etc. must be a very long list I am sure. But take a while and ask yourself what our very long list have in common.
Well here is a clue… Every single activity on that list is made possible by the same thing
Now, what is that all important thing? Simple, it’s our muscle. Most people think to maintain your muscles you have to create a special timetable and set aside cash for the gym and fitness trainer, however, it’s even easier than that.
The average human body contains 600 muscles and most of them work incognito. The fact that we don’t get to see them literally jumping around our skin makes us a little bit more carefree about its welfare. Even the most conscious of us all forget our routine exercise the moment we immerse ourselves in work and family adventures; hence as we get older we may begin to feel less fit. But yes, in the end, it all boils down to that: the inevitability of age. And here is the thing with muscles, they feel great until they are not. Immediately after crossing the 40-year mark, we can begin to lose up to 8% of our muscle mass every decade. Once you clock 70, the loss can almost nearly double to around 15% every decade.
Now quickly grab back the list we made in the beginning, and strike out all the activities that you wouldn’t have been able to complete if you were easily winded up, if your arms were lethargic if you couldn’t stand up. This is the exact replica of what your day would resemble if you were experiencing age-related loss of muscles mass and strength, which is medically referred to as sarcopenia.
Muscles loss can occur slowly and most times go unnoticed not until there is a major health issue such as a sickness or hospitalization.
Abby Sauer a registered dietitian at Abbot reckons that “you often can’t do all the things in your thirties and forties that you were doing in your twenties because it takes more energy physically than it used to.” Routine activities like getting up from a chair or climbing stairs may begin to seem like a big task, but actually, these are the initial symptoms of muscles loss. These weakness pile up and they get harder to repair in time, adds Sauer. Similarly, in the United States, 43% of women and 53% of men who have clocked 80 and above are sarcopenic and have lost significant muscle tissue with age.
As soon as you cross 40. You could be losing almost a quarter pound of muscle annually. Over a decade, that could amount to a total of 8% of total muscle mass.
At the age of 60, chances are that you may have already lost up to 20% of total muscle mass.
STANDING BACK UP
After the 65 age mark, 1 in every 4 Americans will sustain a fall-related injury annually. But just by being bedridden for 3 days, you could lose up to 2.5 pounds of muscle.
But the inevitability of losing the majority of muscle strength as we age is not true. While it is normal for us to lose some muscle says Sauer, that process starts much earlier than we think, however the one thing we can do it to slow the process. The first step is to examine our diets, if we eat the right food, we can actually be doing our muscles a whole lot of good by helping our bodies maintain and build them. The second thing to do is to make it a habit of doing exercises that prioritize the well-being of our muscles.
Other ingredients that can also be helpful include Vitamin D and HMB, a metabolite from amino acid leucine further boosts muscle health – however, protein remains the most vital to our muscle. The irony, however, is, as we get older, our bodies find it harder to digest protein. This means that as we age, our body’s protein requirement changes. Hence, to fight muscle loss, older adults need to consume twice as much protein as younger people have to do. Sauer further explains that “when you’re older, your body isn’t able to utilize protein as well as it did when you were younger.” A diet that’s rich in protein can help delay this process.
ON YOUR PLATE
Nutrients that are important to muscles:
Protein: helps support bone strength and builds muscle mass
Vitamins: vitamin D helps with muscle strength, bone strength, and muscle density
Hmb: a metabolite of amino leucine, which helps support muscle health
Zinc: aids in the body’s production of testosterone which can help aid muscle recovery from exercise
Magnesium: can decrease fatigue and muscle cramps in addition to helping muscle contract properly
In combination with the right diet, the physical elements of muscle maintenance can be mixed into our everyday life. Recall the last time your muscles felt sore. Did you carry something heavy? Climbed stairs? These are all examples of resistance training, which is an enormous muscle helper as proven by research.
Lifting weights or using resistance bands is helpful and will help keep the everyday things going smoothly according to Sauer. And if the routine everyday things are becoming difficult, perhaps an exercise routine can undo some of the damage sustained. According to a study carried out on 39 studies on exercises in late adulthood, weight training in five months helped to build muscle mass by an average of 2.5 pounds. This translates to gaining back up to seven years of lost muscle with just 6 months of weight training. However, with the right diet, you would never have to bother about gaining muscle, because you would never have lost it, to begin with.
Sauer reckons that the most vital thing is to take these actions early, and to remain vigilant, “Making sure that you’re in the best possible shape. Means you can really live a great life now and have really good health down the road,” she also adds that “You might not think you need it now, but you’re going to need it at some point”