How to Fight Sarcopenia (Muscle Loss Due to Aging)
The strongest way to fight sarcopenia is to keep your muscles active (19Trusted Source).
Combinations of aerobic exercise, resistance training and balance training can prevent and even reverse muscle loss. At least two to four exercise sessions weekly may be required to achieve these benefits (20Trusted Source).
All types of exercise are beneficial, but some more than others.
1. Resistance Training
Resistance training includes weightlifting, pulling against resistance bands or moving part of the body against gravity.
When you perform resistance exercise, the tension on your muscle fibers results in growth signals that lead to increased strength. Resistance exercise also increases the actions of growth-promoting hormones (21Trusted Source, 22Trusted Source).
These signals combine to cause muscle cells to grow and repair themselves, both by making new proteins and by turning on special muscle stem cells called “satellite cells,” which reinforce existing muscle (22Trusted Source).
Thanks to this process, resistance exercise is the most direct way to increase muscle mass and prevent its loss.
A study of 57 adults aged 65–94 showed that performing resistance exercises three times per week increased muscle strength over 12 weeks.
In this study, exercises included leg presses and extending the knees against resistance on a weight machine (23Trusted Source).
2. Fitness Training
Sustained exercise that raises your heart rate, including aerobic exercise and endurance training, can also control sarcopenia (24Trusted Source).
Most studies of aerobic exercise for the treatment or prevention of sarcopenia have also included resistance and flexibility training as part of a combination exercise program.
These combinations have been consistently shown to prevent and reverse sarcopenia, although it is often unclear whether aerobic exercise without resistance training would be as beneficial (25Trusted Source).
One study examined the effects of aerobic exercise without resistance training in 439 women over 50 years of age.
The study found that five days per week of cycling, jogging or hiking increased muscle mass. Women started with 15 minutes of these activities per day, increasing to 45 minutes over 12 months (26Trusted Source).
Walking can also prevent and even reverse sarcopenia, and it’s an activity most people can do for free, anywhere they live.
A study of 227 Japanese adults over 65 years old found that six months of walking increased muscle mass, particularly in those who had low muscle mass (27Trusted Source).
The distance each participant walked was different, but they were encouraged to increase their total daily distance by 10% each month.
Another study of 879 adults over age 60 found that faster walkers were less likely to have sarcopenia (28Trusted Source).
SUMMARY:Exercise is the most effective way to reverse sarcopenia. Resistance training is best to increase muscle mass and strength. However, combination exercise programs and walking also fight sarcopenia.
If you’re deficient in calories, protein or certain vitamins and minerals, you may be at higher risk of muscle loss.
However, even if you aren’t deficient, getting higher doses of some key nutrients can promote muscle growth or enhance the benefits of exercise.
Getting protein in your diet directly signals your muscle tissue to build and strengthen.
As people age, their muscles become more resistant to this signal, so they need to consume more protein to increase muscle growth (29Trusted Source).
One study found that when 33 men over age 70 consumed a meal containing at least 35 grams of protein, their muscle growth increased (30Trusted Source).
Another study found that a group of younger men only required 20 grams of protein per meal to stimulate growth (31Trusted Source).
A third study got seven men over the age of 65 to take daily 15-gram supplements of essential amino acids, the smaller building blocks of protein, which resulted in muscle growth (32Trusted Source).
The amino acid leucine is particularly important for regulating muscle growth. Rich sources of leucine include whey protein, meat, fish and eggs, as well as soy protein isolate (29Trusted Source).
2. Vitamin D
Vitamin D deficiency is related to sarcopenia, although the reasons why are not entirely understood (33Trusted Source).
Taking vitamin D supplements can increase muscle strength and reduce the risk of falling. These benefits have not been seen in all studies, possibly because some research volunteers may have already been getting enough vitamin D (33Trusted Source).
The best dose of vitamin D for preventing sarcopenia is currently unclear.
3. Omega-3 Fatty Acids
No matter how old you are, consuming omega-3 fatty acids via seafood or supplements will increase your muscle growth (34Trusted Source, 35Trusted Source).
A study of 45 women found that a daily 2-gram fish oil supplement combined with resistance training increased muscle strength more than resistance training without fish oil (36Trusted Source).
Part of this benefit may be due to the anti-inflammatory benefits of omega-3 fatty acids. However, research has suggested that omega-3s might also signal muscle growth directly (29Trusted Source).
Creatine is a small protein normally made in the liver. Although your body makes enough to prevent you from becoming deficient, creatine in the diet from meat or as a supplement may benefit your muscle growth.
A group of several studies investigated how taking a daily 5-gram creatine supplement affected 357 adults with an average age of 64.
When participants took the creatine, they got more benefits from resistance training compared to when they performed resistance training with no creatine (37Trusted Source).
Creatine is probably not beneficial for sarcopenia if used alone, without exercise.
SUMMARY:Protein, vitamin D, creatine and omega-3 fatty acids can all improve muscle growth in response to exercise.
Sarcopenia, the loss of muscle mass and strength, becomes more common with age and can decrease lifespan and quality of life.
Eating enough calories and high-quality protein can slow down the rate of muscle loss. Omega-3 and creatine supplements may also help fight sarcopenia.
Nevertheless, exercising is the most effective way to prevent and reverse sarcopenia.
Resistance exercises appear to be particularly effective, including using resistance bands, lifting weights or doing calisthenics like squats, push-ups and sit-ups.
However, even simple exercises like walking can slow your rate of muscle loss. At the end of the day, the most important thing is to get active.