Too Little Protein Plus Too Little Strength Training Equals Muscle Loss

Lots of people seem to think that once they reach the age of 40 they become weaker, less toned, and less fit.  They blame these conditions on “old age”.  As a personal trainer I hear all about the aches and pains of old age.  Most people think there is very little they can do to avoid the physical degeneration that is associate with aging. On the contrary, there are two things you can do that are very effective in combating the aging process, and they are increasing the amount of protein you consume daily, and strength training weekly

Most of the physical decline you associate with aging is caused by muscle loss.  Muscle loss that is associated with aging is called sacopenia and it can begin as early as your 30s and it accelerates with time if you don’t do anything about it.  Fortunately, increasing the amount of protein you consume daily combined with participating in a weekly strength training program has been proven to be the best approach to curbing, and even reversing the effects of sacopenia.

Protein is a necessary part of every living cell in your body. Next to water, protein comprises the greatest portion of your body weight. Protein substances make up your muscles, ligaments, tendons, organs, glands, nails, hair, and many vital body fluids.  It is essential for the growth, repair, and healing of your bones, tissues, and cells.  Additionally, the the enzymes and hormones that catalyze and regulate your body processes are comprised of protein.  Thus, protein is greatly involved in many vital activities in your body.

All proteins are broken down by your body into usable building blocks called amino acids. As you age your body becomes less efficient at processing protein and if you don’t get the proper amount in your diet your body starts to break-down lean muscle in order get the amino acids it needs to keep your body functioning.  When this happens the protein you consume will be used for purposes other than building and maintaining muscle and this condition leads to muscle loss.

As you age the goal of protein consumption should be to optimize lean muscle mass.  Studies show that consuming 25 to 30 grams of high quality protein at each meal is necessary for maximal muscle growth, repair and maintenance.  Thus, eating this way signals your body that it has enough protein to start a process called protein synthesis, which is muscle growth and repair.

In addition to increased protein consumption, strength training or weight lifting has been demonstrated to increase muscle size and strength.  With this form of exercise, your muscles grow and increase in strength in order to meet the increased resistance you are lifting.  Two to three strength training sessions weekly in which all your major muscle groups are targeted is usually enough to maintain and increase muscle size and strength.

As you can now see, when you combine proper protein consumption with regular strength training you maximize muscle growth and strength, and thus you minimize the effect of muscle loss associated with aging.  This combination of increased protein intake and strength training is what I do to build and maintain my muscle mass and strength as I age.  I’m in my 50s and I currently have more muscle mass and strength than I had in my 20s.