How to Maintain Strength and Muscle as You Age

I can’t tell you how often people ask me how I keep my strength, and maintain my muscle mass as I age.  I will be 60 this year and I’m stronger than I have ever been.  The three things that I credit for maintaining my strength and muscle as I age are; a daily spiritual practice, regular strength training, and getting enough protein in my diet.

Daily Spiritual Practice

I believe we all have unlimited access to a Divine Eternal Life Giving Source.  Each morning the first thing I do is to connect with my Divine Source, I call it my coffee time with God.  I thank God for my life, health, and strength, I read something inspirational, and then sit in silence basking in God’s unconditional love.  I’m always amazed at how the stress in my life melts away like snow in the light of warm sunshine during this time.

I am convinced that if you feed your soul first, your mind and your body will also be nourished.  Since starting this daily practice over 15 years ago, I’ve only missed one day of work due to sickness.

Strength Training

Building and maintaining your strength and muscle mass should be the foundation of your exercise routine as you age, and strength training is proven to be the best way to accomplish this.  I’ve been strength training on a regular basis for over 30 years, and here’s why.

Muscle is the active part of your body that burns the most calories during exercise, however it’s a little known fact that muscle also burns calories while your body is at rest through a process called protein synthesis which is the building and repairing of muscle cells. Protein synthesis is a very energy intensive process and it’s fuel of choice is body fat. Consequently, the more muscle mass you have the more calories you burn even at rest. It’s estimated that each pound of muscle requires approximately 6 calories per day just to exist. That’s the good news.

The bad new is muscle wasting is a natural part of the aging process and it can begin in your 30s and it accelerates over time if nothing is done to abate it. You can lose 1 to 1 and ½ pounds of muscle per year in your 40s and 50s and even more in your 60s and beyond. Thus, from the age of 40 to 60 you can lose nearly 30 pounds of muscle mass which equates to an approximate 66,000 calorie deficit per year and approximately 20 lbs of fat weight gain.

Unfortunately, cardiovascular exercise does very little in the way of building and maintaining your muscle, in fact too much cardio has the effect of further accelerating muscle loss. However, strength training has been proven time and again to be the most effective way to combat and even reverse muscle loss. Simply put, strength training is form of exercise that causes a load of more than your body weight to be resisted, and your body responds by building more muscle to accommodate the increased resistance.

A good strength training program should be performed 2 to 3 time each week and can be completed in as little as 30 to 40 minutes.  By investing 2 hours per week in weight lifting. you can maintain your strength and muscle as you age. That’s a great investment of your time.

Getting Enough Protein in Your Diet

Getting enough protein in your diet is crucial for building and maintaining muscle mass especially as you age. Losing muscle mass is very detrimental to your health. As I mentioned earlier age-related muscle loss known as sacopenia can begin in your thirties and accelerate with age if left unabated. Sacopenia can lead to muscle weakness, fatigue, insulin resistance, body fat accumulation, injury, and many other problems we associate with aging.

Increased protein consumption, and strength training are two of the most effective ways to combat muscle loss. While 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight (0.36 grams per pound) has been the normal recommendation for daily protein intake, new studies show that 1 to 1.5 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight (0.45 to 0.68 grams per pound) may be more beneficial in building, maintaining, and reducing muscle loss.

Protein quality, quantity, and timing of consumption throughout the day, in conjunction with physical activity, are all important to the building and maintenance of muscle mass. The goal of protein consumption and lean muscle mass is to optimize muscle protein synthesis (the biological process by which muscle cells are regenerated). Studies now show consuming 25 to 30 grams of high quality protein at each meal (breakfast, lunch, and dinner) is necessary to stimulate maximal protein synthesis.