Muscle loss, or sarcopenia, represents a common health condition which affects nearly 10 % of people over the age of 50. Physically inactive people can lose 3 – 5 % of the muscle mass a decade after the age of 30. Even though it can affect the quality of life and life expectancy, there are some treatments that can prevent it.

In addition, even though muscle loss mainly is caused by the aging process, some of its caused can be prevented. Namely, regular exercise and a healthy diet can prevent muscle loss, thus increasing the quality of expectancy of life.

WHAT DOES SARCOPENIA REPRESENT?

Generally, sarcopenia indicates a flesh deficiency. It is a health condition characterized by muscle degeneration die to aging in people over the age of 50. On average, adults lose 3 – 5 percent of the muscle strength per year, which reduces their ability to do their everyday routines.

Unluckily, in comparison to people with normal muscle strength, muscle loss also reduces life expectance in people who suffer from it.

Sarcopenia occurs as a result of muscle signal imbalance for cell growth and teardown. Catabolism is a term for teardown processes, whereas anabolism is a term for cell growth processes. For instance, growth hormones function with protein-destroying enzymes to maintain the muscle strength though the processes of growth, injury and stress, destruction and healing.

When this cycle is balanced, the muscles maintain their strength. Nevertheless, due to aging, the body gets resistant to cell growth processes, thus enhancing catabolism and sarcopenia.

FACTORS THAT CONTRIBUTE TO MUSCLE LOSS

The main cause of muscle loss is aging. However, there are also other factors that can lead to imbalance between the catabolism and anabolism. Here are some of them:

1. Unbalanced diet

A diet with calorie and protein deficiency can lead to weight loss and reduced muscle mass. Unluckily, low-protein and low-calorie diet becomes more common as we get older. It usually occurs as a result of teeth problems, sense of taste, gum and swallowing issues, and difficulties with shopping and cooking.

In order to prevent muscle loss, you should take the daily recommended dose of 25 – 30 grams of proteins.

2. Sedentary life and immobility

Muscle disuse is the most common stimulator of muscle loss, leading to increased muscle weakness and sarcopenia.
Immobility or rest in a bed after an illness or injury leads to increased muscle loss. In fact, 2 – 3 weeks of immobility may lead to reduced strength and muscle mass. Periods of immobility and reduced activity may decrease muscle strength, thus leading to fatigue and difficulties with performing everyday activities.

3. Inflammation

After an illness o injury, inflammation sends signals to the human body to tear down and recover the harmed calls. Long-term illnesses or chronic diseases can lead to inflammation, which in turn causes imbalance of healing and teardown, thus enhancing muscle loss.

Some diseases which lead to severe inflammation are chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, severe burns, vasculitis, lupus, inflammatory bowel diseases, such as ulcerative colitis and

Crohns diseases, rheumatoid arthritis, and chronic infections such as tuberculosis.

Chronic inflammation has been considered the main contributor to sarcopenia. In order to prevent sarcopenia and enhance the overall health, we should increase the intake of anti-inflammatory foods, such as: salmon, walnuts, pineapple, blueberries, green leafy vegetables, etc.

4. Severe stress

Numerous health conditions, which increase stress, also cause sarcopenia. For instance, people with chronic heart failure and chronic liver disease, are more likely to experience muscle loss.

In fact, the chronic liver disease adds stress to the human body and reduces the activity, which in turn leads to sarcopenia. Cancer and cancer treatments also enhance stress and cause muscle loss.

Other causes of sarcopenia include:

• Lack of nutrients
• Smoking
• Excessive consumption of alcohol
• Heart failure
• Cancer
• Diabetes

HOW TO KNOW WHETHER YOU HAVE SARCOPENIA

The symptoms of sarcopenia occur as a result of reduced muscle strength. Early symptoms of muscle loss include:

• Feeling physically weak or frail
• Muscle atrophy (a decreased size of the muscle)
• Oxidative stress
• Having difficulty with lifting up objects
• Decreased strength, manifested with difficult and slower walking
• Feeling exhausted and weak bones
• Having no interest in being active
• Unintentional weight loss
• Not getting enough proteins and calories to maintain muscle mass
• A decreased ability to turn proteins into energy
• Reduced concentrations of certain hormones, like testosterone, growth hormone, and insulin-growth factor
• Falls and fractures

If you notice some of these symptoms, you should consult a doctor as they can occur in other medical conditions, too.

EXERCISE CAN PREVENT MUSCLE LOSS

The best way to prevent muscle loss is to maintain the muscles active. You can prevent and treat sarcopenia by combining balance training, resistance training and aerobic exercises.

Exercise has been thought to increase aerobic capacity, muscle strength, synthesis of muscle protein and increase mitochondrial enzyme activity in the muscles. To achieve this, you need to do at least two of these exercise sessions.

1. Walking

Walking can also reverse muscle loss. A recent study has shown that 6-month walking can increase muscle mass, especially in people with reduced muscle mass. In addition, another study has shown that people who walk faster are less likely to experience muscle loss.

2. Fitness training

Sustained exercises, including endurance training and aerobic exercise, increase heart rate and thus regulate muscle loss.

A great number of studies, which combined aerobic exercise with flexibility training and endurance training, have found out that all these exercises contributed to the prevention of muscle loss. However, it is still clear if aerobic exercise will provide the same benefits without resistance training.

It has been also found out that cycling, hiking or jogging five times per week can increase muscle mass.

3. Resistance training

Resistance training involves weightlifting, moving some parts of the body against the gravity and pulling resistance bands. It will help your neuromuscular system. Moreover, resistance training will improve the ability to turn protein into energy.

While you do resistance training, the tension in the muscle fibers creates growth signals, which increase muscle strength. In addition, resistance training increases the function of the growth hormones. These signals enhance muscle growth and repair, by creating new proteins and satellite cells, muscle stem cells, which increase muscle strength.

Resistance training is the most effective way to increase muscle mass and prevent sarcopenia.

NUTRIENTS THAT PREVENT MUSCLE LOSS

If you lack minerals, vitamins, proteins or calories, you are more likely to suffer from sarcopenia. However, even though you are not deficient, you can take increased amounts of some nutrients in order to enhance muscle growth and prevent muscle loss. Nutrients that prevent and reverse muscle loss are:

1. Vitamin D

Lack of vitamin D is associated to muscle loss, reduced muscle strength, falls, increased body instability, even though they reasons are still not clear.

Vitamin D supplements may increase muscle strength and lower the risk of falling. The best recommended dose of vitamin D for reversing muscle loss is still unclear, too.

2. Proteins

Including proteins in your diet ill help you strengthen the muscle tissue. As we get older, the muscles get resistant to the body signal, so they require more proteins intake in order to increase muscle growth. The current recommended dose of protein is 50 grams of protein a day or 0.8 gram per kg of body weight per day in men and women over the age of 19.

Lutein, an amino acid, is significantly important for enhancing muscle growth. It is an essential amino acid that the body cannot produce it, so we need to intake it from dietary sources. Foods that are rich in lutein include eggs, fish, meat, beef, milk, lamb, poultry, whey protein and soy protein, whereas it is found in smaller amounts in seeds and nuts.

The most beneficial protein-rich foods to include in your diet are:

• Raw cheese
• Yoghurt and kefir
• Raw milk
• Natto
• Black beans
• Organic chicken
• Lentils
• Grass-fed beef
• Whey protein
• Wild-caught fish (tuna, mackerel, and salmon)
• Eggs

3. Creatine

Creatine is type of protein produced in the liver. Even though the body produces enough creatine, so that it does not get deficient in it, if we include foods rich in creatine in your diet, we will enhance muscle growth.

Moreover, it has been proven that taking creating, without regular exercise, is unbeneficial for reversing muscle loss.

4. Omega-3 fatty acids

Taking seafood and omega-3 fatty acid supplements will help you to increase muscle growth. The benefits of omega-3 fatty acids are attributed to its anti-inflammatory properties. It has been considered that omega-3 fatty acids are directly linked to muscle growth. Omega-3 fatty acid has been considered to affect the metabolism of muscle protein and the mitochondrial psychology in aging.

Consider taking flaxseed oil and fish oil supplementation to increase the intake of omega-3 fats.

THE BOTTOM LINE

As we get older, a degenerative loss of muscle strength and muscle mass becomes more common and leads to reduced quality of life and life expectancy.

Consuming high-quality proteins and calories may help you slow down and prevent sarcopenia. However, the most effective way to prevent sarcopenia is doing regular exercise.

Reference: Dr. Axe