Sarcopenia, also known as muscle loss, is a common condition that affects 10% of adults who are over 50 years old.
While it can decrease life expectancy and quality of life, there are actions you can take to prevent and even reverse the condition.
Although some of the causes of sarcopenia are a natural consequence of aging, others are preventable. In fact, a healthy diet and regular exercise can reverse sarcopenia, increasing lifespan and quality of life.
This article explains what causes sarcopenia, and lists many ways you can fight it.
What Is Sarcopenia?
Sarcopenia literally means “lack of flesh.” It’s a condition of age-associated muscle degeneration that becomes more common in people over the age of 50.
Sarcopenia is caused by an imbalance between signals for muscle cell growth and signals for teardown. Cell growth processes are called “anabolism,” and cell teardown processes are called “catabolism” (6).
For example, growth hormones act with protein-destroying enzymes to keep muscle steady through a cycle of growth, stress or injury, destruction and then healing.
This cycle is always occurring, and when things are in balance, muscle keeps its strength over time.
Summary: Your body normally keeps signals for growth and teardown in balance. As you age, your body becomes resistant to growth signals, resulting in muscle loss.
Four Factors That Accelerate Muscle Loss
Although aging is the most common cause of sarcopenia, other factors can also trigger an imbalance between muscle anabolism and catabolism.
1. Immobility, Including a Sedentary Lifestyle
Disuse of muscle is one of the strongest triggers of sarcopenia, leading to faster muscle loss and increasing weakness (8).
Bed rest or immobilization after an injury or illness leads to rapid loss of muscle (9).
Although less dramatic, two to three weeks of decreased walking and other regular activity is also enough to decrease muscle mass and strength (9).
Periods of decreased activity can become a vicious cycle. Muscle strength decreases, resulting in greater fatigue and making it more difficult to return to normal activity.
2. Unbalanced Diet
Unfortunately, low-calorie and low-protein diets become more common with aging, due to changes in sense of taste, problems with the teeth, gums and swallowing, or increased difficulty shopping and cooking.
After injury or illness, inflammation sends signals to the body to tear down and then rebuild the damaged groups of cells.
Chronic or long-term diseases can also result in inflammation that disrupts the normal balance of teardown and healing, resulting in muscle loss.
For example, a study of patients with long-term inflammation resulting from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) also showed that patients had decreased muscle mass (11).
Examples of other diseases that cause long-term inflammation include rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel diseases like Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis, lupus, vasculitis, severe burns and chronic infections like tuberculosis.
A study of 11,249 older adults found that blood levels of C-reactive protein, an indicator of inflammation, strongly predicted sarcopenia (12).
4. Severe Stress
Sarcopenia is also more common in a number of other health conditions that increase stress on the body.
Summary: In addition to aging, sarcopenia is accelerated by low physical activity, insufficient calorie and protein intake, inflammation and stress.
How to Tell If You Have Sarcopenia
The signs of sarcopenia are the result of diminished muscle strength.
Early signs of sarcopenia include feeling physically weaker over time, and having more difficulty than usual lifting familiar objects (17).
A hand-grip-strength test has been used to help diagnose sarcopenia in studies, and may be used in some clinics (18).
Decreased strength might show itself in other ways too, including walking more slowly, becoming exhausted more easily and having less interest in being active (17).
However, these signs can also occur in other medical conditions. Yet if you experience one or more of these and can’t explain why, talk to a health professional.
Summary: Noticeable loss of strength or stamina and unintentional weight loss are signs of multiple diseases, including sarcopenia. If you are experiencing any of these without a good reason, talk to your doctor.
Exercise Can Reverse Sarcopenia
The strongest way to fight sarcopenia is to keep your muscles active (19).
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 (20).
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 (21, 22).
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 (22).
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 (23).
2. Fitness Training
Sustained exercise that raises your heart rate, including aerobic exercise and endurance training, can also control sarcopenia (24).
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 (25).
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 (26).
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 (27).
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 (28).
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.
Four Nutrients That 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 (29).
Another study found that a group of younger men only required 20 grams of protein per meal to stimulate growth (31).
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 (32).
2. Vitamin D
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 (33).
The best dose of vitamin D for preventing sarcopenia is currently unclear. Taking up to 100% of the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) is safe, but may not be necessary if you already get enough vitamin D from sunlight or fortified foods.
3. Omega-3 Fatty Acids
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 (29).
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 (37).
Creatine is probably not beneficial for sarcopenia if used alone, without exercise.
Summary: Protein, vitamin D, creatine and omega-3 fatty acids like those in fish oil can all improve muscle growth in response to exercise.
The Bottom Line
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.
Breakfast, blood sugar, & inflammation
Recent research has shown that Inflammation is responsible for 7 out of 10 Deaths in the United States. But it doesn’t have to be the same way for you.
In fact, in a fairly short amount of time, you could start to experience better sleep…less stomach issues…more energy and stamina…less muscle and joint pain…a drop in weight…lower stress levels…and much, much more!
Learn how to Prevent—Even Reverse—Most Major Diseases by “Turning Off” Inflammation!
Did you know that one of the best times to stretch is right before bed? However…
What stretches should you do? Here’s a 1-minute stretch routine you can do before bed...
Lisa, Yoga Coach
eatlocalgrown / wisemindhealthybody
...easy, 3-minute exercise that completely cured his horrendous snoring! We can both finally sleep!
Today is a good day. Tonight will be even better. Why?
Because you're about to learn easy throat exercises that cure (not just treated) your stubborn snoring – in 3 minutes – starting TONIGHT!
...even if straps, sprays and even torturing CPAP masks have failed you in the past.
Most people heal their snoring in just a few minutes per day using these powerful throat exercises. And they're so easy, you can do them, regardless of your age or physical shape.
Use them anytime, anywhere... even while stuck in traffic or watching TV.
Plus the results are permanent!
Did you know that your bodyfat can become "calorie-resistant"?
True. And it's completely unaffected by even the strictest diets... and most intense exercises.
However, there's good news- Calorie-resistant bodyfat can be now removed...
It's a little-known, calorie-burning hormone we all have... just waiting for the right spark to come alive. It's not thyroid, leptin, ghrelin, insulin, adiponectin, HGH or any other "fat loss" hormone you may know. Read more to find out precisely how to unleash its calorie-burning power:
To your health!
PS - Studies show that it can also reduce your risk of diabetes by 53.7%, a heart attack by 83.3% and stroke by 51.4%. Here's more of the scientific proof...
I bet you can’t guess which muscle in your body is the #1 muscle that eliminates joint and back pain, anxiety and looking fat. This “hidden survival muscle” in your body will boost your energy levels, immune system, sexual function, strength and athletic performance when unlocked.
If this “hidden” most powerful primal muscle is healthy, we are healthy.
d) Hip Flexors
Take the quiz above and see if you got the correct answer!
In April, 2009, researchers stunned the medical community when they reported chronic inflammation as the root cause of several major diseases.
See, every year 610,000 people in the U.S. die of heart disease. Cancer claims another 584,000...stroke 130,000...Alzheimer's disease nearly 85,000 — and the list goes on.
Truth is, we now know... chronic inflammation is responsible for 7 out of the top 10 leading causes of death in the United States! Hundreds of studies and scientific reviews prove it.
Fortunately, newer research shows you can prevent-even reverse-most major diseases by "turning off" inflammation. And in our new book, we show you how to do just that.
If you or a loved one is suffering from a debilitating condition-and you"re not sure what the culprit is-now's the time to find out...while you can still do something about it!
--> Grab your FREE copy of this groundbreaking soft cover book today (while supplies still last.)
Over the past year, my friend Dave over at PaleoHacks has been working on a super secret cookbook project with our good friend Peter Servold a Le Cordon Bleu trained Chef and owner of Pete's Paleo...
And today, this new incredible Paleo Cookbook is finally available to be shipped right to your door for FREE!
The cookbook is called Paleo Eats, and it's filled with over 80 chef created, insanely tasty Paleo recipes which means they are free from gluten, soy, dairy, and refined sugar.
Get your FREE copy of Paleo Eats Here. (Grab this today, because they only ordered a small batch of these cookbooks for this freebie promotion, and they will sell out FAST!)
Sponsored Health Resources
In the years that I've been working on this website project I've come across some amazing resources by some very special people. I'd like to share them with you here.
NOTE: I update these links often so please check back to see what's new!
1) Everyone knows green smoothies are healthy right? Have you heard of a “red” smoothie? If not, check out this story…
2) Forget what you've read about 10-day lemonade cleanses, 7-day detoxes with green juices and Gwyneth's gruel. All you need to do, and this is perfect for Saturday or or anytime really, is a simple 1-day cleanse.
3) This “hidden survival muscle” in your body will boost your energy levels, immune system, sexual function, strength and athletic performance when unlocked.
4) I thought it was virtually impossible for a website to be able to tell me anything even a little bit insightful after only submitting my name and date of birth... I was wrong!
5) Turmeric is amazing. The problem is - It's hard to absorb!
6) Wonder why your stomach still sticks out even though you're hammering the core exercises every day? It's a common myth that bulging belly is due to weak abdominal muscles.
7) Even if you're the most active of athletes, you may still suffer from tight hip flexors due to the amount of time you spend each day planted to a chair.
Enjoy! Let me know how these work out for you. And if you run across anything I've missed please let me know.