Sarcopenia ~ What It is and How to Prevent It
By Chris Litten
One of the greatest tragedies I see amongst our aging population is an acceptance that they can’t do something because of their age. Let’s get something understood right away. Age does not by itself limit our abilities to do whatever we want. How we age does. Now repeat that again and think on it for a minute.
Everyone is going to age. It is built into our genetic structure to gradually decline. However science literature abounds to rebuke any one of you who think that your biological age alone limits you. Instead, recognize that your body and how it ages is simply a product of how you have taken care of it along the way.
If you decided that for some reason you did not have to exercise until later in life, good for you. At least you started! However, you will most likely have the experience of less mobility due to sitting more than standing and moving; less lung capacity due to missing out on building it up when you were younger, and finally, you will have less muscle mass.
This last one is what I’m going to speak towards primarily in this article because I staunchly believe that sarcopenia, or muscle loss, is a key contributor to aging rapidly and without hope for the enjoyment of our later years that we seek. I am going to share with you why. Fortunately, there is a very simple and proven solution to minimize muscle wasting away any more and getting on to living a wonderful life until your last days. I’m going to also share that with you.
What is Sarcopenia?
First, what is sarcopenia and why should you care? The term sarcopenia comes from the Greek words, sarx or “flesh” and penia or “poverty”. Its English definition is the degenerative loss of skeletal muscle mass (.5 to 1% per year after the age of 50), quality and strength associated with aging1. Key in on associated. You see, for a while it was just assumed that with age we lose muscle. However, that’s not entirely true. The truth is that with age and negligence on our part to appropriately stress our skeletal muscle and provide adequate protein in our diet, we lose it. Remember those points. We will get back to them momentarily. Sarcopenia is most prevalent in older adults who are not active and it increases one’s risk for falling and a loss of independence as activities of daily living become increasingly difficult to do.
What Can I Do to Prevent Sarcopenia?
Let’s get back to the part about negligence and losing muscle I just spoke about earlier. First, what is considered negligent? To put it simply, if your workouts or daily activities aren’t routinely causing your muscles to feel challenged and fatigued, you are neglecting them. And, if you continue in this manner you will be a prime candidate for sarcopenia in your later years. Secondly, if your protein intake is chronically lower than the RDA’s minimum recommendation of .83 grams per kilogram of bodyweight (bodyweight/2.2 = kilograms x .83 grams = minimum protein intake)2 you are again increasing your risk of sarcopenia in your later years.
So how about some specifics for you to bear in mind when it comes to avoiding sarcopenia. First and foremost, exercise with resistance! If you aren’t exercising its most unlikely that you are stressing your muscles significantly enough and regularly enough in your day to day activities to realize the amount of effort they need to stay strong. So, the general recommendation is to perform a minimum of two total body sessions per week up to a maximum of four sessions per week.
In these sessions you want to exercise all of your large muscle groups (the ones you can see is the easiest way to think about it) with a level of resistance that you can do for somewhere between 10 – 15 reps. As you gain a better understanding of how to do exercises properly and also how to evaluate your intensity of effort, you will be able to train safely with even greater loads. But 10 – 15 reps or approximately 65 – 75% of your maximal effort is appropriate for most.
You also want to remember the importance of meeting, at the least, the minimum RDA for your dietary protein intake. If you’re not one for formulas, a well-established rule of thumb for maximizing your body’s absorption of protein is 25 – 30 grams of it at every meal.4 So if you eat three times a day that would be 75 – 90 grams of protein per day. The importance of meeting this minimum recommendation is significant because in order for our bodies to sustain muscle mass we must consume about 20 grams of essential amino acids per day. There are approximately 6 grams of essential amino acids for every 20 grams of quality protein we consume each day. Additionally, if we are increasing demand on our bodies through exercise we are also increasing our total energy need and thus our total protein need as well.
So, I hope that I have been able to provide you with some solid strategies for avoiding the dreaded “s” word. Don’t feel that you have to just stand, or sit for that matter, and experience decline with age. Research shows clearly that with the right dosing of resistance exercise and protein intake you can not only hold onto your muscle but you can also continue to get stronger well into your later years. The only limits in fact are the ones you self impose.
This leads to one more closing thought in support of all of us during this time of social distancing. The BEST form of exercise you can do to get started toward protecting your muscles from wasting away is bodyweight! Throw in some inexpensive and easier to purchase resistance bands with some expert coaching done virtually instead of in person and you’re set! We had the following video made to showcase how we can be a source of support for you remotely.
1-“Sarcopenia.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 24 Feb. 2015. Web. 05 Apr. 2015. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sarcopenia>.
2-Pedersen, Agnes, & Tommy Cederholm. “Health effects of protein intake in healthy elderly populations: a systematic literature review.” Food & Nutrition Research[Online], 58 (2014): n. pag. Web. 5 Apr. 2015
3- Willoughby, Darryn S., Ph.D., CSCS, FACSM. “Resistance Training and the Older Adult.” (n.d.): n. pag. American College of Sports Medicine. Web. 5 Apr. 2015. <https://www.acsm.org/docs/current-comments/resistancetrainingandtheoa.pdf>.
4-Paddon-Jones, Douglas, and Blake B. Rasmussen. “Dietary Protein Recommendations and the Prevention of Sarcopenia: Protein, Amino Acid Metabolism and Therapy.” Current opinion in clinical nutrition and metabolic care 12.1 (2009): 86–90. PMC. Web. 6 Apr. 2015.
Welcome New and Returning Clients!
The greatest compliment we can receive is a referral from one of our clients or allied health network!
- Charles & Wanda Hutchison ~ Found us via our new affiliation with All Seasons Oro Valley!
- Ann Mills ~ Welcome Back!
- Barbra Vogen ~ Found us via Google search!
- Jo Kramer ~ referred to us by Dr. Tait at Rejuv Medical Southwest!
- Linda Breci ~ referred to us by Dr. Martinez at TMC One!
- Rob Eagar ~ Found us via Google search!
- Bill Matsukado ~ Welcome Back!
Client Spotlight – Juliana Osinchuk
- How did you hear about BodyBasics?
From one of your raving fans, and my neighbor, Vivian Kaplan
2. Did you evaluate other gyms or trainers before deciding on coming to us? If yes, what were other places missing that BodyBasics was able to provide?
No. I received such a high recommendation from Vivian, who had already been training with you for several years, that I did not feel the need to evaluate any other gyms or trainers.
3. Ultimately, why did you choose BodyBasics over other options?
My first meeting at Body Basics, assessment & training plan sounded & felt right. Also, Vivian’s history at Body Basics sounded exactly like what I was searching for.
4. What goals did you have when you started at BodyBasics?
To strengthen my body, be more flexible, be more “body aware”. I trained for several years at an incredible Pilates Studio in Anchorage where I had learnt a tremendous amount about body awareness but wanted here in Tucson more of an overall, strength training program.
5. How long have you been training at BodyBasics? What are some personal successes you have achieved so far?
I started May of 2016. One of my greatest exercise nemesis early on was the “bird dog”. It took almost 2 years before I could do it correctly. And it still is a challenge.
Recently, I am proud of my improvement with “bugs” – Kristian started me on those last winter & they have definitely improved.
Lastly, I was able to improve my pushups. In 6 months I got 8” closer to the ground!
6. What would you say to someone who’s considering hiring a personal trainer?
DO IT!!! The most important thing any human can do for themselves is to work on their health & proper exercising is a crucial component, especially as one gets older.
And you won’t find a more professional, funny, & great group of trainers than Body Basics. I should know – I have trained with everyone in the studio!
“Client Shout Outs”
Shout outs are about us voicing victories we witness you all having at BodyBasics. Each month, your coaches share one client shout out a piece!
- From the X-man – Shoutout to Teena Sandstrom for always giving it 100% in the Fitness Fusion classes. Her form and technique on all of the movements is always spot on and she’s always ready to rock and roll!
- From Kristian – Shoutout to Maureen Roll for being able to crawl under her deck to search for a screw she dropped for her door. She didn’t think twice to get down on all fours and go find it! The only thing she was concerned about were bugs!
- From Amanda – Shout out to Don Pomeroy For OWNING his mobility circuit and improving both his pull-up and push up.
- From Vadim – Shout out to Donald Sanger. Donald has been very consistent with his nutrition and has been practicing his mindful eating habits. His weight loss has been steady and he is definitely looking leaner because of it. Great job!
- From Chris – Shout out to Alice Callison! Alice was recently part of a zoom conference meeting and happened to be wearing a tighter fitting short-sleeved shirt. During the meeting, a fellow attendee stopped talking midstream to ask Alice if she had been working out after noticing the tone and shape of her arms!
- From Dustin – Shout out to Brad Dolman for NOT being someone that drags through a workout and then goes home to ignore his goals. Brad comes in and crushes his workouts with 100% effort and uses each session as an experience to learn something new. He is also doing his nutrition homework like a boss. It’s highly motivating and always a good time working out with Brad.
Recipe – Maple Pumpkin Fall Harvest Trail Mix
Okay, so I know this one was on our 2019 November newsletter. It’s just so good and now with PAC-12 football starting, thought it was good to repost. Something healthy to snack on while we enjoy football!
- 1/4 cup pure maple syrup
- 1 1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
- 1/8 tsp sea salt
- 2/3 cup pecan halves
- 1/3 cup pepitas or roasted pumpkin seeds
- 1/3 cup sunflower seeds
- 1/3 cup sliced almonds
- 1/3 cup dried cherries
- 1/3 cup dried apricots
- 1/4 cup golden raisins
- 1/3 cup cinnamon chips
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper . Set aside.
- Add maple syrup to a large sauce pan and heat over medium-high heat until just beginning to boil.
- Stir in pumpkin pie spice, salt, and nuts and cook, stirring frequently, until the nuts have caramelized and the syrup has reduced. About 3-5 minutes.
- Spread mixture in an even layer on the prepared baking sheet and let cool completely. The candied nuts will harden as they cool.
- Once hardened, and the cherries, apricots, raisins and cinnamon chips to the pan, and stir until ingredients are evenly distributed, breaking the candied nuts into clusters as needed.
- Store in an air-tight container.
Recipe credit from slimpickenskitchen.com
Chris, Kris, Kristian, Amanda, Dustin, Xavier, Vadim, and new addition, Samantha