It’s hard to develop lean muscle mass and as we grow older we seem to lose it too easily. In fact, after age thirty we can lose 1% muscle per year and 2% per year after age 60. Over the course of 15 or 20 years this leads to a noticeable loss of strength and function.
It’s important to take action now because it’s much easier to prevent muscle loss than it is to gain it back. We can lift weights and exercise to stay well-toned, but there is more to the story than that – nutrition plays a large role.
Muscle loss has no one single cause. Contributing factors include hormonal deficiencies, nutritional imbalances, low activity level, cigarette smoking, and alcohol intake. A combination of these factors typically leads to muscle loss.
While low protein intake may be a problem in the elderly, the typical American consumes too much protein – which also contributes to muscle loss. Here’s why: when protein is digested, it leaves behind an acidic ash residue. This residue must be neutralized and eliminated from our bodies. The body neutralizes this residue by removing minerals (such as magnesium, calcium and potassium) from our muscles and bones. Over time, taking these vital minerals from muscle leads to muscle loss.
Other foods that create acidic ash residue (and muscle loss) include grains, cheese, and soft drinks.
Fresh fruits, vegetables, and raw nuts are alkaline and provide the minerals necessary to neutralize acidic ash residue.
A diet rich in acidic foods and low in alkaline foods is the biggest nutritional imbalance affecting the average American when it comes to muscle loss. Let’s talk about ways to improve your nutritional balance so that you can maintain that muscle tone you’ve worked so hard to develop.
Divide your plate into four equal sections. Fill one section with a high quality protein (skinless chicken, eggs, lean red meat, fish). Unless you are a professional powerlifter or high-performance athlete, a 4 ounce serving of protein (the size of a deck of cards) at each meal is perfectly adequate to meet your dietary needs. Fill the other three sections of your plate with fruits, vegetables, and raw nuts. Use grains and cheeses sparingly. Eating this way provides your body with the minerals needed at each meal to neutralize the acidic ash residue so that it will not have to steal them from muscles and bones.
When it comes to nutrition, a balanced diet is the most effective way to prevent muscle loss. However, nutritional supplements – combined with a balanced diet – can be helpful as well.
Vitamin D supports both muscle and bone tissue and studies show that it helps maintain muscle mass in aging people. Omega-3 fatty acids (fish oil) have been shown to preserve muscle mass as well as reduce inflammation. Finally, whey protein is especially effective in preserving lean muscle mass. Whey provides a high quality protein that works great as a supplement at meals (such as breakfast) when it’s difficult to find a good source of protein. Add 10-12 grams to yogurt, a fruit smoothie, or even a glass of water along with 3-4 servings of fruits and vegetables.
Be sure to check with your medical care provider before taking any new vitamins or supplements!
We’ve talked about nutrition, but exercise is also important for preventing muscle loss. Exercise stimulates hormones and growth factors that maintain healthy muscle mass. When you exercise you tell your body that these muscles are important and you want to keep them healthy. What does watching TV, playing video games, or sitting at the computer tell your body?
Aerobic exercise is great for heart health, but resistance training (weights, machines, etc.) is better for preserving muscle mass. A balanced exercise regimen should include both aerobic and resistance training.
Chiropractic is not just for back or neck pain. At Tiferet Chiropractic, I address all aspects of your health, including your nutritional imbalances, in order to build a stronger, healthier you. Since muscle loss is caused by a variety of factors, it is best prevented and treated with a lifestyle of balanced nutrition and exercise. Chiropractic is perfectly suited to guide you through this process.
Now is the time for change! It is far easier to prevent muscle loss than it is to treat it later in life.