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How to Keep Older Muscles Young

Strength training keeps muscles young

The foods you eat and your activity level control how old your muscles act. It’s true that as we age we lose muscle mass. These muscle losses can stem from decreased activity, eating less protein or a decreased ability to process the proteins we eat. There is mounting evidence that the body’s ability to process these proteins is reduced as we get older.

Anabolic resistance is used to describe the body’s loss of ability to make muscle protein. Anabolic resistance can be the “chicken versus the egg,” where loss of physical activity causes the body to reduce its production of proteins. When the body has less muscle mass, there is more frailty, and the likelihood of inactivity increases. Everyone becomes anabolic resistant when they are sedentary. The decrease of activity is believed to be what causes older people to go from active and healthy towards frailty.

With the loss of muscle comes adverse effects. People with less muscle might have trouble with activities of daily living, including keeping up with hygiene or meal preparation. There are more hospital complications and longer stays for people with less muscle compared to those with more. When you have less muscle mass, your body has more difficulty processing certain medications compared to someone who has more muscle mass.

Have hope, though. The good news is that regular physical activity can help stop the process and restore muscle mass. Regular strength training, using weights, tubes or your own body weight can help your muscles continue to store protein. Within one hour of working out or strength training, eat foods with protein, including tofu, lean chicken or meat, eggs or milk. This will improve your body’s ability to replete the muscle proteins you just used.

Written by: Allison Thummel, Wellness Workdays Dietetic Intern

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