Did you know that after the age of 25 we lose 10% of our lean muscle mass every decade? Consider this, by the time we are 75 years old we will have lost 50% of our total muscle mass. These are the sobering scientific facts from the last World Conference on Aging that I attended . The thing about losing this much muscle mass is that our muscles are directly related to how we look and feel. Even more important to our balance and quality of life.
Now take these facts just a bit more ahead to our 80’s and 90’s and we can no longer get out of our chair or our bed because we now have only 30% of the muscle mass that we had in our 20’s. Stairs are out of the question and we can no longer live on our own. Why do you think that so many older adults have to move out of their homes to a facility that will look after them? For the majority, it is the loss of our muscle mass and balance and . . . hear me on this-all of these sad facts are completely preventable (and reversible to a strong degree) That is, unless we have been doing strength workouts 2-3 times/week consistently since our 20’s. If you have been one of the lifestyle athletes who have been doing this-Bravo! For the rest of us, how do we focus on building lean muscle after we reach 50 & beyond.
Firstly, let’s look at what it actually takes to build lean muscle after 50 . In my next blog I will share exactly how much we need to workout and what kind of exercise will benefit us the most in our mid and later lives.
To Build Lean Muscle after 50-Here’s What it Takes
Although studies are showing that men have an easier time maintaining their lean muscle women, other studies are showing exercise alone can’t build lean muscle after 50. After 50 years, and even more so after age 65 what we eat becomes increasingly important. Here’s what you need to know to start building& maintaining lean muscle after 50.
Firstly, women need more protein after 50 & definitely more after 65
Recent research through the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and at the University of Nottingham in the UK teamed up to study the differences in the way older men and women used protein to build their muscles.
“Women over age 65 have a harder time preserving muscle than men of the same age, which probably affects their ability to stay strong and fit, according to research conducted at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and the University of Nottingham in the United Kingdom.
For the first time, scientists have shown it is more difficult for older women to replace muscle that is lost naturally because of key differences in the way their bodies process food.”
In the clinical study, men and women between the ages of 65 and 80 were asked to fast and following the fast were given a high protein drink. The muscles of the women in the US/UK study absorbed far less protein than the men’s muscles. Scientists still don’t know why women use protein less efficiently after age 50, but we do know that after 50, getting enough protein is essential to maintain and potentially increase lean muscle mass.
“When ingesting the drink, much less protein was built in the women’s muscle,” Mittendorfer says. “We believe hormonal changes related to menopause may be influencing this because these differences between men and women do not occur in young individuals, and it may help explain our other preliminary research findings that show post-menopausal women are less able to build muscle following resistance exercise like lifting weights.”
Michael J. Rennie, Ph.D., professor of clinical physiology at the University of Nottingham, says, “Nobody has ever discovered any mechanistic differences between men and women in muscle loss before. This finding is significant for the maintenance of better health in old age and for reducing demands for health care.”
How Much Protein Should I Eat?
Rennie and Mittendorfer suggest older people should focus on eating a higher proportion of protein in their everyday diet verses just eating more food. In conjunction with resistance exercise, that could help to reduce the loss of muscle over time.
What are the best kinds of Protein to help Build Lean Muscle ?
It is more challenging to consume sufficient protein if you’re vegan, but it’s not impossible. Some high protein/lower calorie choices recommended by the publication, Prime Woman include:
- Almonds and pistachios – 6 grams per ounce of nuts
- Chicken breast – 53 grams of protein per cooked skinless breast
- Oats – 13 grams of protein in 1/2 cup of raw oats
- Greek Yogurt – 17 grams of protein in a 1 cup serving (unflavored)
- Broccoli – 1 cup has 3 grams of protein
- Lean beef – 22 grams of protein in a 3-ounce serving
- Tuna – 39 grams of protein in 5 ounces of tuna canned in water
- Soybeans and lentils – 18 to 20 grams of protein in 1 cup