The causes of muscle loss

The causes of muscle loss

Most researchers believe there are many factors other than age related activity changes that contribute to this condition. Amongst these are the metabolic changes that take place within the muscle tissue itself. Recent research has found that older individuals may not be getting enough protein in their diet and that they do get, may not be efficiently utilized in building muscle tissue. This effect may be caused by an altered response to the available and diminishing hormones. Be this as it may, older muscle still responds well to amino acids particularly to the essential and branched chain amino acids (BCAA) due to their ability to intensely stimulate protein synthesis in older individuals.

Further literature review indicates this is due to leucine [1], an essential amino acid that is not manufactured by the body and has to be obtained from food sources. So if you are considering protein supplementation, then adding in extra branched chain amino acids, essential amino acids with a little bit of extra leucine may be in order.

Is becoming more evident that older people should take in more protein by raising the limit to a least 1.3 g per kilogram. Another aspect of the protein in question is a type of protein that your taking. For example, whey protein is assimilated better than soy protein. Most plant-based proteins are not sufficiently converted; therefore, more is needed to get the minimum amount.

Additionally, before leaving the dietary issue of protein, the timing of the protein intake may make a difference. Most strength research indicates a consuming 25 to 30 grams of protein 10 to 15 minutes before and 10 to 15 minutes after an intense training session is the most beneficial.

Before doing so, check with your doctor or a registered dietitian because many older people may have impaired kidney function and the extra protein can exacerbate this condition.

Along with less protein intake comes a diminishing hormone production.

These lower levels of hormones, combined with some pro-inflammatory compounds and the free radicals, which are known to damage the cells, can also promote the wasting of muscle tissue which affects muscle fibers. Severe dieting, illness and/or extended bed rest also accelerates muscle loss.

A final thought in this matter is to consider taking 800-1000 international units of vitamin D a day or more if your Dr. tells you that your blood tests have indicated that it is low. Studies of various populations have shown a link between low vitamin D levels and increased risk of sarcopenia.

Stay strong, and remain passionately committed to your hearts chosen path.

By Danny M. O’Dell, MA. CSCS*D

[1] Leucine works with the amino acids isoleucine and valine to repair muscles, regulate blood sugar, and provide the body with energy. It also increases production of growth hormones, and helps burn visceral fat, which is located in the deepest layers of the body and the least responsive to dieting and exercise.

090412 Slowing down muscle loss due to aging

Slowing down muscle loss due to aging

The aging process isn’t kind to our lean muscle mass. The fact is most adults begin to lose muscle at a rate of approximately one to two percent a year after reaching that magic age of fifty. This muscle loss gains speed, particularly in the arms and in the legs of our lower body if not addressed early on in the process.

If not corrected, these areas start looking flabby due to the loss of muscle tonus[1]. Along with the flabbiness comes weakness of the tissues. This can create long-term health problems in the legs if they continue to lose strength because this loss often times leads to falls, which in the elderly can be a life-threatening event.

Many of the problems that are associated with the ageing process can be attributed to this loss of muscle tissue. With the decrease in lean muscle mass, a person often becomes less active and begins a habitual pattern of unhealthy eating. This in turn leads to chronic illnesses and frailty. The end result is a slow, sometimes painful, decline in the ability to live an active life.

In order to prevent this progressive, beyond the normal aging process of muscle loss, it has to be identified. However, as it stands now, there isn’t a standard way of defining or diagnosing sarcopenia[2]. It isn’t as simple as measuring the muscle size. There are also the elements of evaluating changes in the muscle quality and the functional ability of the muscle to do what you want it to do.
[1] Tonus [tō′nəs]
Etymology: Gk, tonos, stretching
1 Also called muscle tone. The normal state of balanced tension in the body tissues, especially the muscles. Partial contraction or alternate contraction and relaxation of neighboring fibers of a group of muscles hold the organ or the part of the body in a neutral functional position without fatigue. Tonus is essential for many normal body functions, such as holding the spine erect, the eyes open, and the jaw closed.
2 also called tone. the state of the body tissues being strong and fit.
[2] sarcopenia /sar•co•pe•nia/ (sahr″ko-pe´ne-ah) age-related reduction in skeletal muscle mass in the elderly. Dorland’s Medical Dictionary for Health Consumers. © 2007 by Saunders, an imprint of Elsevier, Inc. All rights reserved.
Sarcopenia [-pē′nē•ə]
Etymology: Gk, sarx, flesh, penia, poverty
A loss of skeletal muscle mass that may accompany aging. Studies indicate that the loss of skeletal muscle for the average normally healthy person amounts to about 20% between about 30 and 70 years of age. The loss may accelerate as aging progresses. The muscle is replaced by fat, usually in a subtle way that is not noticed by the individual, as by padding areas of muscle loss with extra fat. Muscle-strengthening and muscle-building exercises can prevent or reverse much of this problem.

080412 Making your middle more manageable

Making your middle more manageable


Researchers reported in the American Journal of Physiology – Endocrinology and Metabolism (1) that doing aerobics increases the loss of visceral fat when compared to strength training.


The study participants consisted of approximately 150 overweight, middle-aged men and women living a sedentary lifestyle with high LDL or low HDL cholesterol. This group was then broken down into three different training activities. One was aerobic, the second strength, and the third combined both aerobic and strength training.


Those in the aerobic training did the equivalent of 12 vigorous miles each week is a treadmill elliptical trainer or stationary bicycle. Evidently, no one thought of doing any of their aerobics outside. Vigorous activity normally means within 60-70% of your target heart rate.


Those doing the strength training performed eight exercises, none of which was listed, for three sets of between 8 to 12 repetitions per set, three times a week. If they were following a normal strength training protocol, these exercises would have been for the large major muscle groups such as the shoulders, chest, back, and legs.


For some unknown reason the study didn’t report what the combination training group did, so we don’t know if they did two days of aerobics and one of strength or two days of strength and one of aerobics or some other scheme.


After eight months, those doing strength training lost only subcutaneous abdominal fat, the fat just below the skin. While those doing the aerobic training, either separately or in combination with strength training, lost the deep belly fat, subcutaneous belly fat and more importantly fat from around the liver. Subsequent testing revealed that the aerobic group was also less insulin resistant. This meant the slender body was producing was more effective at allowing blood sugar into their cells.


This study confirms what other studies have also found that a combination of vigorous aerobic exercise performed on a consistent basis with strength training at least three times a week will help you lose the most fat, decrease your insulin resistance and minimize muscle loss that occurs as we age.
(1) American Journal of Physiology – Endocrinology and Metabolism, 2011, doi: 10. 1152/ajpendo. 00291.2011

080412 A guide to determining sets, reps and rest periods for the strength training beginner

A guide to determining sets, reps and rest periods for the strength training beginner

Hypertrophy of the muscle fibers.

The recommendations here are non specific as to sarcoplasmic or myofibril hypertrophy. However, if you want to add strength to your muscles instead of just cosmetic size then stay on the shorter end of the rep ranges for this training cycle.

Due three to four sets of ten to twelve repetitions and rest between each set for approximately one minute. A shorter rest will be more along the lines of the bodybuilding programs, i.e. a 1:1 work to rest ratio. Whereas the longer one will help the muscles recover so more weight can be used thereby increasing the strength and size of the fibers and not the fluids in and around the cells.

For the strength and power training stick with four to five sets of three to five reps with longer rest periods between each set. The rest times during this training phase will be between three and four minutes. This allows the muscles to recover nearly 100% so they can continue putting out the effort necessary to push the weights the next set.

The strength sessions involve three to four sets of between six to eight repetitions with shorter rest periods than the strength and power cycle. Rest for pure strength is between two to three minutes.

A person starting out on a strength program will realize in a short time that these suggestions are the pathways to success.

070412 Beating the gym germs

 Beating the gym germs

In most gyms, mine being the exception, bacteria, fungi and viruses may flourish due to the environment of plenty of heat and humidity, plus the accrued germs that come from everybody that touches the equipment. My trainees certainly aren’t exercising with excessive heat excessive heat that helps keep part of the problem in check.

Many of the viruses and bacteria can survive for hours on the equipment and other surfaces in the gym. This can be a threat to you because of the chaffing and scratches on the skin that regularly occur while using the equipment. This makes it easier for these germs to enter your body. Even though this is a risk, most gyms and strength coaches spend a certain amount of their time keeping your equipment sanitized.

Frequent gym users are well aware of the problems that may present themselves in the way of athlete’s foot and jock itch. However, these are easy to treat, unlike community acquired methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (CA–MRSA) which can be dangerous to your health. MRSA, is an antibiotic resistant bacteria and can be life threatening if not caught in time and didn’t treated with high potency antibiotics.

Certainly, the threats are out there, but there are simple steps that you can take to avoid some of the germs that are prevalent in the gyms. The first up should be common sense in that you wash your gym clothes after each workout. The days of the filthy socks, stinky sweatshirts, and dirty gym shoes are long past. These are simply an invitation for health problems to pop up in your life.

Some people take their gym clothes to the gym in a backpack and change when at the gym and then change out before going home. By doing this, they are allowing the disease causing germs to have a place to rest and regenerate. There are also those who wear their gym clothes back home. These people are spreading the organisms to their car, to their home, and anywhere else, they happen to go while in them.

Once these microbes populate enough, they are better able to penetrate the skin barrier through the aforementioned scratches and chaffing.

Therefore, the simplest solution is to not wear your gym clothes out of the facility but instead take them off when you are finished working out. Put them in your gym bag, wash both clothes, and bag as soon as you get home so you are ready for the next session.

If the bag is one that is not washable, then make a mild bleach solution of one part bleach and 10 parts water and scrub it out.

070412 Six tips to make your next workout pleasurable and productive

Six tips to make your next workout pleasurable and productive

Commit to working out with a good friend

Many people who want to work out find that exercising is more pleasurable when they do it with a friend. This leads to enjoyable social conversation during the period. Unless you are highly self-motivated, it’s easier to make an excuse and not exercise if you are doing it by yourself. However, with a friend, it is more likely that you will follow through because you don’t want to let your friend down.

You only cheat yourself by not working hard or even worse, missing a session.

Find a gym that fits your personality

Some gyms are exhibition halls of tank tops and spandex for the younger crowd. If you are not already in good shape, these may be intimidating. Men and women do not want to go into these gyms because feel like they are a course on the body buffet. The point being is you want to be comfortable with those around you while you’re exercising. This generally means you want to be with people similar in age, overall appearance and exercise ability.

Pick activities that suits your interest

Your interest in the exercise is going to determine whether not you stick with it. If you feel like walking, then walk. If you like to socialize then get involved with a socializing activity such as bowling or some sort of recreational league sport. If you like constant movement, try some dancing or endurance running. Strength training can be both a social and individually focused activity, depending on your ultimate goal. If social, go to a social club and leave the hardcore lifters to a hardcore gym.

Hire a trainer or instructor.

If you have never exercised before, or if you used to exercise three or more years in the past, then first up would be a hirer a trainer because things have changed. When doing so, ask them what certifications and qualifications they have. The top certifications are from the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) and the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM). These trainers can show you how to use the equipment the correct way. This minimizes your exposure to injury.

They will guide you along in developing excellent technique for each of the exercises. Once you become somewhat familiar with doing them, you are going to be enjoying yourself more in the gym. You don’t have to be with these trainers forever, but do learn the basics and then strike out in your own. Periodically it might be wise to hook back up with the trainer just to check out how you doing with your exercise technique and your program.

End each session with something you like to do

If you find that doing Bulgarian split squats is something that, even though you know are highly beneficial, but really don’t like to do, then get those out of the way right off the bat when you’re fresh and eager. This serves you in two ways: one, the exercise is over and secondly you know that the rest of the workout is going to be more fun now that they are done. You can now leave the gym with good memories of doing your last exercises.

Keep records

Keeping an exercise logbook is essential to tracking your progress and for successfully reaching your goals. You can get as detailed as you want by listing things that you eat, drink, the quality of your sleep, the number of hours you slept, how you felt doing exercise, the weight used, the repetitions performed, the sequence of the session, how much you weigh going in and leaving, the restorative methods used… This record keeping is up to you. If you use it, it will serve you well.

By following these six tips, you will set yourself up for success in achieving your exercise goals each day, each week, and each month.

c�v igx�� `�� n muscle mass important, but also losing weight helps to improve your metabolic health. Most of us already know that the fitter you are, the healthier you are probably going to be.

[1] Sarcopenia is the loss of muscle mass and coordination that results from the process of aging.

[2] Preethi Srikanthan, MD of the University of California Los Angeles, USA

Sport and lifestyle activity-range of motion exercising from the files of the Explosivelyfit Strength Training Gym

Sport and lifestyle activity-range of motion standardized degrees of movement, commonly referred to as the range of motion (ROM). The stronger you are within these ranges, the better protected you will be in preventing injuries from occurring. Therefore when doing your exercise routine keep in mind the following two guidelines:

1. You gain the most strength within the range of motion (ROM) at which you exercise.

2. The smaller the range of motion you in the joint, the less will be the carry over strength throughout the rest of the movement.

The basis of every quality strength training or fitness program relies, in part, on these two premises. As an example, let’s look at the squat while explaining these principles.

Many lifters do short range squats, known as high squats, in the gym. They get into a machine or in rare cases under a bar and drop down a few inches and call it good. In many instances this isn’t even to a parallel position, let alone below parallel where they should be before starting back up again. Depending on the load of the bar or on the machine, strength may be increased within this small range of motion but its unlikely this will happen.

This range of movement is too little and does not support normal living activities such as sitting down in a chair and then getting back up. If the strength is not developed within a range that is vital to living an active lifestyle then it is not useful. This group of fitness enthusiasts would be better served by going deeper in their squats, thereby getting a transfer of useable strength into their daily lives. This naturally leads in to the second principle.

An individual or strength athlete will become stronger when training the full range of motion. This expands the strength curve and transfers more useable muscle activity across greater degrees of the joint angle. Greater degree angles of strength protect the joint from injury, especially at the far ranges of motion.

The take home message is don’t cut yourself short with limited range of motion exercises.

Danny M. O’Dell, MA. CSCS*D