Sarcopenia: muscle wasting

Sarcopenia: muscle wasting

Have you found that lifting two full grocery sacks has become more difficult to do than in the past? What about doing things that were once relatively easy to do? Have some of them started to tax your strength and stamina? Are they now just plain hard to do?

This could be age related, a result of your muscle mass and strength beginning to diminish. In some extreme instances, this can lead to a loss of the function al ability to lead a normal life. Later on in life, your body composition begins to shift from lean muscle mass to less lean muscle mass. Generally the naturally occurring outcome is increased body fat. Your scales may still read the same as they did in high school but the tonus of your muscles is no longer ideal. You have replaced the muscle weight with fat.

Myth: Muscle does not turn to fat. The muscle atrophies and the weight you now see registering on the scale has been replaced by fat tissue.

Exercise is a necessary part of living a healthy life

Muscle mass decreases as we age, in fact it has been estimated that muscle mass decreases approximately one percent each year after we turn thirty years old.

The mayo clinic states that the percentage of females who are unable to lift over ten pounds between the ages of 55-64 is forty percent of the population and for those in the 63-74 age bracket these numbers rise only slightly to forty five percent. However, it gets much worse for the 75-84 year olds, where a full sixty five percent of them were unable to lift ten pounds.

Ten pounds is not much by any standard. This is getting close to not being able to lift a gallon of milk out of the refrigerator.

Muscle mass is critical to maintaining ones strength and balance. Without the strength to regain ones balance, the fall is inevitable. Losing weigh is harder for those with small percentages of lean muscle mass. Muscle burns calories because it is always in motion whereas fat tissue is motionless. The reason this is important is that the lower your lean muscle mass the slower your bodies metabolism will be. This is what contributes to more unhealthy fat and unwanted weight gain.

The relationship between disease, excessive weight gain and the loss of muscle mass and strength

The body is more susceptible to heart disease, diabetes, joint problems and loss of bone density with lesser amounts of lean muscle.

The scientific name for this muscle loss is Sarcopenia[1], a wasting away of muscle tissue.

If this is happening to you then it is time to see your doctor, to cut back on your unhealthy foods and drinks, and exercise your large muscle groups at least three times a week.


Sarcopenia is the natural and progressive loss of muscle fiber due to aging. The term “sarcopenia” derives from the Latin roots, “sarco” for muscle, and “penia” for wasting, making it the “muscle wasting disease.”

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.