From Tufts Health & Nutrition Letter
A research team led by Roger Fielding, PhD. At the Friedman School and senior scientists of the Nutrition, Exercise Physiology and Sarcopenia Team at the Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging worked to uncover the biological mechanisms that cause muscles to increase in size and strength after resistance or strength training. They also, studied the health benefits of physical activity, muscle strengthening exercise and diet in older adults. Below are the results of their research.
- Why do we lose muscle as we age? A number of normal biological and metabolic changes cause us to lose muscle as we age. Basically, when we move, specialized pathways get turned on. These trigger the production of muscle proteins that can cause the muscles to increase in size. Beginning around age 50 these signals get progressively weaker. Older adults can still build and maintain muscle but not as quickly.
- Muscle is built from protein. Does eating more protein help? It was found that most Americans consume more than the daily recommended amount of daily protein so eating more protein alone is not going to do much for your muscles. High-intensity resistance training can increase muscle mass but for the best results combine adequate dietary protein with resistance training. The two together seem to have an additive or synergistic effect on muscle building. It is best to do this with a Trainer when getting started or restarting to avoid injury.
- So what is the best way to maintain or even build muscle later in life? Old muscles can’t be made young but we can slow the rate of loss and even build muscle with physical activity, strength training, and dietary changes.
Top Tips for Taking Charge
- Combine diet and exercise. The combination of resistance training 2-3 times a week and adequate dietary protein builds muscle mass and strength.
- Resist. Resistance training includes weightlifting, using weight machines, bands and body weight exercises. Be sure to engage working all muscle groups.
- Start slow. If you are new to strength training or don’t know how to properly use the equipment it is best to start with a Personal Trainer.
- Don’t overdo it. You do not need to push yourself to extremes to get benefit. Starting slow can help avoid injury but you will still see results over time.
- Step it up. The key to building and maintaining muscle is to use your muscles regularly and continually challenge yourself by increasing weight or repetitions when an exercise gets to easy.