We’ve all heard of the importance of muscle mass. It can help with everything from weight control, to
immune system support, insulin sensitivity, and the ability to heal faster from an injury. The list could go
on and on. As we get older many of us will begin to lose some of our muscle mass, developing a
condition called sarcopenia. Sarcopenia is an age related, involuntary loss of skeletal muscle mass and
strength. Sarcopenia is not a word many of us have heard, but it’s a condition that currently affects 25-
45% of older adults here in the US. This condition can start as early as our 30’s and generally escalates
as we get older. According to the Mayo clinic, muscles can actually lose 10%-15% of their size and
strength every year after age 50. Symptoms of sarcopenia can range from general weakness, to loss of
stamina, slower walking speed, falling, and difficulty performing daily tasks. Individuals with sarcopenia
have a 58% higher risk of bone fracture, a 1.5-4.6 times higher risk of disability than someone without
the condition, and people who are suffering from sarcopenia are twice as likely to be hospitalized. This
may sound like we’re painting a pretty bleak picture of our “Golden Years”, but alas there is hope!
Continued research on this condition provides us with some insights on how we can proactively avoid
and even reverse this condition.
Strength Training has shown to be one of the best ways to combat the effects of sarcopenia. Studies
show that individuals who participate in progressive resistance training 2-3 times a week are able to
build muscle and offset the effects of sarcopenia. The key to progressive resistance training is to
increase the repetitions, sets, or load amount over time. There are many easy resistance training
options that can be done at home without expensive equipment.
Standing/Sitting Push-ups - against a wall or counter
Step Ups-using any type of steps you have in the house
Soup Can Shoulder Press or Bicep Curls
Lying Hip Bridges
The next important factor to avoiding Sarcopenia is protein consumption. Consuming .5 grams of
protein for each pound of our weight is the ideal amount to help our body signal muscle tissue and
growth. Another best practice to help your muscles to repair faster is to have a protein rich snack within
one hour of strength training. Typically, you’ll want to shoot for 10-20 grams of protein. You don’t have
to go out and buy a bunch of expensive bars or shakes, many of these options are already in your
½ c of cottage cheese
2 pieces of string cheese
6 oz of Greek yogurt
2 hard boiled eggs
In addition to strength training and protein there are a couple supplements that are also shown to help.
The first is Vitamin D. Vitamin D’s primary function is cell management and while the exact reason is
unknown, it seems to play a role in preventing sarcopenia. Vitamin D is something that many of us are
deficient in, even in summer. Ideally adults should consume 15 micrograms per day. Adults over the
age of 70 should be consuming 20 micrograms per day. This can most easily be done through a Vitamin
D supplement but don’t hesitate to get outside on a sunny day to try to take advantage of the natural
Vitamin D from the sun.
The other supplement that plays a part in fighting off sarcopenia is O-Mega 3 fatty acids. O-mega 3’s
help to lower inflammation levels in the body and may aid in signaling muscle growth. It is
recommended to get 4-4.5 grams a day. Now we all know fish is a good source of O-Mega 3, but if
you’re not a fish lover there are a lot of other sources for you to incorporate this nutrient into your diet.
Although sarcopenia is a risk factor for all of us, it does not have to be our destiny. Whether you’re 30
or 80 it’s not too late to start addressing this issue. Just a few small changes to your daily activities can
give you much better chance at more mobility and a better quality of life so you can truly enjoy your