Everyone loses 1% of their muscle mass every year starting at age 45. This is a big deal because our metabolism as well as the utilization of glucose for energy largely takes place in our muscles. But we have the ability to stop the natural progression of muscle wasting called sarcopenia. The anecdote? Strength training and adequate protein intake as discussed in the previous blog.
Metabolism and Muscle Mass
Many people blame their excess weight on having a slow metabolism. But in reality obesity is rarely due to a metabolic disorder like hypothyroidism. Excess weight is due to how much we eat, what we eat and how much we exercise. There are other factors that can impact one’s metabolism like body size, sex and age. In general, people who are larger, have more muscle mass, are male and younger than 45 will have a higher metabolism. Basal metabolic rate is the amount of calories needed to carry out the normal functions of the body and accounts for about 60-75 percent of the calories you burn each day. Two other factors that also effect metabolism are thermogenesis or food processing, and physical activity. Thermogenesis is defined as the amount of energy used in the digestion, absorption and distribution of food consumed and accounts for about 10 percent of the calories used in a day. It is believed that diet induced thermogenesis can play a part in obesity. They conclude that protein plays a big part in raising thermogenesis of food. There is also some evidence that eating “whole” foods like whole grain breads and less processed food like cheddar cheese versus processed cheese product also increase thermogenesis. In one study a diet higher in protein and carbs as opposed to one high in fat and carbs lead to higher thermogenesis as well as a longer feeling of satiety. There has also been some evidence that the regular ingestion of chili or the capsaicin in it has been linked to increased thermogenesis. I guess that is a good reason to eat a lot of chili soup and salsa! In general, the more difficult it is to process the foods we eat, the more calories we burn in the process of digesting them. Dietary fat is very easy to process, while protein is not.
Physical activity also plays a role in our metabolism. We also know that just doing aerobic exercise will benefit our heart and lungs but will do little to maintain muscle mass. Research at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University in Boston have repeatedly shown the benefit of strength training for reversing the effects of sarcopenia. For adults 45 or older, adding strength training is nonnegotiable if you want to prevent sarcopenia. Furthermore, muscle mass effects metabolism. For those over 45, avoiding strength training will lead to a slowing of metabolism, a drop in caloric needs, and most likely weight gain. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends each week 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise (like a brisk walk) and 2 strengthening sessions involving all major muscle groups – legs, arms, chest, shoulders, abdomen, hip and back. If vigorous exercise is done then the time can be decreased to 75 minutes a week of the aerobic, along with the same strengthening sessions. Evidence also supports that the aerobic portion can be broken up into 10 minute sessions – you will get the same cardio benefit versus doing it all at once.
Insulin Resistance and Muscle Mass
If you have a parent with type 2 diabetes then you have a 40% chance of developing it as well. Type 2 diabetes starts with the inability of the body to effectively recognize and utilize insulin. Insulin is the hormone that helps glucose get into the cells for energy. If the cells do not get adequate glucose, that person will not only feel tired but will increase the liklihood of developing diabetes. There is a very effective solution to reduce insulin resistance. You guessed! Strength training. Insulin resistance starts in the muscles, liver and fat cells. When you do strenghthening exercises you are moving those muscles and improving the muscles ability to recognize insulin, not just while exercising but for the next 24 hours. And you are increasing your muscle mass. Pretty powerful and better than taking a medication for it.
Your Steps to Protect Your Muscle Mass
1. To preserve muscle mass make sure you are getting enough protein. If you don’t eat an adequate amount of protein your body will break down it’s own muscle mass to get the amino acids it needs. If you are over 45 then make sure you are getting about 30 grams of protein each meal. As mentioned in the previous post your needs go up with age as much as 1-1.5 grams of protein per kilogram of weight. You might want to think about adding a protein powder shake as one of your meals. Next blog will discuss testing done by Consumer Lab on protein powders. If your are eatting 4 ounces of lean meat for your dinner then you are getting enough protein. Other good sources of protein include fish, fat-free or reduced fat plain Greek yogurt, low-fat cottage cheese, eggs and egg whites, tofu, edamame and even quinoa. 2. Schedule a regular time on your calendar to get regular, moderate intensity exercise. Perhaps take the bus to work, get off the bus early and walk the last mile to work or park a mile away from work and walk. There are some wonderful walking DVD’s by Leslie Sansone, that you can also purchase on Amazon.com. 3. Twice a week take 20 minutes to do strengthening exercises. Here is a good from the CDC link if you are new to doing strengthening. There are tablet apps like the 7 minute workout that include a nice regimen that works all the muscle groups. Or think about joining Planet Fitness where the memberships are cheap and you can work with a trainer twice a week to get your started on the machines and weights. If you are new to doing strengthening and reluctant to do it then look for a Strong Living Program in your area. This is a group exercise program designed by Tufts University that has well researched success. Much of what I have said here applies to those who are 45 or older. But as we all know, habits are much easier to start the younger you are. Why not take this information and jump-start your health by doing these suggestions now. Not only will it help you to reach and maintain a healthy weight, but it will relieve stress, improve your health numbers, help you to sleep better and make you feel mahh-velous! Bet you can’t find that in any pill!