There are certain things in life that men can’t escape. Taxes is the standard one. Certain death from taking a selfie with a bear is probably another.
But there’s also a more serious one: Imminent muscle mass loss which begins in your thirties.
Age-Related Muscle Mass Loss Is Real
Denial is futile. Age-related muscle mass loss is a natural ageing condition in humans called sarcopenia. From the tender age of 30, men can lose anywhere between 3 percent to 5 percent of their muscle mass every decade. According to a Harvard Medical School report, men will lose about 30% of their muscle mass during their entire lifetime.
So why does this cruel twist of fate happen to our money makers?
The natural decline of testosterone is one of the biggest culprits. Testosterone is the hormone which stimulates protein synthesis and muscle growth in our bodies. It’s essentially the fuel for muscle building.
“Naturally we start losing white celled muscle fibres – quick release muscle fibres,” explains Jordan Ponder, personal trainer and founder of Sydney dietetics firm, Transform Health.
“Humans have a certain amount of fast twitch muscle fibres and we start losing this as we get older.”
You’ll be damned if you just blame it on age alone though. Most men tend to get more inactive as they pass the age of development (30 years) and it is from here that their muscle loss compounds with the combination of sarcopenia and a sloppy lifestyle.
Thankfully there’s a solution to this.
How To Preserve Muscle Mass As You Age
Both the Havard Medical School findings and Ponder agree that there is a common solution to deteriorating muscle mass: progressive resistance training or plyometrics which are exercises that focus on speed and power.
“Think box jumps, explosive push ups, sprint training, all that kind of stuff is hugely beneficial,” says Ponder.
“Not just for our fast twitch fibres but for testosterone and growth hormone; things that help us maintain muscle.”
When it comes to progressive resistance training, it’s also recommended that you gradually increase your workout volume over time irrespective of your age.
This applies to weights, reps and sets as a means of improving strength and endurance as we age. Whilst muscle mass loss can’t be stopped entirely, this type of exercise can definitely slow it down.
What To Eat To Preserve Muscle Mass
There’s a solution to preserving muscle mass and that involves careful food intake. Just as body builders work with regular servings of protein to build muscle, an ageing body also needs it to maintain muscle mass.
Protein from food is turned into amino acids which is then used to build muscles. As men age, they encounter anabolic resistance which decreases the body’s ability to synthesise protein.
The solution? Eat more high-protein foods.
“Go for good quality proteins, high Omega-3 fat contents,” says Jordan.
The Harvard study additionally states that men should aim for a daily intake of 1 to 1.3 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight for older adults who do resistance training.
Extra protein foods can include:
- meat (avoid red and processed meat)
Supplemental protein in the form of powders, human growth hormone (HGH) supplementation can also be added to your standard meals if you struggle to get enough calories and protein through your regular diet.
How Often You Should Be Exercising
Consistency is the biggest thing in your thirties.
“All it takes is an hour a day of exercising whether it’s walking, cycling or swimming. That’s the first thing,” says Jordan.
The second part of your exercising should involve “2 or 3 hours of good quality training a week”.
That includes lifting weights, sprinting and progressive resistance training.
Habits To Avoid If You Want Muscle Longevity
It might not be so obvious at first, but bad habits also play a small part in muscle deterioration as we age.
“There’s a delayed effect. Especially of those who like alcohol,” explains Jordan.
“People are less likely to go to the gym when they’ve been drinking Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. By the end of the week your proactivity decreases and you’re less likely to show up on Thursday, Friday or Saturday.”
The answer is to set up your lifestyle in your thirties. Being knee deep in work will often expose how you react in that decade and that in turn determines what happens in your forties and fifties.
“If you set up the right habits when you’re young and busy, you’re more likely to maintain a physical lifestyle through to your senior years, which is obviously when it’s more important because it’s harder to start then.”
So when it comes to reducing muscle mass loss, the most important thing is putting in place the habits and the training before pairing it with a balanced lifestyle and diet.