aging · nutrition · weight lifting

Muscle loss is in the news again

A rock, painted white, with the words “as strong as a wolf” painted on it. Seen outside the athletic centre at the University of Guelph.


But this time with a weight loss angle.

See my past posts: Protein, age, and muscle loss.  and Want to keep muscle after 40?: Eat all the protein and lift all the things

It’s a thing that I care about. 

And I hate the idea that some people, especially women, might welcome it, because it means weight loss.

From an article in the Globe and Mail, by Alex Hutchinson, We need better guidelines to deal with age-related muscle loss.

“You might be relieved to hear that the creeping weight gain of middle age – a pound or two (0.5 to 1 kilogram) a year starting in your 20s, on average – eventually grinds to a halt. By the time you’re in your 50s, you’ll typically start slowly shedding weight. Don’t celebrate yet, though. There’s a good chance that the weight you’re losing is muscle – precisely what you need to hang onto to stay metabolically healthy and independent into old age. “

Why does this happen? Partly because we exercise less but that’s not the whole story. The article talks about ‘anabolic resistance.’ Our bodies no longer, as we age, respond the same way to strength training and protein. Like insulin resistance in diabetics our bodies no longer respond as effectively to protein and to exercise. We need more of both, not less, as we age.

There’s also a concern about the kinds of protein and when we eat them.

Writes Hutchinson: “It’s not just how much you eat. There’s some evidence that spreading your protein across three meals triggers more muscle growth than just downing a massive steak at dinner. And protein quality matters too, with certain amino acids such as leucine playing an outsized role in muscle growth. That means animal proteins such as meat, fish, eggs and dairy tend to pack a bigger punch than plant proteins, although Oliveira emphasizes that variety is also important.”

It’s a challenge to eat the 1.0 to 1.5 g of protein per kg of body weight per day that’s recommended. 

What about exercise? What should we do to stave off muscle loss?

“The overall picture from existing research is that full-body resistance training with loads that get progressively harder over time, two to three times a week, is optimal for older adults. One study published last year found that two harder workouts plus one easier one produced the best results, perhaps because older strength-trainers simply couldn’t recover quickly enough to do three hard workouts each week.”

See you at the gym! Maybe we can go for a protein shake after? 

eating · nutrition · sports nutrition

Sam is thinking (again) about protein and aging muscles

Bitmoji Sam in a purple tank top and shorts frolicking under the sunshine in a field full of flowers with bonus butterflies and mountains in the distance.

I’ve been seeking out nutrition advice again, trying to manage what I can in a messy, unhappy situation with my left knee.

One of the interesting bits of research to come out in recent years is that as we age our need for protein goes up even as our need for calories goes down, if we intend to maintain muscle mass.

It’s as if, as with diabetics and insulin resistance, with age we’re protein resistant. We need to eat a lot more to get the same effect. When you add to that the need to eat fewer calories, that makes for a protein heavy diet.

Here’s an excerpt from a summary of the research published by MacMaster University:

“People who would like to become physically stronger should start with weight training and add protein to their diets, according to a comprehensive scientific review of research at McMaster University. The review finds that eating more protein, well past the amounts currently recommended, can significantly augment the effects of lifting weights, especially for people past the age of 40,”

A summary of the research from MacMaster University is here. The study itself is here.

I’ve blogged about this research before here, It’s striking both for the results and how they were obtained. The research doesn’t just look at young people, in particular it doesn’t just look at young men. It’s interesting that the research actually included middle aged men and women.

What the study shows is that there’s a sweet spot for protein consumption and it’s higher than many of us thought, 1.6 g of protein per day per kg of body weight. For me that’s a lot more protein than I currently eat. Eating more as a vegetarian is challenging. I’m working on it.

You can read the New York Times account of this study here.

Is this something you worry about? Think about? Track? How much protein do you aim to eat each day?

food · nutrition · sports nutrition · weight lifting

Want to keep muscle after 40?: Eat all the protein and lift all the things

A cricket protein bar
A cricket protein bar

Researchers at nearby MacMaster University set out to do a meta analysis in search of an answer to the question of whether protein consumption made a difference to ordinary adults over 40 who set out to gain muscle.

What’s nice, from this blog’s perspective, about the studies is that many of them included women.

Gretchen Reynolds wrote about their research in the New York Times.

Lift Weights, Eat More Protein, Especially if You’re Over 40

“They wound up with 49 high-quality past experiments that had studied a total of 1,863 people, including men and women, young and old, and experienced weight trainers as well as novices. The sources of the protein in the different studies had varied, as had the amounts and the times of day when people had downed them.

To answer the simplest question of whether taking in more protein during weight training led to larger increases in muscle size and strength, the researchers added all of the results together.And the answer was a resounding yes. Men and women who ate more protein while weight training did develop larger, stronger muscles than those who did not.”

How much protein? 1.6 grams per day per kilo of bodyweight. That’s well over the recommended daily amount of protein.

When? It didn’t matter when in the day people are the extra protein. So you don’t need to fuss about before or after workout or other special timing.

What kind of protein? That didn’t matter either. You can eat it in the form of animal protein or vegan protein. You can drink protein shakes. It’s all good.

See the scientific article here.

I haven’t tried the cricket protein bar just yet.