4 steps to maintaining muscle as you age
It's not uncommon for an elderly patient to ask his doctor why he can't lift the grocery bags anymore or why he can't walk as far without his legs wearing out. The typical answer is that loss of muscle mass is just a normal part of the aging process. Period. End of discussion-not exactly what the patient wants to hear, and not exactly helpful.
Sad to say, the doctor is at least partially right: If you just sit in your easy chair watching TV and eating potato chips all day long, muscle loss (technically called atrophy) will be a part of your aging process. But it doesn't have to be. (And that's what you don't hear from your doctor.)
The key to maintaining muscle mass is balance. In young adults, there's a healthy ebb and flow between the buildup and the breakdown of muscles that helps to maintain this balance. But that's not the case with the elderly. Instead, the muscle breakdown continues unabated while the buildup process slows down considerably. The imbalance leads to the loss of muscle mass-and difficulty doing normal everyday activities that require it: opening jars, climbing steps, etc.
But there are steps you can take to prevent that from happening.
1.) Include leucine in your diet. The Journal of Physiology published an article last December saying that the amino acid leucine can help the elderly maintain proper muscle mass. The researchers compared protein breakdown in young and old rats. After you eat a meal, the breakdown process ordinarily slows down and your body uses the protein to build muscle. The researchers discovered that the slowdown process did not occur in old animals. But when the scientists boosted levels of leucine, the balance of synthesis and breakdown was restored.
Although leucine supplementation is valid, I wouldn't depend on it alone. According to BBC News, "UK experts agree [that] the best way to boost leucine levels is to eat meat." In other words, you need to eat a high-fat, high-cholesterol, low carbohydrate, low-starch diet.
2.) Take creatine. It has good science behind it and, if used regularly, will add muscle mass. Creatine is an amino acid, not an herb, a vitamin, or a hormone. If you are losing muscle mass, I strongly recommend taking 250 mg daily.
3.) Get moderate exercise. I know this is a shocker coming from me, but I'm not talking about running yourself ragged five days a week like a rat on a wheel. Walking is all you really need. (Forget the gym.) If you want to strengthen your upper body, you can purchase five-pound dumbbells and use them at home. Squats and toe-ups will suffice for the lower body. To do a toe-up, stand up and place a thin book (1/2 to 1-inch thick) under your toes. Repeatedly lift your heels up and down until you tire out. Do it once or twice a day, and be sure to hold onto something for balance.
Any of these simple measures will be enhanced if you use EWOT (exercise with oxygen therapy). It adds oxygen to your tissues. For more details, see my book called Stop Aging or Slow the Process. It's available from Rhino Publishing, www.rhinopublish.com.
4.) Have your serum testosterone checked. If you're over 50, it's very likely to be low. If it's below 500 micrograms per cc, you should take 100 mg by injection once a month and maintain a blood level of 500 mcg per cc or better. Testosterone will definitely increase muscle mass. Why do you think the body builders love it so much? Contact the American College for the Advancement of Medicine (ACAM) and ask for its list of alternative doctors in your area: (800)532-3688 or www.acam.org.
"The secret of 'muscular' old age," BBC News, 12/11/05