You might also know that preserving muscle is critical to maintain your health. Muscle doesn’t just look good, but plays a large role in maintaining the strength of your bones, keeping your immune system functioning optimally, and supporting your cardiovascular health.
When should you start worrying about age-related muscle loss, or sarcopenia? For most people, muscle mass peaks sometime around age 30. From age 30 to 60, the average adult may lose about half a pound of muscle per year while simultaneously gaining about one pound of fat. This lack of muscle strength combined with an accumulation of body fat comes with increased risk of chronic disease, as well as an increased risk of frailty, fracture, injury, and even death.
What can you do to make the most of your effort in the gym? Nutrition is essential to preserving muscle with age, according to a new scientific review published by the International Osteoporosis Foundation Working Group (IOF). The group incorporated evidence from studies around the world and identified the following four ways that dietary components can assist both older and younger adults to help slow muscle loss with age:
- Protein: Apart from resistance exercise, protein in the diet may be the most important way to preserve muscle. But, according to the authors, the protein amounts typically recommended may not be enough to optimize muscle and bone health. The type of protein matters, too—whey protein has consistently shown to be best for young and old adults who want to hang on to muscle.
- Vitamin D: Mounting evidence suggests vitamin D plays a role in the development and maintenance of muscle mass and function. Getting adequate amounts can depend on regular exposure to the sun’s UVB rays—difficult during the winter months in North America— and through supplementation. Elderly adults are especially at risk of getting insufficient amounts of vitamin D for bone and muscle health.
- Vitamin B12 and/or folic acid: Emerging data are showing that these two nutrients play a critical part in improving muscle function and strength.
- Eat enough fruits and vegetables while avoiding processed meats and cereal grains: The high dietary intake of processed meats and cereal grains and a low intake of fruits and vegetables can contribute to a greater dietary acid load, which can produce a negative effect on bone metabolism.
Reference: Mithal A, Bonjour JP, Boonen S et al. Impact of nutrition on muscle mass, strength, and performance in older adults. Osteoporos Int 2012.