Your grandmother probably never heard of osteoporosis. Then Big Pharma came out with the first bone drug in 1995. Now billions are spent on this disease. And everyone worries about bone density.
But there is another condition just as threatening. Maybe even more so… but you won’t see any TV ads. Mainstream doctors rarely, if ever, bring it up with their patients… even though it affects around 45% of the older population.
I’m talking about sarcopenia… a loss of muscle as you age.
Sarcopenia is the degenerative loss of skeletal muscle mass and strength associated with aging
So why am I the only one telling you about it? Because there’s no drug to treat it — so there’s no profit for Big Pharma. And while some Big Pharma giants are currently looking for ways to make a buck off sarcopenia, it’s not currently classified as a “disease.” And without that classification, there’s no hope of getting a drug to “cure” it approved by the FDA.
If you do nothing to stop sarcopenia, you will lose about three pounds of muscle every decade. By the time you’re 80 you could drop 35% to 40% of your muscle mass.1
But there’s good news. Not only can sarcopenia be stopped in its tracks — it can be reversed. And research proves it.
How To Reverse Sarcopenia
In a ground-breaking study, researchers took muscle samples from young adults and older adults. The older adults were 59% weaker than the younger ones. Then the older group did exercises three times per week.
After just six months, the older group improved their muscle strength by about 50%. But there was an even more remarkable side effect. Their muscle tissue was rejuvenated. In fact, most of the genes that express aging were reversed back to younger levels! 2
In other words, building muscle also reversed the aging process.
How To Build Your Muscle
And it’s never too late to build muscle. In one study, 21 frail, older people took part in a strength program for 11 weeks. Their muscle mass increased by up to 60%. In addition, they had better balance, strength and physical ability, making them less likely to fall.3
I’ve helped thousands of patients prevent sarcopenia and gain muscle mass. I’ve seen frail 80-year-olds double their muscle mass in just a couple of months.
You can do it, too.
The Best Ways To Build Muscle Right Now
1. Eat More Protein. Protein provides the basic building blocks for your muscles. But as most people get older they tend to eat less protein. I advise my patients to eat one gram of protein for every pound of lean body mass.
If you weigh 200 pounds and have 20% body fat, you’re carrying 40 pounds of fat. And you have 160 pounds of lean body mass. So you would eat 160 grams of protein each day. If you don’t have any way to measure your body fat, then use an estimate. For men, the average is 15-17%. For women, the average is 18-22%.
The best sources of protein are lean red meat, fish, poultry, eggs, cheese and nuts. Protein powders can be a big help. A protein smoothie every day is a reliable way to boost your protein intake and help build new muscle. Look for whey protein from grass-fed animals.
2. Use Muscle To Build Muscle. Exercise is the most powerful tool for building muscle. For the biggest impact I recommend starting with the largest muscles in the body. Those are the quadriceps on the front of your thighs.
In one study, researchers had older men do exercises similar to what I recommend in my PACE program. They worked three times per week on their lower body. And their quad strength increased as much as 226%.4
How To Strengthen Your Quads
Here’s a PACE move to increase the strength in your quads. It’s called alternating lunges.
- Place your hands on your hips. Keep your back straight and hold your head high.
- Take a step forward with your right leg until your front knee is bent 90 degrees and your back knee almost touches the ground.
- Use your quad muscle to push back off your leading leg and return to starting position.
- Repeat with your left leg. Alternate until you are slightly out of breath.
To make it truly PACE, increase the challenge slightly with each set. I call that “progressivity.” Also, to get stronger quads and more muscle strength even faster, use “acceleration.” That means shorten your recovery time between sets, or get up to your desired intensity faster.
To Your Good Health,
Al Sears, MD, CNS
1. Janssen et al. “Low relative skeletal muscle mass (sarcopenia) in older persons is associated with functional impairment and physical disability.” Journal of the American Geriatric Society. 2002; 50(5):889-96.
Melov, S., Tarnopolsky, M.A., Beckman, K., et al, “Resistance exercise reverses aging in human skeletal muscle,” PLoS ONE. 2007;2:e465
P. C. LaStoya et al., “The Positive Effects of Negative Work: Increased Muscle Strength and Decreased Fall Risk in a Frail Elderly Population,” Journal of Gerontology and Biological Science and Medical Science (May 2003) 58(5): M417- 418.
Frontera WR et al. “Strength conditioning in older men: skeletal muscle hypertrophy and improved function.” Journal of Applied Physiology. 1992. 64: 1038-44.