How to Build Muscle Mass
Healthy muscle mass is important at any age. Eating right, working out at home or going for walks, or consuming supplements can help you stay in shape. You'll remain more mobile, live a better life and be able to do all the things you want is building muscle mass. Yes, it is harder to keep muscle mass as you age, but it is not impossible if you do the right things. So, let’s learn how to build muscle mass, even as an older adult.
Why is Building Muscle Mass Important for Seniors?
The short and sweet answer is that by building muscle mass you are lowering your risk of falling. Your muscles help to support your joints and create a better base for your center of gravity, which makes your balance better, making you more stable on your feet. Lowering the risk of falls isn’t the only answer to this question though; there are a few more.
By building muscle mass you are again helping to support your joints, which can actually reduce pain related to arthritis. Building muscle mass can also lessen symptoms related to aging, like regular joint pain and feeling tired.
Another reason why it is so important for seniors to build muscle mass is that it can be lost at a quicker rate as you age. In fact, there is actually a name for age-related muscle loss: age-related sarcopenia. Depending on the person, you can lose anywhere from 3% to 8% of your muscle mass each decade after you hit the age of 30. Apparently, this increases even more after you hit 60.
The biggest cause of this decrease is the general reduction of hormone production in the body as we age. As we reach our 50s and 60s, males produce less testosterone and females produce less estrogen and estradiol. Our bodies slow down their production of human growth hormone, which is responsible for the growth and maintenance of muscle mass.
On top of this, muscle mass can rapidly decrease due to a sedentary lifestyle or bed rest. If you are not being active, then you are losing your muscle mass.
4 Ways Seniors Can Build Muscle
Now that you know why gaining muscle is so important, what can you do to help yourself gain and keep muscle mass? I’ve compiled a list below.
1. Weight Training
This is probably the more obvious way to gain muscle, and it is the best natural way to do it. Weight training, also known as weightlifting, doesn’t just help you to gain muscle either; it helps you to gain bone density.
If you are not yet aware, we all lose bone density as we age, and weight training is a great way to counter that. While going to a gym and lifting weights may seem daunting at first, it is a great activity to add to your lifestyle. You don’t have to lift anything heavy either. There are plenty of different machines you can use that will assist you in the movements and prevent you from getting hurt when you first start. It is also a good idea to start your first few trips to the gym with a personal trainer. A personal trainer will help you learn how to do different exercises, use the machines and prevent any injury if you are new to visiting a gym.
2. Change What You Eat
You are what you eat. In the case of building muscle mass, this is quite true. Once you have started visiting a gym, you can work on creating a diet that will help you to gain more muscle too. An important part of building muscle is having enough protein in your diet.
A general rule of thumb is that you want to eat 0.5 grams to 0.8 grams of protein for every pound your body weighs. So, if you want to gain 5 pounds of muscle mass you should eat 2.5 grams to 4 grams of protein more than your body weight. As an example, if you weigh 130 pounds and you want to weigh 135 pounds, then you would want to eat anywhere from 67.5 grams to 108 grams of protein a day.
That may seem like a lot of meat or eggs to eat but you can use supplements like protein powder in a shake to make up a significant portion of that.
3. Use Supplements
Supplements can be great for helping you build muscle mass. Sometimes they can help with other things too. Using supplements makes sure you get additional nutrients and support that your diet may not be able to provide. One supplement that I already mentioned is protein powder, however, there are a lot of other kinds you can take to help you gain muscle. Some other ones that may be worth using are:
- Vitamin D.
- Branched chain amino acids (BCAAs).
- Beta-hydroxy beta-methyl butyrate (HMB).
Of course, I do highly recommend speaking to your doctor before starting to take any new supplements or starting a new physical activity regime. They can ensure that you are not doing anything harmful to your health.
4. Try Electro-Acupuncture and Amino Acid Supplementation
This is a newer method that is used to help seniors not only increase their muscle mass but help to decrease their body fat percentage. A 2018 study found that using electro-acupuncture together with essential amino acid supplementation resulted in a decrease in body fat percentage and an increase in muscle mass and quality of life. They used the treatment every three days for 28 weeks.