By Ross Macdonald

Sarcopenia is severe loss of muscle mass as you grow older without a proper regimen. This program should include dietary modifications, hormone replacement therapy, nutritional supplements, vitamin, and exercise. This will dramatically improve lean muscle mass at any age. This program should begin now. Now is better than later!

Age-related loss of muscle increases the risk of devastating injuries and death from sudden falls and other accidents. San Miguel is a perfect example of this.

This disease starts after age 40 and increases rapidly after 75. While engaging in physical activity is essential, inactivity is not the only factor. Like osteoporosis, sarcopenia is a multifactorial disease that may result from suboptimal hormone levels, inadequate dietary protein, nutritional imbalances, lack of exercise, oxidative stress and inflammation. Sarcopenia and osteo are related conditions, and one often follows the other. Muscles generate the stress required to keep our bones strong. When muscle mass is reduced it increases the loss of bone mass.

Muscle mass also acts as a metabolic reservoir. For example, after a traumatic event muscles produce proteins and metabolites required for survival and recovery. Now this suggests that elderly people lacking this metabolic energy due to low muscle mass will have a harder time recovering from operations as they lack the muscle to support the immune system.

Dietary factors that contribute to sarcopenia are inadequate protein intake, calorie intake and abnormal acidity in the body’s fluids.. Older adults seem to have a low intake of protein perhaps due to an inability to digest it. Protein requirements for seniors are higher than for younger people and should be higher than most doctors recommend. But it’s also true that too much protein can cause acidity. So a buffering agent can be used to allow higher protein intake and decrease acid. This is Potassium Bicarbonate.

Hormone levels must be maintained. The important ones are HGH (human growth hormone), DHEA, testosterone, mechanical growth factor and insulin growth factor. Without these basic hormones, it may be impossible for anyone to maintain lean muscle mass regardless of what they eat or exercise.

Adequate levels of testosterone are essential in older men and to a lesser extent in women (who can use DHEA). Everyone over 40 should have a hormone balance test yearly.

To combat sarcopenia the best supplements are creatine, vitamin D3 and whey protein. Creatine helps replace APT, the chemical necessary for fast “twitch” muscle reactions. Creatine, when given to older men and women in resistance training (weights), increases strength and muscle mass. (Creatine is the supplement most used by professional athletes). Vitamin D3 helps preserve the Type II fibers that are the ones prone to atrophy in the elderly. Low vitamin D levels are associated with poor bone formation and muscle mass.

Whey protein contains the amino acids necessary for the development of protein in the body and muscles.

Other necessary supplements are Omega3 (fish oil, DHA and EPA), L-Carnitine, especially the acetyl variety, and, in particular, L-Glutamine, the most abundant amino acid in the body and muscle and necessary for the immune functioning of the digestive tract.

Exercise is critical! It stimulates the release of hormones like HGH, human growth hormone and mechano hormone. Aerobic exercise is great for the cardiovascular system and body fat, but it is not very effective in preserving lean muscle mass. Athletes use weight training when they want to increase lean muscle mass. The federal Center for Disease Control notes that in addition to building muscle mass, strength training can promote mobility, improve health related fitness and improve bone health.

Ross Macdonald, BS, MS, CPT, has written over 150 article on healthy, exercise and vitamins/supplements for Atención since 1997. He can be reached at or 121-1019.


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