When we reach a certain age, usually after the age of 40, we begin a process called sarcopenia, which tends to have very negative impacts on health, strength and aesthetics. This process is a “natural process” of the body, which will happen to everyone, but which can be reduced, prevented and treated.
Who has never seen a doctor recommending that elderly people can stay active by practicing walks, water activities or even some specific type of gymnastics? This is done precisely to help prevent disease and to help with the treatment of sarcopenia, a problem that affects all the elderly (but not only the elderly).
But after all, you know what is sarcopenia? Do you know what it can cause and what are the harms of having high levels of sarcopenia? More than that, is it possible to reduce it to make it null? And how can weight training help with this? To find out the answer to this and other questions, we will proceed further with some essential principles around this word.
What is sarcopenia?
First of all, it is important to define what is sarcopenia: Basically, she is the loss of muscle mass with the increase of body fat simultaneously due to time. But, how does this happen?
We know that hormones control our body and they are responsible for signals in it, including those related to the energy use of its sources, including muscle mass (which can be broken down to generate energy, as well as body fat). It turns out, there are hormones that signal muscle breakdown and hormones which increase muscle anabolism. Thus, inevitably, anabolic hormones (for example, Testosterone) tend to have a significant decrease in their production and secretion over the years. The result of this is that muscle mass levels start to decline (in both men and women). Concomitantly, metabolic levels also drop, making it harder to burn fat and, at the same time, easier to store.
O result of all of this is a reduction in muscle mass levels and an increase in body fat, causing individuals to seek ways to minimize this fact, as we know that the loss of muscle mass generates problems such as the weakening of the body, which is linked to the development of metabolic, physical and systemic diseases, among others. And body fat is also not interesting to be increased, not only for aesthetic reasons, but mainly because it causes health problems.
Sarcopenia tends to happen most after the age of 40, which is where the greatest decreases in anabolic hormones occur. Therefore, it is precisely at this stage that there is the importance of practicing bodybuilding and, more than that, if you are ALREADY active when you reach this age group, you can have results and prevent yourself in a much more optimized way. It is precisely for this reason that physical exercise is recommended from an early age and not only after adulthood.
Sarcopenia also occurs due to external factors, or influencing our metabolism, such as poor diet, stress, lack of sleep (or inadequate sleep), smoking, drug use, among others.
Knowing then what sarcopenia is, it becomes easier to understand how we can bring solutions to it.
Prevention and treatment of sarcopenia
We know then that sarcopenia is inevitable, roughly speaking, but which can be reduced in an extremely significant way through changes in our life habits as a whole. Thus, the main points needed to be modified are as follows:
Physical exercise (especially weight training)
Physical exercises are fundamental for the human body, and they are of such great importance that today the WHO (world health organization) considers physical inactivity or physical inactivity as a disease, and diseases that kill more than obesity itself.
All physical activities are beneficial for the body, but when it comes to the prevention and / or treatment of sarcopenia weight training is the sport that has the greatest positive influence. This is due to the fact that, in addition to stimulating the increase in lean mass, weight training also helps in burning body fat due to positive hormonal changes (increase in testosterone, increase in GH, increased IGFs, etc.). These hormonal changes are also interesting, as they increase insulin response factors (reducing the chances of insulin resistance and greater accumulation of body fat), among others.
Weight training is responsible for counterbalancing this natural loss of muscle mass: Imagine that your body loses muscle mass every year after the age of 40. So, imagine that weight training causes mechanisms (especially protein synthesis) to be stimulated to increase muscle. Yes, it may be that it is more difficult to have a significant increase in muscle mass, since you will be in limited processes for that, but managing to gain muscle mass, you balance this loss and manage to optimize your physique and your health.
We cannot fail to point out that, due to the loss of muscle mass, there is also an exponential loss of physical strength. Bodybuilding, by neurological and also muscular mechanisms, prevents this loss of strength, since strength is highly influential in our capacities inside and outside physical exercises. As well as strength, mobility also tends to be lost in cases of sarcopenia, and it is also necessary to reduce it with the practice of weight training, for example.
It is important to note that, as for every individual who wants to increase muscle mass, coherent training is necessary, which aims at the needs and individual responses of each person. This training can follow countless lines of thought and, more important than choosing rules is to choose what works for you.
Os isometric and isokinetic exercises has been shown to be quite efficient in the treatment of sarcopenia.
Food for the prevention and treatment of sarcopenia
A food is also in the pillars of those who want to prevent, or treat, sarcopenia. Usually, there is no specific rule as it should meet the individual needs of each one, especially if the individual is (and we believe he will be) practicing physical activities.
If sarcopenia is a result of muscle catabolism plus the accumulation of body fat, we must use methods which can reduce this. Therefore, think about a good protein consumption, of at least 1,8-2g / kg of high biological value (white meat, red meat, fish, eggs, milk) concomitantly with a good distribution of the other macronutrients (carbohydrates and lipids) it's essential. However, there is no point in getting clogged with proteins if they are not properly balanced with the rest of the diet, including the micronutrients that are essential cofactors for practically all reactions occurring in the human body.
In addition, it is necessary to understand how to consume carbohydrates properly. This is because sarcopenia can result in increased insulin resistance, increased development of metabolic diseases, etc. So, essentially, a reduction in overall carbohydrate consumption, especially simple ones, may be interesting. However, everything will depend on your individual nutritional needs that must be precisely assessed.
Finally, it is important to mention that there are some nutrients which have been proven to reduce levels of sarcopenia. Among them, it is possible to mention the creatinethe Omega 3, zinc, magnesium, ZMA and vitamin D3. These nutrients have hormonal impacts and / or impacts on skeletal muscles which reflect positively on the prevention and / or treatment of sarcopenia. There are numerous strategies which can be adopted for the consumption of these nutrients.
There are some nutrients present in various foods that will also have protective effects on aging, including antioxidant-rich foods (which prevent cell damage and death) and anti-inflammatory nutrients, such as curcumines.
Often, in addition to the easiest factors related to lifestyle, there are also physiological factors that need medical monitoring. Usually, these are the real hormonal deficits resulting from the aging process which cause sarcopenia.
For example, we know that men tend to reduce their testosterone levels over the years, but that reduction cannot be sudden enough to negatively affect their health. If it is, a professional evaluation and the use of hormone replacement is necessary. The same goes for women, properly with their hormones, of course.
It is obvious that we cannot confuse the existence of the need for hormone replacement with the simple fact that we want everything to work on the basis of hormone intake. They should only be used in specific cases.
Sarcopenia is a process resulting from aging, but it can also occur in individuals at an early age. It basically means the replacement of muscle tissue by body fat, affecting factors related to health, life (and its quality) and performance in physical activities and the development of socially acceptable aesthetics.
However, despite being inevitable, the sarcopenia process can be significantly reduced, making its levels insignificant. For this, it is necessary to identify the problems, which can be physiological and must be treated by a doctor, and / or related to life habits, which in addition to professional monitoring, will make a real change in your lifestyle necessary .
Bodybuilding has been shown to be a powerful adjunct when it comes to preventing and / or treating sarcopenia. However, it should always be combined with a good dietary protocol and healthy habits.
Therefore, following some tips and observing points of real importance will be essential to achieve success in the fight against sarcopenia.