“No man has the right to be an amateur in the matter of physical training.
It is a shame for a human to grow old without seeing the beauty and strength of which the body is capable.”
– Socrates (469-399BC)
This week I’d like to change the narrative a tad and divert the conversation away from the last couple of posts relating to weight loss, instead this week I’m going to raise the topic of another silent epidemic…and that is muscle loss.
A conversation sadly our doctors and health care professionals don’t seem to be talking about.
First and foremost, like the majority of articles I produce here, this one is squarely directed at +40 year old females and males..and this subject…the subject of muscle-mass is probably one of the most crucial when it not only comes to our ability to ‘age-better’, but to also hone and master our resilience to ensure we can ‘best-cope’ with the times we live.
Ladies and gents, if you haven’t noticed already, we need to remind ourselves that when we begin to hit our 30’s-40’s (& beyond), our hormones start going awry…‘naturally’.
We also need to keep in mind that ‘if’ your lifestyle choices are somewhat ‘bankrupt’ and contrary to your wellbeing, then your hormones (for one) aren’t going awry only ‘naturally’…no…they’re going “awry-awry”…real quick…and with your help.
But the great thing about this body and brain of ours – is that we do actually have the innate capacity (aka our survival instinct) to not necessarily turn back the clocks (well maybe a little), but we can certainly dramatically improve ourselves, whilst significantly slowing down the ‘ageing-process’ at the same time.
And, if you need an example of this then luke-no-futher
The picture below in Sydney was taken 2001-2 (age 33ish) sees the results of waaaay too much rosé & nosé, whilst the picture on the right, being a plonker doing my best/worst Dwayne Johnson impersonation, taken recently (age 51-52)
Your hormones, your biology is regulated by muscle mass.
We talk of people being overweight and obese, but we don’t talk about muscle per se.
We talk all the time about being ‘over-fat’ and yet we should be talking about the problem of being ‘under-muscle’.
Muscle is our largest internal organ and plays an essential role in supporting a strong and healthy metabolism, and the loss of muscle mass and strength as we age, is linked to many chronic diseases, especially all those (mostly) avoidable lifestyle related diseases – type 2 diabetes, heart disease, metabolic syndrome etc
Skeletal Muscle is key to optimal health and your longevity.
Muscle isn’t only essential for locomotion, aka our capacity to move & exercise, but in fact muscle is our ‘metabolic currency’.
Muscle is the largest site for glucose disposal – very simply put, the less muscle we have, the more glucose storage capacity we will have, the more glucose we store, again simply put, the fatter, sicker and more cognitively impaired we can get.
Diabetes, alzheimers, cardio vascular health, all these issues of metabolic regulation are largely controlled and attributed to the amount of muscle we have, or don’t have.
Glucose build-up, elevated blood sugar in other words, is probably the largest contributor and reason why these life-style related diseases continue to climb.
A very simplified life-recipe that is causing havoc to our health.
As we age we tend to move less and naturally lose muscle, cortisol levels go up, growth hormone goes down,
your T levels goes down, your insulin goes up, your blood sugar goes up, you fat storage goes up…
right now we’re feeling tired, unmotivated an potentially moody and depressed and craving food and alcohol…then…
Sprinkle poor sleep, drizzle some poor food choices, whisk in some stress, and flambé with alcohol….and voila…
you’re a metabolic basket-case
So, what is Protein?
Protein is the black sheep of the macro nutrient family.
It is essential for the building blocks of everything – skin, neural-transmitters, hormones…it’s ultimately what life is made up of.
All your genes do is make protein…straight from the foods that you eat.
Eating (adequate) more protein as we age is especially important to avoid major health problems.
Muscle is the reservoir for amino acid – amino acids, often referred to as the building blocks of proteins, are compounds that play many critical roles in your body. They’re essentially-needed for vital processes like building proteins and synthesis of hormones and neurotransmitters.
Simply put…The more muscle you have:
The lower your mortality.
The stronger and more physically resilient your are.
You are ‘healthier’ and your immune system is bolstered and better-able to fend off disease and illness…handy for a pandemic.
Because increased muscle has such a profound impact on your hormones and neurotransmitter production, you will naturally feel more emotionally stable, with the sublime added benefits of increased vitality and virility.
What a winning trifecta in the ‘resilient stakes’!
When it comes to Testosterone (‘T” is just as important for females too) the more muscle you have the more ‘Free T’ you’ll have. (hit the link if you need to know the difference between ‘free-testosterone’ and ‘total-testosterone’)
More ‘Free T’ means:
More ‘wood’ 😉
Heightened sense of wellbeing, less moody, sad, depressed or anxious – testosterone deficiency can cause depressed mood, low self-confidence, timidity, fearfulness, irritability, low libido, and impaired sexual function in men and most likely in women.
You will be naturally motivated to do more, be more active, and look after yourself more #winning
The more muscle mass you have in mid-life the better your trajectory of ageing.
What else Mr Muscle…well there’s…
Cachexia (pronounced kuh-KEK-see-uh)
We also need to consider cachexia, which is the general wasting of the body, ill health, emaciation, falls, breaks, fracture injuries and alike.
These concepts relate to body composition, and the loss, deterioration and destruction of tissue.
It’s one of the main reasons, if not the main reason why people end up in nursing homes, if not necessarily because they’re sick, it’s because they can’t get up out of a chair, or they try to and end up falling and breaking a hip – just because they’re not strong enough.
This is largely avoidable, particularly in our late 60’s & through our 70’s.
From the time you are born to around the time you turn 30, your muscles grow larger and stronger. But at some point in your 30s, you start to lose muscle mass and function. The cause is age-related sarcopenia or ‘sarcopenia with ageing’. Physically inactive people can lose as much as 3% to 5% of their muscle mass each decade after age 30. Even if you are active, you’ll still have some muscle loss. Again, and apologies to be repeating myself, repeating myself but if you’re lifestyle choices are contrary to your health, then expect (and don’t be surprised) if your muscle loss deteriorates much, much quicker.
When you contract your muscle it releases Myokines, which are anti-inflammatory…an antidote to inflammation.
Myokines are recently recognised as potential candidates for treating metabolic diseases through their ability to stimulate AMP-activated protein kinase signaling, increase glucose uptake, and improve lipolysis.
Myokines may have positive effects on metabolic disorders, type 2 diabetes, or obesity.
I would rather focus on A) highlighting the importance of muscle and B) offering some realistic strategies and behaviours that can improve and increase our lean muscle mass. (next weeks blog post)
The reality is our health and cognitive decline will eventually be expensed as we age, but we can certainly better-prepare ourselves now, so that we can enjoy a much more fulfilling back 9 of our lives if we have optimal outlook, mobility, locomotion, agility, proprioception, functionality, and our faculties – all of which requires strength.
The strength that only muscle can provide.
Fulfilment is achieved by doing and accomplishing ‘stuff’…most of which requires physical movement and cognitive brain-power.
Movement is freedom
And freedom in itself is strength, and strength is resilience