How to Maintain Muscle Tone as You Age


What do a 72-year-old grandmother, an 80-year-old man, and a 91-year-old retiree have in common? They can all still bench over 200 pounds each! That's way more than the average, youthful American! How did they maintain such muscle tone as they age? What kept them so strong? They may have great genes, but they all have a few things in common: they continued to maintain a healthy lifestyle throughout their years. Want to know their secrets?

Fact: Most people will lose about 30% of their muscle mass during the span of their lives. Age-related muscle loss, called sarcopenia, is part of the natural aging process. However, you do not have to be part of that statistic! Just because a person has lost the muscle mass, studies at Harvard have shown that it is not gone forever and that it can indeed be rebuilt back. It may take work and dedication, but it is never too late to regain strength.

Check out this 72-year-old grandmother who weight lifts recreationally !

Testosterone Levels

As one ages, their testosterone levels begin to diminish. This hormone is important for many things, including stimulating protein synthesis for muscle growth. Some people have chosen to supplement testosterone to offset the imbalance, but there can be adverse side effects. But don't worry, although testosterone is one of the main tools for muscle-building, it's not the only one.

Protein Power

Testosterone may be the fuel for muscle building, but protein is the king of muscle building foods. As you age, you will want to make sure your diet is healthier than ever and packed with protein foods. However, as people age, they often encounter another problem: anabolic resistance. This occurs when the body's ability to break down and utilize the amino acids to create protein declines. The simple solution is to increase your protein intake. A recent study on the process published in the Nutrients journal recommends increasing the intake of protein per kilogram of body weight to 1-1.3 grams.

It is important to divide your protein intake equally throughout the day to maximize protein synthesis. Opt for healthy choices! Animal sources such as meat, milk, and eggs provide the highest ratio of essential amino acids, but you will want to use caution with your intake of red processed meats as they include a high level of unhealthy saturated fats and dangerous additives. There are a ton of plant-based proteins sources such as peas, rice, and soy that can make a great addition to your diet.

A few protein tips:

If you are having trouble providing your body with this additional protein, supplements can help. Many people choose to include a protein shake in their day that can offer up to 30g per meal.

You can maximize muscle growth by consuming protein within 30 minutes from completing your workout. Make sure the meal consists of a carbohydrate-to-protein ratio of about three-to-one.

The top 10 protein sources to consider are:

  1. Organic, grass-fed beef
  2. Undenatured, whey protein
  3. Lentils
  4. Fish, preferably wild caught such as salmon, mackerel, and tuna
  5. Organic chicken
  6. Beans
  7. Organic milk
  8. Kefir or Greek yogurt
  9. Free-range, organic eggs
  10. Raw organic cheeses

 An 80-year-old weightlifter who can outlift even the younger generations:

Up the Omegas

The recent study concluded that supplementing with omega-3 fatty acids increased the rate of muscle protein synthesis in older adults and was shown to preserve muscle mass. Omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA have anti-inflammatory effects which are now believed to be correlated with managing sarcopenia.

It has now been proven that omega-3s can and will slow down the normal decline in muscle mass for older adults.

Great sources of omega 3's include:

  • Walnuts
  • Salmon, Mackerel, Herring, and Sardines
  • Flax and Chia Seeds
  • Brussel Sprouts
  • Eggs
  • Soybeans

Supplementation for Omegas is also a great idea. They can be found in clean, organic and very absorbable capsulated forms.

Getting Enough Vitamin D?

A vitamin D deficiency is the most commonly found nutrient lacking in the older generations ranging up in the 90th percentile! Low levels of vitamin D have also been linked to sarcopenia with low muscle function and mass. The best way to get your daily vitamin D intake is to get enough sun exposure. You don't need to go out sunbathing, you only need to get enough exposure for your skin to stimulate vitamin D production which usually requires about ½ of the time in which it takes your skin to burn. This will depend on the time of day, where you live, and the type of skin you have.

If getting outside often enough isn't a pliable option, you can supplement this vitamin as it has been shown that D is hard to produce in large enough quantities through food alone.

Working Out

Due to the anabolic resistance that often occurs in older people, and the testosterone levels dropping with age, the best way to maintain muscle tone as you age is indeed working out.

The most successful method to build muscle mass, no matter your age, is progressive resistance training, or PRT. This is a proven methodology where you gradually increase your workout in volume as your strength and endurance improve; more weight, more reps, and more sets. A typical workout might include about 12-15 reps of8-10 major muscle group exercises, two or three times a week. But PRT should be tailored to the individual according to where they are at with their strength and endurance. It is often a wise decision to set up a structured and detailed workout plan with a well qualified personal trainer, to begin with so you can ensure you are conducting the exercises in a safe and effective manner.

Check out this 91-year-old weightlifter, he's still got what it takes: 


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