Friday, January 15, 2016

Keeping Healthy Muscle is as Important as Losing Weight

I want you to realize the importance of developing and maintaining muscle mass as you age.  Many of the degenerative conditions once thought to be a result of growing old can be directly associated with inactivity and the loss of muscle mass.  Below is a very informative excerpt on this subject by Dr. Donald K. Layman, one of the most respected experts on nutrition and human metabolism of our day.

Muscle size and strength are usually associated with body builders and athletes, but the latest research is proving that healthy muscles are critical for adult health. Average life expectancy continues to increase, but along with the blessing of longer life comes the risk of age-related diseases. The risks for obesity, diabetes, osteoporosis, heart disease, and cancers increase with advancing age. Excluding individuals who die early in life from an accident, injury or acute illness, we all expect to live healthy and robust lives well into our 80’s or beyond. For adults over the age of 65, the real risks for loss of health relate to muscle function and mobility. The measure of functional mobility is defined as the ability to perform activities of daily living or ADL. ADL is a measure of independent living and directly predicts morbidity and mortality – how healthy will you be? … and how long will you live?

A few years ago, a colleague, Dr. Robert Wolfe, wrote an article entitled The Underappreciate Role of Muscle in Health and Disease. The article highlighted the importance of skeletal muscle in adult health. Dr. Wolfe looked at healthy aging, acute illnesses, chronic diseases, and recovery from surgery or falls and the common factor for recovery and even survival from each of these conditions was skeletal muscle health. If your muscles are healthy, then your odds of avoiding or recovering from illnesses improve greatly. Dr. Wolfe reported some eye-opening facts – women over the age of 65 who fall and break a hip, over 50% never walk again; recovery from cancer and chemotherapy is directly related to muscle mass at initial diagnosis; and risk of developing diabetes is inversely related to muscle metabolic health. Dr. Steve Blair at the Cooper Institute coined the concept of Fit and Fat to reflect that many people can be overweight and still healthy – as long as they have good muscle health. The list of examples goes on but the point is clear, healthy muscles equal healthy adults.

The importance of muscle health highlights a critical difference among weight loss diets. There are many fad diets and so-called nutrition companies that make claims about rapid weight loss or cures for obesity, but the secret they want to hide is they also cause muscle loss. That’s a critical factor when you evaluate a weight loss program. People tend to ask “how much weight can I lose in the shortest period of time?” These quick fix fad diets may work for spring break when you’re 18 to 22, but it’s a dangerous practice for any adult over 30. The correct questions are “is it a proven weight loss program, and what are the proportions of fat and muscle lost?” Be sure that the so-called miracle diet PROVES that it only causes loss of body fat and not muscle. Loss of muscle means you have damaged your metabolic flexibility and your functional mobility and virtually guaranteed the weight will return (note: research shows 93% of weight is regained within one year with these fad diets); and even worse the weight that returns will be all body fat increasing the risk for diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and osteoporosis. If you lose muscle during weight loss, the muscle loss will be permanent increasing your metabolic risks and accelerating aging.

Muscle health is so important that medical experts in gerontology are debating whether adults over 60 should EVER lose weight. Skeletal muscles have obvious importance for posture and mobility. When we’re young our muscles are strong and flexible. The same is true for metabolism. Young muscles have high metabolic flexibility. Teenagers seldom get muscle soreness and usually recover rapidly after an exercise challenge. As we get older, we observe changes in physical strength and flexibility, and there are changes in metabolic flexibility that we can’t see. As we get older, muscle health and metabolic flexibility requires more attention.

Strength training and getting the proper amount of protein in your diet are the two most effective ways of developing and maintaining muscle mass as you age.  Checkout my favorite strength training programs from Beginners to Advanced levels at Forever Fit and Firm.