Well, the jury is out and it is resistance training for older adults for the win! According to Dr. Stuart Phillips of McMaster University resistance training is the BEST defence against age related muscle loss and loss of function as we get older.
And by older I mean over 40.
It may not seem old to you but to be honest, I was actually being generous when I said 40. Physically inactive people can lose as much as 3% to 5% of their muscle mass each decade starting as young as 30, even if you are active.
You may not notice it when you are 40 or even 50 but the older you get and the less attention you pay to it the more you will notice it. And trust me when I say, walking is not enough to combat it. You need resistance training for older adults.
You need to lift weights and the heavier the better.
If you can do it you also need to do high intensity interval training (HIIT), which consists of repeated bouts of high intensity effort followed by short periods of rest.
Both of these forms of exercise can increase your muscle mass and strength and thereby decrease your risk of falls, fractures, disabilities, diseases like type 2 diabetes and increase your ability to lose weight and feel great.
Other benefits include, improved mental health, improved body composition, more stable blood sugar, improved survival rate in cancer patients and improved quality of life in general.
(In case you think you can’t build muscle at ‘your age’ you need to meet Ernestine Shepherd, she is currently 83 years old and is the worlds oldest female body builder.)
You Need to Eat to Feed your Muscles
Over and above the exercise required, you need to fuel your body properly so that you can feed your muscles and promote their growth. According to Dr Phillips, you need more protein (not less) the older you get and you need to pay particular attention to the branched chain amino acid (BCAA) leucine, the only BCAA thought to stimulate muscle growth.
Give Your Muscles Some Protein Love
If you are interested in building or maintaining you muscle mass Dr. Stuart Phillips’s team of researchers propose that you should consume ≥1.2 g protein per kilogram of body weight you have and that there should be an emphasis on the intake of the amino acid leucine, which plays a central role in stimulating skeletal muscle anabolism.
That works out to be approximately 25 grams of protein for every 50 pounds you weigh.
What does 25 grams look like? There are a lot of factors but generally speaking, 25 grams of protein is:
- 4 eggs
- 1 scoop of protein powder
- 3/4 cup cottage cheese or 1 cup of greek yogurt
- 2.5 ounces of pumpkin seeds
- 3 or so ounces of animal protein (chicken, fish, steak etc)
- 3/4 cup of firm tofu or tempeh
As for leucine, it is suspected to be the only amino acid that can stimulate muscle growth and can also help prevent the deterioration of muscle with age and so, ensuring your foods are rich in leucine may be a huge factor in preventing muscle deterioration and for fueling your workouts!
Leucine rich foods are: Chicken, beef, pork, tuna, tofu, canned beans, pumpkin seeds and eggs.