Slow down your muscle loss

How to Build Muscle After 50

It might seem inevitable to lose muscle and gain weight after 50, but it is possible to maintain a nice tone body and keep a healthy weight.

Is it more challenging? Yes, as biological factors play a role in muscle loss and weight gain.

Women start losing muscle as early as their 30’s and the loss continues at a rate of 3-5% with every passing decade. As we age, we involuntarily lose muscle mass and strength, making it more difficult to keep a healthy weight, a nice toned body, and good quality of life.

Besides age, muscle is lost when you decrease physical activity when injured or due to a medical condition (a lot less likely).  The good news is you can maintain muscle with a proper diet and the correct type of exercise.

Building muscle after 50 is under YOUR control!

The Barriers to Build Muscle After 50

Poor Nutrition

Nutrition is a key factor in preventing muscle loss. While the focus is on eating enough protein to maintain muscle mass, other nutrients are important too. For example, there is research on the role of vitamin D, C, and E in preventing muscle loss (1).

In addition, malnutrition (undernutrition) will also result in muscle loss. As you imagine, eating too little will result in weight and muscle loss.

Age-Related Muscle Loss

As we age, the body changes, specifically muscle mass decreases. This age-related loss of muscle mass is referred to as age-related Sarcopenia (2).

Sarcopenia occurs because the body produces fewer proteins that promote muscle growth, and this causes the muscle cells to shrink.

The decrease of muscle mass due to age is normal but unwelcomed because it may increase the risk of injuries and quality of life.

Lack of Physical Activity

Many women after 50 become less physically active as they balance a busy life, work, family, and friends. This physical inactivity results in loss of muscle mass.

Furthermore, those who exercise in their fifties often choose exercises that do not challenge their muscles, such as walking. Don’t get me wrong, walking is great, but is it not the most effective method to lose weight and build muscle.

Furthermore, a sedentary lifestyle can be the result of injuries or medical conditions.

Hormone Changes in Women

As menopause approaches, there is more cortisol in the body, causing more fat storage and muscle use for energy, further decreasing muscle mass and slowing down the metabolism. 

Medical Conditions

Many diseases can also cause loss of muscle mass, including amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (3), muscular dystrophy (4), multiple sclerosis (5), neuropathy (6), spinal muscular atrophy (7), stroke, neck or spinal cord injury, insulin resistance (8), rheumatoid arthritis, and other chronic diseases that decrease physical function.

In addition, cachexia is another known to cause muscle atrophy and extreme weight loss (9). Cachexia usually occurs due to medical conditions such as HIV, cancer, or multiple sclerosis. Cachexia may cause reduced appetite and unintentional weight loss even when meeting caloric needs.

Why Does Muscle Loss Matter in Terms of Weight Gain?

The more muscle we have, the more calories we burn at rest. So, to explain it easily, if you maintain your muscle mass, you are less likely to gain weight because you are burning more calories throughout the day.

When we lose muscle, we progressively increase fat mass, and we notice a change in body composition, making our body look different and heavier even when the weight stays the same.

Moreover, this change in body composition has also been associated with insulin resistance in adults (11).

How to Build Muscle After 50

Increase Physical Activity

Keeping your muscles in an active state will help build muscle after 50. So, it is time to increase your weekly resistance training, aerobic exercise, and balance training. But, first, let’s discuss some exercises that can help build muscle.

Exercises That Build Muscle After 50

Yoga can help prevent muscle loss
  • Strength training workouts (weight training or exercises that use your own bodyweight)
  • Yoga
  • Pilates
  • Plyometrics (such as pushups, jumping, throwing, and running)
  • Exercises using resistance bands

Nutrition

To prevent muscle loss, you want to avoid being deficient in protein, calories, and specific vitamins and minerals. Proper nutrition can easily help you maintain lean body mass and healthy body weight. 

Protein

When you consume adequate protein, your muscles can build and strengthen. This is because protein provides amino acids, the building blocks of muscles.

Moreover, as we get older,  it is even more essential to consume adequate protein because our muscles become more resistant to the signals of the growth hormones.

How much protein do you need? If you do moderate physical activity, a range between 0.8 to 1.2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight is adequate.

If you are more active, experts recommend up to 1.5 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight is recommended. However, don’t focus on the number as you can easily meet your needs by eating a normal serving of protein with every meal.

Vitamins

Vitamin D has also been shown to potentially increase muscle strength (12), however, keep in mind that supplements might be necessary. It is always a good idea to ask your doctor to check your vitamin D levels when doing your annual physical and if necessary take supplements.

In addition, recent research also shows that vitamin C and E might also play a role in maintaining your muscle mass.

Vitamin C is easy to find in citrus fruits and most red and orange fruits and vegetables. Also, nuts, seeds, and oils have vitamin E. 

Vitamin D is a little trickier,  as there are only a few food sources of this vitamin, including fatty fish (such as salmon), fortified milk, and other fortified foods.

However, you find plenty of vitamin D in the sunshine! So, many experts recommend that you go outside every day for at least 15 minutes. Think about taking a short walk or other forms of exercise while enjoying the sun to tackle muscle loss in two different ways.

Fish Oil

Lastly, a study found that consuming a 2-gram fish oil supplement and resistance training increased muscle strength in women 45 and older than those who did not consume the fish oil (13).

Foods to prevent muscle loss

Conclusion

Muscle loss is a natural part of aging. After 30, we start losing muscle strength and lean mass, making it harder for women to keep a healthy weight.

However, building muscle after 50 is under your control. All it takes is to exercise consistently and eat healthily. Building muscle can protect your overall health and make weight loss easier.

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