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What is Sarcopenia and Why Should I Care?

Sarcopenia is a term that means “age-related muscle loss,” and can be a factor in predicting frailty and fall risk in older adults. It can lead to a DECREASE in performance and strength, but also other critical body functions: fighting inflammation, hormone regulation, and absorption of nutrients. Sarcopenia can be caused by not just the normal aging process, but also by lack of physical activity, inadequate nutrition, inadequate protein intake, and other dietary and lifestyle issues. The icing on the cake is that the COVID-19 pandemic has added to the sarcopenia problem with the reduction in physical activity due to isolation and distancing, disrupting routine eating habits, increasing stress, and altering our sleep patterns.

Sarcopenia Stats

Some studies have found the following:

  • Sarcopenia can lead to a 58% higher risk of fracture (Yeung et al 2019)
  • People with sarcopenia are 2 times as likely to be hospitalized (Goates et al 2019)
  • There is a 41% higher mortality rate in people with sarcopenia (Koon Yee-Lee et al 2021)
  • <1500 steps per day shows a 14-26% DECREASE in muscle building compared to 6000+ steps
  • Limb immobilization/bedrest showed a 5% decrease in quadriceps/thigh muscle volume in the first 2 weeks, and 2% in the first 5 days with a decrease in 8% muscle strength.

How Can I Combat Sarcopenia?

Meet your PROTEIN intake requirements! This helps preserve muscle mass and stimulate muscle growth. 

  • It is recommended that you get at least 1.6-1.8 grams of protein per kg bodyweight per day (i.e. 150lbs is 68 kg. 68kg x 1.6 = 109 g of protein a day).
  • Younger populations and athletes can consume at least 2.2 g/kg/day.
  • If you need a supplement, whey protein powder is the supplement to go for as it is high quality and fast digesting.
  • Some studies show 5g of leucine per meal is beneficial.  Leucine can be found in chicken, beef, pork, fish, tofu, beans, milk, cheese, eggs. (Rondanelli et al)

Resistance train at least 2 times per week to further benefit from protein ingestion and muscle building. This should include 8-10 multijoint exercises that stress major muscle groups.  Machines and free weights are both beneficial.  Some examples of good exercises include squats, deadlifts, lunges, leg press, chest press, back row, pull down, overhead press.

  • 1-3 sets of 8-12 repetitions each exercise
  • Progress weight lifted by about 5# at a time once the weight gets easy enough that you could do more than 12 repetitions.
  • Adequate food intake from lean meats, fruits, vegetables, complex carbohydrates, and healthy fats so that the body does not go into a NEGATIVE energy balance and begin protein and muscle breakdown.
  • Reduce sedentary time.  Aim to get at least 6000-10,000 steps a day.

Conclusion

Sarcopenia is a condition of muscle loss and associated decrease in activity levels, performance, and strength, as well as other bodily functions. It can also lead to more falls, fractures, hospitalizations, and other medical complications. Thankfully, sarcopenia can be overcome with regular strength training, walking 6000+ steps a day, and adequate protein intake from your diet, as described above. While we can’t stop the natural process of aging, our bodies are always adaptable and resilient, no matter what age we are. Take care of your body with exercise and healthy eating, and your strength and ability to perform daily activities will only increase!

Call Omaha Physical Therapy Institute today to make your body stronger, healthier, and happier!

Jack Matuella, PT, DPT

 

 

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References:

Rogeri, P. S., Zanella, R., Martins, G. L., Garcia, M. D., Leite, G., Lugaresi, R., Gasparini, S. O., Sperandio, G. A., Ferreira, L. H., Souza-Junior, T. P., & Lancha, A. H. (2021). Strategies to prevent sarcopenia in the aging process: Role of protein intake and exercise. Nutrients, 14(1), 52. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu14010052

Rondanelli, M., Nichetti, M., Peroni, G., Faliva, M. A., Naso, M., Gasparri, C., Perna, S., Oberto, L., Di Paolo, E., Riva, A., Petrangolini, G., Guerreschi, G., & Tartara, A. (2021, January 26). Where to find leucine in food and how to feed elderly with sarcopenia in order to counteract loss of muscle mass: Practical advice. Frontiers in nutrition. Retrieved March 23, 2022, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7874106/