Research suggests that strength training and building and maintaining lean muscle mass may be the key to long life!
What is the connection between muscular health and longevity?
“The more muscle mass, the more survivability against diseases,” says Dr. Gabrielle Lyon, founder of the Institute for Muscle-Centric Medicine. “But muscle mass must be maintained to have these effects. It’s a use-it-or-lose-it part of our biology due to sarcopenia.”
As defined by the National Institute on Aging, Sarcopenia is “a decline in muscle mass, strength, and function.” Studies have shown that our strength and muscle mass steadily increase from birth to around 30-35 years old for both men and women.
After which, muscle power and performance decline slowly and linearly at first, and then faster after age 65 for women and 70 for men.
“Weight training is essential to mitigate these effects as we age. When you “stimulate skeletal muscle,” says Dr. Lyon, “[you] maintain mobility, mental clarity, hormonal balance, and improve mood.”
The National Institute on Aging explains that a big culprit for losing our physical abilities as we grow older is the age-related loss of muscle mass and strength.
In addition to making everyday tasks difficult, mobility limitations are also linked to higher rates of falls, chronic disease, nursing home admission, and mortality.
Dr. Lyon emphasizes that we should all be “focusing on building muscles rather than losing fat. [Muscle] will help you build your body armor to protect you throughout life.”
According to Dr. Howard J. Luks, an orthopedic sports medicine surgeon, “losing active [muscle] tissue can have dramatic consequences. Muscles help us control our glucose levels, use glucose as fuel, and have a role in insulin resistance.”
So, instead of considering fat the root cause of health problems, we must understand that it’s no more than the middleman.
The actual chain of command is unhealthy muscle tissue, weight gain, then disease. Or, as Dr. Lyon puts it, “we aren’t over fat; we are just under-muscled.” Because we have “an unhealthy muscle problem which is leading to diseases and chronic aging.”
So how do you do it? How do you maintain muscle mass? According to Lyon and others, strength training and eating protein is the key. Protein and protein synthesis is essential to muscle growth. But, Not all proteins are made equal.
There are high-quality and lower-quality proteins based on the essential amino acid profile. Furthermore, Proteins from animal sources (i.e., eggs, milk, meat, fish, and poultry),” per the Journal of Sports Science and Medicine, “provide the highest quality rating of food sources due to their completeness of proteins.”