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Sarcopenia – Reducing Frailty and Improving Quality of Life

Sarcopenia is the gradual age-related loss of skeletal muscle mass and strength. This condition can affect our ability to perform daily tasks, increase the risk of disease, and decrease our life span.

The Honolulu-Asia Aging Study published in 2011 followed 2,239 men for 44 years, beginning when they were between 56 and 68 years of age. Researchers found that a healthy lifestyle, maternal longevity, height (shorter men lived longer than tall), and handgrip strength were associated with maximum lifespan. Handgrip strength is often used as a measure of body strength, indicating a physiological reserve that is protective against age-related disease, disability, and mortality. Other tests related to muscle strength measured in the study included natural walking speed (faster was better), the ability to get up from the floor without hand support, and the number of times one could rise from a chair in 60 seconds (37 or more was associated with a reduced risk of death). Forty-seven members of this study group became centenarians, living to at least 100 years.

Woman engaged in Muscle Building exercises

While physical activity, including regular aerobic and resistance exercise, is important for preventing sarcopenia, research has proven that insufficient dietary protein can result in losses of both muscle size and strength. In a four-year study of 2,425 people published in the British Journal of Nutrition, those over 50 who exercised and consumed less than 70 g of protein daily did not receive the expected muscle-building benefits and had reduced muscle mass. An estimated 20% of those over 50 are not consuming adequate dietary protein.

Reduced muscle mass and strength can lead to a decline in balance and contribute to falls that are a primary cause of serious injury and death among older adults. Building muscle is essential to quality of life at any age, making it easier to perform the activities of daily living. In addition, regular exercise and movement, especially when combined with adequate protein, can help reduce the age-related pain of arthritis, improving mobility and independence.

Protein = More Energy

Protein is not only critical for building muscle and strength. It also provides the building blocks for every cell in our body, and many find that they have more energy and feel better when they drink a protein shake or smoothie each day.

Protein powders made from grains, legumes and seeds, cow or goat whey are delicious when blended with water, almond, soy, or coconut milk. I recommend whey proteins from cows or goats raised without growth hormones. Formulas that include digestive enzymes and probiotics improve assimilation and bioavailability. Pumpkin seed protein is high in the amino acid L-tryptophan, required by the body to produce serotonin and melatonin which can help improve sleep and elevate mood. Proteins from grains and legumes are easier to digest and better tasting if they are fermented or sprouted. Choose an unsweetened product, or one that contains a natural low glycemic sweetener like stevia or monk fruit.
Protein and Weight Loss: Protein is a critical component of any weight loss program, but results will be better if a protein supplement does not contain sugar or carbohydrates.

Green Food Powders with Protein Powder: A great way to boost energy, improve circulation, and balance the immune system is to start each day with a super green food powder mixed with water. The vitamins, minerals, and nitrates that occur in vegetables, microalgae, and grass juices can provide amazing health benefits (especially in the bedroom), but many find the taste profile to be a challenge.

Vanilla-flavoured protein powders can improve the taste of green food vegetable powders, boosting their health benefits with valuable protein. Vanilla proteins also combine well with frozen fruits to make delicious fruit smoothies. Some protein supplements are considered full meal replacements, containing a profile of essential vitamins, minerals, fats, carbohydrates, fibre, and of course, the protein that your body needs.

Creatine: One of the most popular natural supplements for building muscle and enhancing athletic performance, recent research has also confirmed that with regular use, just 5 grams of creatine per day can help improve cognition and memory. Another study found that creatine was also protective against brain injury if taken prior to the injury.

Ashwagandha: In an 8-week placebo-controlled clinical trial, a group treated with 300 mg per day of ashwagandha (KSM-66) had significant increases in muscle strength, muscle size, and testosterone levels. Ashwagandha is an herb well-known as an adaptogen that helps the body deal with stress by reducing cortisol levels. 

Collagen: A 2015 study found that 15 g of hydrolyzed collagen protein per day significantly increased muscle strength and lean muscle in older adults with sarcopenia who did strength training three days a week, compared to those who consumed a placebo drink.

Omega 3: The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids from fish oil have important muscle-building and physical performing benefits for older adults which can delay, prevent, or in some cases even cure sarcopenia.

Combined with regular exercise, a healthy diet supplemented with protein, collagen, creatine, ashwagandha, and omega-3 can help maintain lean muscle mass, contributing to a longer, better, and more enjoyable quality of life.

Health Disclaimer. Copyright ©2016. Nathan Zassman is a trained nutrition practitioner and the owner of Aviva Natural Health Solutions.