Older, Wiser, and Stronger
BY DEAN KARNAZES
First published in Endurance News #127
If you were an investor who initially held an asset that declined 8% per decade after three decades then accelerated to a 15% drop, you probably wouldn’t be very pleased with the investment. Yet, that is precisely what happens to our bodies when we hit 40. We steadily lose muscle mass at an alarming rate, one that would make any investor distraught.
The good news is it doesn’t have to be this way. You can improve the performance of your primary asset (i.e., your body) by making some simple lifestyle adjustments. Scientific studies have shown these things work, and I’ve experienced the improvements firsthand. Here are some tricks and techniques I’ve used to stave off and reverse age-related muscle loss.
The first is never sitting down. From the moment I get out of bed in the morning until the moment I get back under the covers at night, I try my best never to sit down. As I’m writing this article, I’m standing on my feet (with my laptop on a standing desk), constantly bouncing and rising on my toes. Not only are my legs and feet being conditioned, but motion also stirs emotion. So my writing is stimulated.
Throughout the day, I do sets of high-intensity interval training (HIIT), primarily with body weight. The routine I follow consists of push-ups, pull-ups, sit-ups, chair dips, and burpees. The entire circuit takes about 12 to 14 minutes and elevates my heart rate to about 80 to 90 percent of max. I like this workout because the duration is relatively short and it doesn’t require any specialized equipment. I typically do five or six sets at various times throughout the day. Studies have shown that the best way to build muscle is to perform compound exercises that recruit multiple muscle groups.
I also lift weights a few times a week. I typically lift the maximum weight I can sustain for 3 to 4 reps (sometimes referred to as “lifting to failure”). I’ve found that this combination of bodyweight exercises paired with heavy lifting has been most effective at maintaining muscle mass. I haven’t seen any particular scientific studies to validate this claim. But it works for me, so I go with it.
Of course, diet also plays a critical role in not losing muscle as we mature. Adequate protein intake is essential, and the quality of the protein is also important. This is well-documented in numerous studies. Whey protein, is especially effective in preserving lean body mass in older adults, partly due to whey protein isolate’s biological value (BV) rating, which is higher than any other protein source. Also, whey protein isolate is the richest source of the nine essential amino acids (i.e., those which cannot be manufactured in the body and must come from outside sources). Hammer Nutrition Whey Protein is a convenient way to ensure I’m getting adequate, high-quality protein.
A couple of other nutrients play a role in improving muscle size and strength, ones you might not suspect. One is vitamin D. The efficacious role vitamin D plays in muscle maintenance, especially in aging people, has been well documented. And vitamin D works synergistically with vitamin K2.
Hammer Nutrition’s new EnDuro D softgels are my go-to because they supply both vitamin D3 (the sun-derived and most effective) and vitamin K2 in an ideal ratio. As an avid outdoor athlete, I never would have suspected low vitamin D levels.
But using a testing service called InsideTracker, I discovered that I’m vitamin D deficient. Exposure to sunlight isn’t enough as we get older. EnDuro D has been a godsend for many of my friends and me.
Lastly, omega-3 fatty acids are mostly known for supporting cardiovascular health and enhancing muscle size and growth. And there’s nothing fishy about that! Here again, quality matters. Since there are many ways to extract fish oil, the purity of the product makes a big difference. Hammer Nutrition’s EndurOmega is a highly refined purified and concentrated fish oil with a proprietary antioxidant blend of vitamin E, rosemary, and vitamin C, which act as powerful natural preservatives to maintain potency. Never compromise with a lesser-quality product when it comes to omega-3s (or any supplement, for that matter).
In closing, there’s plenty of truth to the saying, “use it or lose it.” As we age, adjusting our level of exercise is vital to prevent muscle loss. Hopefully, the suggestions I’ve provided can become a lifestyle modification that makes exercise, supplementation, and diet part of your daily routine. Health is wealth, so do all you can to protect your most important asset, you.